to you young ones that give us old ones hope: may i ask you a question?
what do you need? what are you pursuing? what does success look like to you?
because today, this very day, i arrived. i attained.
just so you’ll know, i am 52 years old. for as long as i can remember, i have served in the local church. i went from volunteer, to full-time youth pastor, to planting the church i am now leading. more than 30 years in total. for the entire time, i have desperately wanted to be useful. in my late 30’s (and without realizing it at the time), i began intermingling my vocation and my identity in a very unhealthy way. if you had asked me, i would have said that i was kingdom-motivated. i was very sincere and we saw god do some pretty incredible things. as i look back on that time in my life, however, i realize that i was secretly nursing some pretty ugly desires. i wanted to be noticed. i badly wanted to be respected by my peers. i wanted to be loved and admired by my congregants. and, most of all, i wanted to be seen as humble. in short, i wanted to be successful.
well today, i am.
please do not misunderstand. i am neither renowned nor revered. my fellowship is smaller than it was five years ago. my financial outlook is somewhere between laughable and grim. and even with all i’ve learned in 30-plus years of ministry, i feel like a rank rookie.
yet, i am exceedingly successful.
(WARNING: sappy granddaughter story to follow!)
as i’ve mentioned before in this space, 15 month-old emma spends her days at the child-care center at our church. a couple of times a day, i find some important task that needs to be done in that area. today, i was going to the child-care office to work on the computer. as i walked by the door to emma’s classroom, she saw me (yes, i was walking very slowly). a huge smile lit up her face and she ran to me.
and, suddenly, i was validated. completely and absolutely.
she doesn’t care how many people come to hear me preach, or how much money i have (although i’m sure that will change), or how influential i am. or am not. she loves me just because i’m “grandpa.” i tell you, i’ve had some powerful experiences in my life, but nothing can compare to the feeling that i feel when emma smiles at me.
and here’s my point, young leader…
most of what you think is important is not. most of your hours are spent in trivial pursuit. and the things that seem so important today–acclaim, authority, affluence, advancement–will lose their allure as the years pass. paul communicates this concept masterfully:
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 corinthians 4:18)
Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. (1 john 2:15-16 – the message)
so here is my advice (unsolicited, but priceless) from a ministry dinosaur…
close the book, close your laptop, close the office. spend time with your children. find a way to become their hero. cherish your spouse. enjoy nature. have coffee with your parents. make yourself available to people who do not have the capacity to help you build “your ministry.” strategize less and laugh more. and don’t start tomorrow or next month or next year–start today. because until we get to heaven, these are the things in your life that are “unseen”…”eternal.”
and in them you will find success beyond your wildest dreams.