Alumni Blog: The Danger of Romanticizing Ministry

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This story comes from 2009/2010 Alumni Darrell Johnson. This post was originally written in January 2010. Darrell served at Louisville Rescue Mission – a homeless rescue mission. 

Romanticize
rōˈmantəˌsīz,rə-/

verb (used with object)
– to make romantic; invest with a romantic character: Many people romanticize the role of an editor.

verb (used without object)
– to hold romantic notions, ideas, etc.

SERVICE IS NOT OUR OWN

I learned something recently about service. Whether I’m overseas installing water purifiers, leading a small group at a church, trying to set a good example amongst my coworkers, or handing out a bowl of soup in a homeless shelter… it can’t be about me. My service is not my own. We can’t get caught up in the romantic ideas of fulfilling our heart’s desire.

We can’t get caught up in the romantic ideas of fulfilling our heart’s desire.
Our first passion should be for Christ. Why? Christ is the fuel for our hearts to serve faithfully and humbly. If are not following Christ as we serve, we will follow our own agendas and ambitions. Christ helps us to trust the Lord daily and sacrifice our selfish desires – which allows us to serve with open hands.

Stressing the importance to seek out the Lord is something that I need to do everyday, it’s so easy for me to take my time with LTN and make it my own. Such thinking leads me astray from what I was called to do. Instead, I mull over why the ministry isn’t this picturesque experience. The letdown that ensues is recognizing that my own desires and ideals are not the way that God intended it to be.

THE TRAGEDY

One tragic result of romanticizing the ministry field (or anything in life even) more than we love and adore the Lord, is the paralyzing trend of setting unrealistic expectations. Counselor and author Paul Tripp observed that…”unrealistic expectations cause each of us to live more independently and self-sufficiently that we ever should”. He goes on to say that we set unrealistic expectations because, “we don’t take seriously what the Bible has to say about the condition of the world in which we live. Here it is: Sin has cast this world into trouble.”

Unrealistic expectations cause each of us to live more independently and self-sufficiently that we ever should.Paul Tripp
It’s easy to sit down and have visions of extending a helping hand to someone who thirsts (there’s nothing wrong with this). However, when the moment comes that we have to endure the evils of this world and witness first hand that spiritual warfare is indeed a reality… our expectations for “ministry service” crash on the rocks of reality. We then have two options. We can admit defeat before the masses and leave the table or we can humbly repent before the Lord and ask for a renewal of the heart. If we don’t repent, we are doomed to repeat the cycle of self-seeking/romanticizing ministry all over again.

We then have two options. We can admit defeat before the masses and leave the table or we can humbly repent before the Lord and ask for a renewal of the heart.
It broke my heart recently when I urged a teenage homeless couple to find people who truly cared about them only to realize that may not be a realistic option in their lives. No, you can’t plan ahead for these moments. Nothing from a book or a film can prepare us for the ministry that God calls us to do everyday. That’s exactly why we shouldn’t romanticize serving him – because we don’t want to make it our own. On our own, we can’t ever be “enough” to heal this world or the people we love. That’s why Christ came. We can only follow him as he leads us moment by moment.

MY PRAYER

I pray that all our thirst would be quenched by his righteous Truth. I pray that we do not fall into the trap of thinking that we’ve got a better plan for ministering to “the least of these” or that doing so is some picturesque endeavor that makes us feel good about ourselves when the day is done.

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