Written By Jeff Baker
I became a pastor and a father at the same time. It’s something I don’t recommend. Don’t get me wrong, I highly recommend becoming a father, and I highly recommend answering God’s call to ministry; I don’t recommend doing them at the same time.
The reason is that it’s two major life transitions that tend to cause you to question your identity. Suddenly, I was realizing “Wait a second, I’m now a moral authority not just to my own kids, but to other people’s kids? But… I suck!” and I did, and in many ways still do. We all kind of suck, and that’s the point of grace, that when we were still sinners, when we were at our worst, Christ died for us.
It’s been a long journey, and God has done some amazing things in my life, and I have realized several things along the way that have convinced me that, even in light of my suckage, I’m where I need to be, and God is going to use me. But, more than that, it’s convinced me that you are probably also where you need to be, and God is going to use you! So, here are five things to realize when going through this kind of life transition.
Jesus already paid for it. Look, whatever you are dealing with, you’ve already been forgiven. I remember I was up at a youth retreat with my group and I was feeling really guilty about things. Weird things. Things I’d already confessed to, things I’d already apologized for. Satan was throwing them back in my face to undermine me and make me feel like I had no place in ministry.
I remember feeling particularly bad for and about myself and praying that God would forgive me for these things, and then I got a word from the Lord that said, “How many times do I have to die for you to feel forgiven?” Whoa. Gut punch. Once was enough to cover the sins of my past, and the sins of my present, and even the sins of my future. And you are covered by that same grace!
1 Peter 3:18 says this: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (ESV).
Once was enough for His righteousness to cleanse our unrighteousness, for His death to give us life. Live in that. Breathe that. Let it take the weight off your shoulders and give you life, purpose, and motivation in your ministry.
The role of the pastor is to repent. Like I said, I went through a serious identity crisis when my life underwent two major transitions at once. I couldn’t wrap my head around how I was supposed to be a moral authority when I have failed so much in my life. But, I had another one of those God moments where He kind of kicked my butt into shape.
I realized that the role of the pastor is not to show the Church how to be sinless, but how to repent when we have sinned. Likewise, it’s not the role of the Church to show the world how to be perfect, but how to find Christ through our imperfection.
We need to recognize our sin, turn from it, and move on. We need to turn back to God when the turning is hard. If we don’t, how will we ever expect the Church to do it?
God turns our bad into good. I’m a big fan of saying that God has a lot of plan B’s. I don’t think God causes the evil in the world, I think that happens because we live in a world that is fallen because of sin. I do, however, stand firm by the fact that God can take the evil in the world and use it for His good. God will often take your biggest hurts and turn them into your greatest ministry points.
I know so many people who have taken the deepest darkest things that have happened to them and used them to serve others. Former prostitutes who now rescue women from the sex trade. Victims of rape and violence who now council other victims. Men and women who have gone through the hardship of divorce and now help those going through it who are feeling hopeless.
You don’t need to be afraid of whatever you are going through or have gone through, you need to trust God with it so that he can work through you in the lives of others.
You minister with your life as well as your words. People are always watching, and very often you will be ministering to people in ways you didn’t realize. I have people approach my wife and I all the time and say how blessed they are by our marriage. Really? My marriage? I mean, I work hard on it, but not so that it blesses people; I work hard on it so that my wife won’t leave me!
But people are watching, and that goes both ways. It’s important to remember that the way we live can have negative impacts on people too. It’s the reason I stopped flipping people off while I drive (that’s only a half joke).
Your identity doesn’t matter. Here’s the biggie: Your identity doesn’t matter, Christ’s identity matters. You need to find your identity in Him. You need to die to yourself daily and be raised anew in Christ, as a new creation, wholly and dearly loved, sanctified by the blood of the lamb.
Galatians 3:27-28 says this: “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (NIV).
It doesn’t matter who you were before, or even yesterday. It matters who Jesus is and what He is doing in you today. Be blessed by that.