Those of us who are in professional pastoral ministry know something of the bane of ministry comparison that afflicts the clergy. It happens privately when we become aware of someone else’s success and it is one of the down sides of many pastoral gatherings. It is reprehensible and damaging from a variety of perspectives, not the least of which is Jesus’ disdain for this sort of thing. I confess that I myself have been a victim and perpetrator of this practice too. We are especially vulnerable when we become proud of our own accomplishments or when we have gone through a difficult ministry experience. We are taken advantage of by our Enemy when we allow our thoughts to dwell on our lack of security in God by this means. We need to be reminded often to divest ourselves of this kind of thinking.Recently I myself was greatly helped about this matter when I read about John the Baptist’s response to the news that Jesus was beginning to baptize more people than he himself was baptizing. John 3:22 – 30 tells the story. I especially like the description given to us in the New Living Translation. The disciples of John came to him and said, “Everybody is going over there instead of coming here to us.”John’s reply was simply, “God in heaven appoints each person’s work… The bride will go where the bridegroom is. A bridegroom’s friend rejoices with him. I am the bridegroom’s friend, and I am filled with joy at his success. He must become greater and greater…” Obviously, John was not shaken by the fact that someone else (Jesus) was becoming more popular in ministry than himself. He knew that God in heaven appoints each person’s work, and that his appointed work was different from Jesus’ work. Blessed is the man or woman who knows that they are doing exactly what God had in mind for them to do. It would clear up a lot of emotional and spiritual regression if we were able to answer comments of comparison like John did.
Thanks Ed. Your insights are telling, and John is a good model for us to follow. You are right in that all pastors, whether often or only from time to time, are afflicted with this weakness (sin) of comparison. I\’ve had to battle with it down through the years. For me it has revealed an unwillingness to accept my limitations, and to believe that God gives to me, as he does to each one, a measure of faith. He sovereignly determines what that measure is, but it leaves us interdependent and in need of one another.
I don\’t think I\’ve had a problem rejoicing in the success of others, or in being able to apprecitate and receive their giftings (which manifest the Lord\’s presence and grace), but I often feel incredibly small and inferior by comparison. This is a failure to acknowledge and give thanks for the ways the Lord has fitted me into the body. We are all important to the building up of the body in love- each person, each gift and each one\’s contribution of life in the Spirit. So none of us should feel inferior or superior. Here is truth that sets us free, and I need to keep coming back to it. Doug