I have a confession to make. But first a story.
Once upon a time there were two men who raised and raced thoroughbred horses. Over the years these two men become bitter rivals, always trying to outdo the other. One day they decided to have a race to end all races. Each was to get their best horse and best jockey and have a winner-take-all steeplechase. The loser would get out of the horse business all together. The entire town showed up to watch the spectacle.
As the horses and riders were coming around the last obstacle, they collided and sent the jockeys sprawling. One jockey, quicker than the other, jumped back on a horse and won the race. The jockey, ecstatic, was surprised when the owner of the horse who had hired him to race, angrily approached him.
“What’s wrong?” asked the jockey, “I won the raise.”
“Yes!’ screamed the owner, “But you rode the wrong horse!”
Now, here is my confession. For most of my ministry career I have been riding the wrong horse. I have been pursuing the wrong thing.
I “answered the call” into ministry (whatever that means) when I was 15 years old. I believe I have been faithful ever sense. By no means have I been perfect, far from it, but I have strived to serve God to the best of my ability. I am riding for the right Owner, I’ve just been jockeying for position on the wrong horse.
For a good 25 years I have equated successful ministry with top-notch programs, big budgets, and numerically growing churches. Along the way I have written books and articles and curriculum, won a couple of awards, and spoken at a few national conferences. I’ve wanted to serve God, but I have also wanted to be recognized for my service…all for His glory, of course.
I have tried to rationalize my pursuit of success…
…God deserves nothing but my very best.
…striving for anything less then perfection is letting Him down.
…I only want to be used by God to change the world.
…if numbers are not important, why did God name a book after them?
…God created everything to grow so if my church is not growing (numerically) it is dying.
…if I remain faithful in the little things God will reward me with greater things.
I still believe that last statement to be true. The problem is my definition of “greater” was different than God’s definition of greater.
…the first shall be last and the last shall be first.
…He must increase and I must decrease.
…serving is greater than being served.
…ministering to the “least of these” is the greatest “target audience.”
…giving a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name is better than being a best-selling author.
…taking care of widows, orphans, immigrants (documented and undocumented), the poor, and the prisoner is God’s definition of greatness.
That’s the horse I should be riding!
In reality, if I truly want to follow Jesus, I should not be riding a horse at all. I should be sitting on a donkey.