Jesus For Sale (IBTR #47)

By Guest Blogger Alicia Reagan

I sit and watch people. I can’t help it. It is in my DNA to be a complete nib nose. With that comes my horrible habit of thinking that I know everything about that person in about 5 minutes of watching them. Sometimes, I am right but most often I have completely called it all wrong.

I am a Pastor’s wife, a public speaker and a musician. I was raised in the ministry and grew up around preachers. Because of all these things, I have been in a lot of different environments and around a lot of different churches and pastors. There is something I have witnessed that greatly disturbs me.

I have witnessed some of these men telling their congregations to make sure that they share Christ. They implore them to witness, leave Gospel tracts, be faithful to church stuff and looks for ways to be a good testimony. You are around them in their daily life while they pastor a church. Then, they are not pastoring and they are suddenly the ones that are not faithful! They won’t show up for any sort of outreach. They don’t share Christ in their daily lives. They barely share a smile anymore! It takes me back and I find myself questioning their sincerity. Did they say one thing while they were the Pastor, and then live another way when they were not?

I do not want you to get the wrong impression that I see the negative often. I do not. But I have seen it enough that it bothers me. It grips my soul with a haunting question: do I market Jesus?

My husband and I love the ministry. My husband has given his life to the ministry. It is his calling. Ministry is not a career choice. Or is it? Do we love Jesus and show Him to others? Or, do we market Jesus to grow our own spiritual empires? Do we use the church to be personally successful? Is our success dependent on a good marketing campaign? Am I a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or am I the CEO of a growing church? These are real questions that must be at the heart of every one of us who are in ministry.

In the ministry of Jesus, we never find Him touting WhoHe was. He praised His Father.

In the ministry of Jesus, we never find Him bragging on His position. He took on the form of a servant.

In the ministry of Jesus, we never see Him acting better than anyone else. He took time and focused on all of the outcasts of the societal totem pole.

In the ministry of Jesus, people were always at the heart of all He did. He did not just speak it. He lived it out in front of them.

In the ministry of Jesus, He did not come up with new campaigns to bring them in. He went out among them.

In the ministry of Jesus, He did not worry about them remembering His anniversary, or if they thought about His raise, or if they were going to honor Pastor Appreciation Month. He worried about them not being followers of God.

I am afraid that many times, we have built “the ministry” into a noun and not a verb. It has become our identity instead of our description. It has turned into what others can do for me, instead of what am I doing for them. It has become my career instead of my passion. It has centered around me and not Jesus. Jesus has become the marketing platform for me to end up successful…in the ministry.

Jesus is not for sale. I believe His example in the New Testament, of turning over the money changers in the Temple, should provide a good example to us of His feelings about trying to market the things of God.

I love to see a genuine love for Christ…with no strings attached…flow out of a Jesus follower just because they love Him. I love being with precious Pastors who also let the love of Jesus flow out of them to others. I love to watch them love on others in practical ways which have nothing to do with adding to the attendance of their congregation. I am more interested in a Pastor outside of his church than I am inside it.

Jesus will build His church and we are to stay faithful. That is what is required of His followers. If Jesus is lifted up, He will draw men unto Himself. Success cannot even be measured in the ministry, for many of our rewards are eternal and will not be seen until we face our Savior. When we focus on a false definition of success, our pride will take us down every time.

Am I sharing Christ because I love Him and He changes lives? If so, that will happen no matter what your position in life. Or, am I sharing Christ so that I can reap the benefits of a larger congregation? If so, that will only last as long as you are the one trying to grow the attendance.

We must be alert to our motives. Instead of selling Jesus to build “our” ministry, let’s minister and show Him to others.

Mark 10:45
For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Find all articles in the series here.

This guest by my wife is the second time she has written one of the Truth Revolution articles. She often gives me ideas and helps talk to many who write us. I appreciate her help and suggest you check out her own fine blog aliciareagan.wordpress.com

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15 thoughts on “Jesus For Sale (IBTR #47)

  1. Good word, Alicia. The problem is that the definition of “being successful in the ministry” has taken on a carnal view. Not to be critical, because it’s easy to fall into that trap. I have found the key to be having a heart for people, and having the only opinion that matters be Jesus’.

  2. To many people end up “in the ministry” that should not be there. It is quite normal in IFB circles for a church to make a big deal out of a kid that “surrenders” to God’s call to be in the ministry in some way. So there ends up being motivation to be “called” to be a pastor, missionary, or pastor’s wife. Even though there is little to no basis for many of these calls in the bible, we make a big deal about those that think they feel called.

    We do not give the same kind of attention to the kid that ends up in the military, or business, or medicine, or whatever. Those ones are just the poor saps who will not be used by God I suppose.

    So many people think they are called when in reality they are just trying to get a feeling or they want to be noticed. Then they do not have what it takes to serve God in that way so they do not do a good job in the ministry and rather then have God’s power they have to market and cajole to get try and get something out of their people.

    • I hear what you are saying, JHB, and do agree with it, in general, to a small extant. Also, I would definitely believe someone who said they have seen what you describe in some churches. That being said, though, I cannot agree, in general, that celebrating a desire, or “call,” to be “in the ministry” is negative. After all, we do believe God can give direction to young people for their future lives and ministries, whether that be as nurse, engineer, etc., if they are truly seeking Him. So why not as pastor, missionary, etc., also. Read “The Vanishing Ministry In The 21st Century.” Consider the many churches in need of a good pastor and many mission fields without a church or sometimes even Scripture in their language. I find it hard to condemn “over-encouragement” of people to serve God “full-time” with their lives.

      I believe the problem is more in how “full-time service” is presented. There seems to be an emphasis on ordained preachers being those who do God’s work, with those not in “full-time ministry” not expected to show much initiative, discernment, zeal, and spiritual leadership. They’re just expected to “show up” faithfully to support the church leadership. (granted, a few positions do have higher expectations ie. Music Director, Bus Director, etc.) The result is that serving God is presented as a prestigious, desirable, and specialized career (“full-time ministry”) unique to “called” and ordained individuals.

      I think the problem you describe is not with over-emphasizing pastoring or foreign missions (if that is even possible) but is with neglecting to teach the responsibility and importance of every member in the body. It borders on the eye saying to the hand, “I have no need of thee.” (1 Cor. 12:21) We should present all members of the body as important and still celebrate God leading someone to devote their life to preaching.

      Here’s my personal experience/perspective. Growing up, I felt I would only do important work for God if He called me to preach. It was years before God showed me that that is not the Biblical model of a diverse body having many members with differing functions that are each vital to the body fulfilling its purpose. I still get confused looks when I explain to some people that I want to serve God with my life, take responsibility, and spiritually lead (Biblically, not with self-ambition) in His church, then relate how God has multiple times showed me specifically He is NOT calling me to preach.

      • The problem lies in over emphasizing the call to serve God in the ministry over everything else. For a young person, that can be an incentive to be called when they are really not called.

        There is nothing wrong with getting excited if a young person decided to be a doctor or plumber.

      • I read it in 2010 and remember being impressed by the seriousness of the problem it presented. The main point was that current trends show that the number of new preachers/teachers/etc. coming from evangelical, Christian churches is critically insufficient to meet the future need. The author relates how the number of younger ones is less than or equal to (depending on the specific field/calling) the older ones, who will be retiring before long. The author explains that at the current global rate of increasing population even maintaining the number would be inadequate, but decreasing numbers is serious. His call-to-action is for pastors and churches to promote and encourage young people to consider if God is leading them into those fields. (Though, to address JHB’s concern, it’s probable that some churches do not do this in a wise way) I don’t not know if the author was factoring in the non-Americans being trained on foreign fields, though.
        A practical illustration (not representative of the whole issue, of course) is two young men I know who attended a missionary aviators conference. They were the only ones there under 50 yr. old, and the older men said they knew of few to none coming behind to replace them.

  3. I was ready to jump up & say that I’ve seen what you mentioned. Where are these former pastors now that they’re not pastors? Oh, then you turned it around & got me. I’d better examine myself. Thanks for turning the searching light on that exposes even our motives.

  4. Pastor Reagan,

    Thank you for letting your wife guest blog this week. This truth revolution is tremendous.

    Mrs. Reagan,

    Thank you for such a heart stirring article. My wife has seen some of this as well having grown up “in the ministry.” As I read through this, I was saddened by some of the statement you made because they are true. The fact that they are true shows some misplaced priorities in our lives. Here are your statements with my thoughts:

    You said, “My husband has given his life to the ministry. It is his calling.”

    Amen! I’m glad for this. What makes me sad is that this statement is said and agreed upon my many Christian. How can we honestly make this claim without every other Christian not bowing before the Lord in utmost repentance? This statement, if we are to look at it Biblically, should flow from the lips of every person who is saved. JHB mentioned how young people “feel called” because they want to be noticed, but “do not have what it takes to serve God” as Pastors. This happens precisely because we have made the “ministry” a career choice. The reality of Biblical Christianity is that ALL of God’s children are called to full time service. God has no part time children. We are all to die daily that Christ may live through us (Galatians 2:20). We are all to present ourselves as living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1-2). We are all ambassadors for Christ and called to the ministry of reconciliation (I Corinthians 5:17-20). If we were honest with ourselves (and with each other), we would recognize that we are all scripturally called to full time service. We are all to minister (serve) Christ full time.

    You then make five statements that begin with “In the ministry of Jesus…”, and climax this thought with this sentence: “I am afraid that many times, we have built “the ministry” into a noun and not a verb.”

    This is, perhaps, the saddest statement about the ministry that I have read. But like you, I have seen it come true in more ways than imaginable. All of these, “in the ministry of Jesus” statements are telling because they show a stark difference between us and Christ. Your statements, to boil them down, show that Christ was focused on who the people He was working with were becoming while many Pastors today focus on what people are doing. If we are not growing into “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13), than all that we are doing is vain. This also means that people will begin to judge their spiritual life by whether or not they are doing what the Pastor says (often without thought or Biblical study to see if what the Pastor is saying is true). Inevitably, without trying (hopefully), the Pastor has seen people in the church grow up centered around him and not around Jesus Christ. Even the people’s “spiritual growth” is not growth in Christ but into the mold of their church placed before them by the doing mentality of their Pastor.

    The last statement that I’d like to comment on is when you said, “Jesus is not for sale.” This statement breaks my heart because not only is Jesus for sale in many Fundamental Baptist Churches, but we are taught to market Him.

    Do you want a good Christian education for your children? You’ll need to pay top dollar for that!
    Do you want the meat of the word of God? You’ll need to enroll in our colleges and pay for that!
    Are you struggling with something and need a Bible study guide to help get you started in Scripture so God can help and teach you, you’ll need to purchase my latest book for that!
    Do you want so and so as your Pastor, you’ll need to provide top salary and benefits for that!

    The type of ministry that Paul espoused to the elders at Ephesus in Acts 20 is a far cry from the pseudo ministry we witness in many places around the world today. When Christ sent His disciples out to ministry, he told them this: “freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8). Paul also said he “coveted no man’s silver, or gold” (Acts 20:33).

    The church has always been faithful men teaching faithful men. Recently (over the last 100 years or so), the church has transformed to faithful men charging those who can afford it with faithful teaching. Faithful teaching passed down to an unfaithful man stops the stream of knowledge; thus, leaving those who can’t afford to pay for it in darkness concerning the accumulated truths of our fathers in the faith.

    I sincerely hope that God is moving in the hearts of His church to bring the necessary transformation that we so desperately need.

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