In This Issue...
- A Theology of Humor by Cheryl Taylor
- Ministering With Humor by Stephanie Nance
- Christian Leaders Having Fun? by Pam Morton with Kathy Jingling
- The Health Benefits of Humor and Laughter by Dwenda Gjerdingen, MD, MS
Women in Ministry Mobilized E-Newsletter Articles
WIM - Subcriber Articles
My New Motto
Thu, 23 Sep 2010 - 8:26 AM CST
By Cheri Walters
I'm 25, the first female music minister at my new church, and the only woman on the pastoral staff. I'm in the music library, uncovering stack after stack of the top choral musicals from the last several decades right up through last year. I'm an archaeologist sifting through evidence of a long and illustrious church music culture on this site. I'm swallowing hard. I'm terrified.
That moment was almost exactly 30 years ago. Back then, my motto was "Never let 'em see you sweat." Rehearsing and conducting those talented musicians, I was often shaking on the inside. But I worked hard to project a confident image because I wanted to be taken seriously and to inspire confidence.
But as I've matured, I've begun to wonder if it isn't more scriptural for me to be honest about my own limitations, to acknowledge that often I do feel overwhelmed by the demands of my calling and ministry. I am trying to learn how to rely on God's strength instead of my own skill set. But where is the balance between being humbly transparent and appearing inept or unqualified?
This balance seems difficult to maintain or even to discover. I have to confess that I have many questions and few answers. Reading Christian classics, especially in the past decade, has brought these questions from the back of my mind to the forefront.
Oswald Chambers ruthlessly knocked aside my "never-let-‘em-see-you-sweat" motto, declaring, "Every element of self reliance must be slain by the power of God. Complete weakness and dependence will always be the occasion for the Spirit of God to manifest His power." 1
E.M. Bounds reached out from the page, took me by the shoulders, and turned me back toward Jesus' example: "Can ambition, that lusts after praise and place, preach the gospel of him who made himself of no reputation and took on him the form of a servant? Can the proud, the vain, the egotistical preach the gospel of him who was meek and lowly?" 2
Suddenly my question, "As a leader of people, how do I own up to my helplessness and not seem unqualified?" is inverted. Jesus, my leader and my example of leadership, is the Suffering Servant. He is the Teacher who washed His disciples' feet as both service and object lesson that "Whoever wants to be first must be your slave - just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve" (Matthew 20:27, NIV). In the scripture passage Bounds references, Jesus, who is "in very nature God," set the standard for ministry by emptying himself of His omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence - His deity skill set, if you will - and "made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant" (Philippians 2:6,7, NIV). In doing so, He did more than humble himself. He made himself helpless to perform miracles or fulfill His earthly mission except through complete dependence on the Holy Spirit. What's more, the whole passage begins with Paul's unflinching directive: "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5, NIV).
Perhaps my question should be the other way round: "As a servant of people, how can I be qualified unless I own up to my helplessness?" Chambers, ever blunt, tag-teamed Bounds (and the apostle Paul) on this issue: "We have to get rid of this notion - ‘Am I of any use?' and make up our minds that we are not, and we may be near the truth. It is never a question of being of use, but of being of value to God himself. When we are abandoned to God, He works through us all the time." 3
Now there's a thought to turn over and examine! I am of value to God-but of no use - as I abandon myself to Him. Which makes another of my questions - "As a woman in a male-dominated field, how do I minister in utter dependency and not seem weak?" - completely beside the point. Why does it matter to me so much that I not seem weak? Paul writes of his thorn in the flesh, and the Lord's response, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV). If I must be weak for His power to flourish, isn't this desire to appear capable really my ego getting in the way? Perhaps a more honest question is, "As a woman called by God, how do I let go of my need for control and approval, throwing myself completely on His grace?" At the age 25, I told myself I needed to appear confident to inspire confidence, but was it more about erecting a strong façade to cover my insecurity?
A.W. Tozer poked around and pried up a loose corner of my façade when he wrote about "the burden of pretense. By this I mean not hypocrisy, but the common human desire to put the best foot forward and hide from the world our real inward poverty .... There is hardly a man or woman who dares to be just what he or she is without doctoring up the impression." 4
It's scary stuff, this coming out of hiding. In a culture that prizes self-reliance, self-sufficiency, and self-confidence - what Tozer called the "self-sins" - I may indeed be considered weak or unqualified or somehow lacking. His observation written 60 years ago is eerily prescient for our day: "The grosser manifestations of these sins - egotism, exhibitionism, self-promotion - are strangely tolerated in Christian leaders .... so much in evidence as actually, for many people, to become identified with the gospel .... Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ is currently so common as to excite little notice." 5
I can deflect the prick of that indictment by pointing to current Christian personalities, or I can acknowledge it, look inside, and ask myself whether I am promoting Christ or my ministry. Am I abandoned to Him, come what may, or am I protecting my weaknesses and shortcomings? Tozer said of each person's need to defend himself, "As he walks on in meekness he will be happy to let God defend him. The old struggle to defend himself is over. He has found the peace which meekness brings." 6
So now I have new questions: How much of admitting my helplessness is public and how much is private? What of my dependence and spiritual bankruptcy needs to be expressed to others, and what is between me and God? ("Lord, help me be transparent without being stupid!") I don't know the details of how this works day-to-day. Like someone groping in the dark, I'm trying to place my feet carefully along this path of weakness and meekness without breaking something that matters. I can stand here, paralyzed by all the possible damage I could do, or I can put my hand out and simply trust.
Bounds tapped me on the shoulder and gently chided me for my self-important view of ministry: "God's revelation does not need the light of human genius, the polish and strength of human culture, the brilliancy of human thought, the force of human brains to adorn or enforce it; but it does demand the simplicity, the docility, humility, and faith of a child's heart." 7
What I know so far is this: Like everything in this life in the Spirit, attitude is the key. God is already on my side; His plans and love for me are perfect and unfailing. I know this. But the extent to which I lay hold of all He wants for me is the extent to which I have the same attitude as Jesus. The attitude of a servant. The attitude of a child. The attitude of someone who finds her value in God's estimation alone.
This acceptance of God's estimate of our life, not a sense of inferiority, is Tozer's definition of meekness. "The meek man ... knows he is as weak and helpless as God has declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is, in the sight of God, more important than angels. In himself, nothing; in God, everything. That is his motto." 8
And that's my new motto.
1 Chambers, Oswald. My Utmost for His Highest, May 5.
2Bounds, E.M. Power Through Prayer, p. 83.
3 Chambers, Oswald. My Utmost for His Highest, February 21.
4 Tozer, A.Z. The Pursuit of God, p. 104.
5 Ibid, p. 42-43.
6 Ibid, p. 106.
7 Bounds, E.M. Power Through Prayer, p. 56-57.
8 Tozer, A.Z. The Pursuit of God, p. 107.
Chéri Walters has been a music minister, staff pastor, Bible teacher, worship leader and pastor's wife for over 30 years, serving alongside her husband, Ken in Oklahoma, Florida, and their native California. She has written over 100 articles published in music and ministry magazines. Her drama skits have been used by Plastow Publications and by the national Assemblies of God Women's Ministries department, and she has written online ministry training materials. Her book, Get a Giant Hat Rack: Advice to the Minister of Music, is in its second printing, available from CBC Press, Central Bible College, Springfield, Missouri.