(Continued from Part 1 here.)
As one of the female students in my ministry class, I sought opportunities to minister to others and serve in the church. Our class also had the privilege of receiving ministry from well-known spiritual teachers and pastors. I would secretly be filled with happiness when one of them would give me a "word of knowledge" about my future ministry or tell me that I had strong spiritual gifts. Each time I would think that "someday," others would see this, too. Spiritual pride can creep upon us without a whisper. Oftentimes we believe we are seeking God's will. Instead, what we're often seeking is our own sense of importance. This was true for me.
I mentioned that these traveling teachers and pastors were seen as "spiritual rock stars." I wish I was kidding. Some would insist on being housed in a fine hotel. Others would treat our ministry staff as personal servants. I was starting to see the ugly side of ministry and was both shocked and disillusioned. Was this what I desired?
I will never forget a married couple who made their mark upon me with their considerate and kind ways. The ministry hosted several large conferences throughout the year. Those who were employed by the ministry basically worked their tails off to pull off a spectacular event. Much of this work included the "hospitality room" for the special speakers.
This area was usually a well-guarded room within a hotel where the speakers could rest and pray before speaking before the crowds. At one conference, it was an actual stand-alone cottage. My boss, the administrative pastor of the church, asked if I would volunteer to work within the cozy retreat to help prepare food and drink. But only on one condition.
"Mary Rose, you need to abide by this one rule. Do not talk to the speakers. If they ask you something, of course answer and make sure they have plenty of food and beverage. But you are not to ask them for anything, or talk to them, or ask for prayer." He solemnly stared at me to drive home the point.
My eyes grew large. "Of course! I'll do whatever is needed," I said as I smiled.
But inside I felt another sense of disappointment and confusion. Was this what Jesus had meant when He told His apostles to go and teach all nations to observe all He had taught them? Where was the love? The humility? Or was I being naive?
It was at the cottage when I came across the married couple; whose easy-going personalities were like a draught of clear, cool water on a hot summer's day. Not only did they talk to me, they asked me questions and treated me with kindness and respect. I quickly considered them friends, but still realized that I was "just a staff person" and certainly didn't equate myself with these globe-trotting ministers. But what astounded me was they never gave me the impression that this was how they viewed themselves. We did become friends and I stayed with them on several occasions while I was involved with the ministry. They were and still are an amazing, God-loving and God-serving couple.
It took some time, but I was finally witnessing the veneer coming off the "spiritual rock star" world. Yes, many of them were good teachers. But most of them knew how to work the emotions of a crowd. Some indeed had prophetic spiritual gifting, boldly telling a stranger in front of conference attendees the desires of their heart. But behind closed doors, most were worn out and wary of anyone approaching them. Many who attended these conferences had emotional needs that could not be met by one session of teaching. But they pursued these teachers, believing that somehow, any notice from them would give them the seal of approval they desperately wanted.
There are many reasons why people crave approval. Within a ministry, it is unavoidable that such people will seek out anyone they think has a "silver bullet" for whatever ails them. Some of these people I considered "black holes." No matter how much attention and encouragement was given to them, they needed more, and more, and more. This was why many of those "spiritual rock stars" were so wary and often distanced themselves from others. It was a question of spiritual survival. Without retreating, as Jesus often did to be with His Father, a minister could quickly become burned-out.
I watched and observed these leaders, and wondered if the same was in store for me? Was this what I really wanted? More importantly, was it what God wanted for me? All I knew was that from those experiences, I was driven to a deeper prayer life as I asked God these questions and more.
To be continued...