Multnomah’s Dr. Stephen Kim explores the unpopularity of ministry
This is not Hollywood. And the call to professional ministry is no side-show photo booth either with nothing but good times and candy cane lanes.
Professional ministry is very tough and concludes for many people with realizations of humanity that end up being the straw that breaks the camel/minister’s back. Last semester, while teaching a prophets class at Multnomah, Dr. Stephen Kim conveyed this truth that I, as one aspiring to go into ministry, will never forget.
Dr. Kim shared his experience at Dallas Seminary, illustrating the point that being called to professional ministry is nothing like being called to the stage on Hollywood Boulevard. This is the story that he related to me:
“I got a chance to plant a church,” Dr. Kim said. “It was a very young fledgeling church made of a couple dozen people. The church was growing under a very core group of leaders of whom about a half dozen wanted to be elders.”
Yet, Dr. Kim was convinced that they were too spiritually immature to be elders. “It is one thing to be a key part of the leadership, and another to be in charge of the spiritual direction of the lives of other people.” He felt that it was best for the leadership of the church leadership to remain with the pastoral team.
“From that point on, I became an enemy in their eyes,” he said.
In another case at the same church plant a man came to Dr. Kim having claimed that he had found his soulmate. The problem was the man was married.
“Church is like this all the time in our culture, where even evangelical Bible believing Christians will have a sense of disconnect in their moral reality,” said Dr. Kim. He now relates how he handled the situation, and the price he paid for staying true the Bible. “After I told him what the scripture says, [that divorce is not biblical] from that point on, [because I wouldn’t permit the divorce and remarriage] he became my enemy.”
Eventually, he made the decision to leave the church and to pursue another calling. This came at a huge cost for him and his wife, explained Dr. Kim. It was painful to have the people they had been pouring their lives into turn on them. “But looking back, it is what really gave me a perspective of what ministry is about. It is about what God thinks,” he said.
Standing firmly upon the Word of God is most likely a guarantee that people will not like you. Putting yourself in the position of Christian leadership is not like being a Hollywood star. Points are only awarded to those who please God in what they do.
Through the circumstances related to starting a church Dr. Kim began to realize that he had been gifted for teaching rather than for being a minister.
Being called to Christian ministry “is not about having a popular calling, or the approval of people,” Dr. Kim said. “Ultimately, your goal has to be Jesus Christ. I don’t need people to tell me what a good teacher I am because I am convinced that I have the gift of teaching. People’s opinion of me doesn’t lead me.”
Ministry is not a play or a social gathering. Staying focused on pleasing Christ is the only way to survive the “anti-Hollywoodness” of ministry.
According to Dr. Kim, “If you’re emotionally vulnerable and constantly dependent on people’s approval, [ministry] is just not for you. As spiritual leaders, there are a lot of times when you make decisions that people may not like. The mark of a leader is that they are able to do what is right in the face of opposition. Doing what is pleasing to God can be the only motive, otherwise, ‘you will burn out and be miserable.’”
“In our culture, [those called to ministry] are called to preach and bear a very difficult message,” Dr. Kim said. Because of this, “our ministry [oftentimes] will not be appreciated by other people. You can tailor your ministry to what the world approves, but will Jesus say, at the end of our lives when our ministry has been primarily about pleasing people, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’?”
As a minister of God’s Word, “your hopes are not set on people, but they always have to be set on our Lord and what He has called us to do.”
We should not expect to be on any magazine covers, as Hollywood’s elite are, loved and admired by millions. Rather, we should expect difficulties because Christ promised we would have tribulations (Matt. 5:11-12; John 15:18-21).
People are broken and the job of ministry is a job of working with broken people. We do this not so we will be praised by others, but so that when we meet Jesus face to face, He will say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done.”
–Chris Hansen is a senior Communication Studies major