Years ago, we were planning for our youth winter retreat.
We finally got our guest speaker to agree to come, but we didn’t have a praise band.
At that time of my ministry career, I just taken on the responsibility of raising worship leaders and praise teams.
Looking back, embarrassingly enough, I really wanted to lead praise for the retreat. But the head youth pastor opted for another person. I remember being a bit annoyed, maybe even angry and jealous at the whole situation. After all, the pastor knew me very well and we’ve worked together for two years now, and she had to know what kind of person I was and I knew that I could, hands down, do a better job. But the choice was made, and there was no reason to dwell on it.
A couple of weeks after the retreat, I had moments to myself, which for the most part I dread because questions like these arise: why did you want to lead praise so badly for the retreat?
I came up with answers that could’ve fooled anyone else but me and God. I had to dig to the bottom of the whole thing, and the bottom line was, I wanted to be out there in the front. It was really embarrassing and painful to admit that I wanted this whole experience to be about me. The only reason I wanted to so badly was out of selfish motivation and selfish ambition. So I thanked God that the pastor ended up not choosing me. Who knows? I could’ve hurt myself and the youth spiritually, by wanting to be out there in the front for selfish gains.
I made peace with that. And I begin to constantly remind myself, it’s not about me. I started noticing the difference in our worship gatherings, and so did everyone else. It was more intimate, more powerful, we were more… alive, I guess is the word. It was because I started to focus more on God than on me.
Months later, the Winter Retreat was coming up and here we were planning for it. We found ourselves in the same position of not having a worship leader. But this time it was different. I was different. I sincerely hoped that we would find the best person who can lead our kids to worship God.
Interestingly enough, without hesitation, I was given the opportunity to lead praise.
Once I let go of my pride, personal ambitions and selfish desires, more doors opened up for me, funny how God works. When I wanted it so badly, those doors remained so shut, that I couldn’t pry it open.
The point of this little story is that one of my ministry goals is to be an itinerant preacher, you know a traveling preacher. My wife accuses me of wanting this so that I can recycle some of my best sermons. I just think it’s a wonderful way for me to grow and be challenged as a messenger of God. And to be in a different community, to learn from them and to adapt to my surroundings so that the Word of God can be made relevant whether I’m preaching to a congregation of old Anglo-people or a bunch of Korean elementary kids.
This door has remained shut for a long time. With the story I just told you, maybe you can see why. But at first, I thought it was because I wasn’t networked enough. Maybe if I get to know more people, I’ll increase my chances of being able to preach at different settings. But, that wasn’t the problem.
Again, in a very humbling soul search, I realized that this, too, was about me and what honor and glory that I may be able to gain. I didn’t know I was so desperate for this kind of attention. It was a rude and embarrassing awakening.
After repenting and a humbling process of prayer, I reminded myself and rededicated my thoughts to: this is ALL about God and not me. The words of John the Baptist flooded my heart: that I’m just there to make the path straight for God and not be the path. That I am to decrease so that God may increase. I’m just supposed to be the messenger not the message itself.
Funny thing happened. A couple of months later, I get a call, and there’s this meeting held for pastors (I think predominantly, Korean pastors) who are in a cross-cultural appointments. They wanted me to speak to them about my experiences. What experiences, I wanted to ask. And then the guy said to me, “The bishop is invited and will be there.”
I told my wife and some close friends about this opportunity. They all asked, “aren’t you nervous?”
Yes. What experiences can a 28 year old share with a room full of pastors who’s been at this much longer than I?
“No. Not about that. Aren’t you nervous to speak in front of the Bishop?”
The honest truth is, no.
Whether I’m preaching to the bishop or to an 11 year old kid or to a homeless person on the street, it’s all the same, because it’s not who I’m preaching to. My preparation and prayer time should not change on the basis of who is going to be listening to God’s words through me. It’s not about who I’m preaching to, but who I’m preaching for, who I am representing.
Because after all, it’s never about me and always about God.