One of the most remarkable things about pastors is the diversity of gifts that God has given to us. Though all of us have the same Lord who has called us, the Lord has gifted us each so uniquely and wonderfully.
Some of us can preach like Paul, others can cast a vision, others can teach, others offer such gift of caring, others are great with kids, others have various musical gifts, others have gifts of administration, and who knows what else.
The gifts God has given to pastors are gifts He has specifically chosen pastors for their various congregations. Why did He give those gifts to whom He gave them? Simply because He knows what pastoral gifts need to be operative in each given church at a given time in their respective stages of development, growth, re-organization, or crisis.
Gifts During Conflict
In conflict, it is not uncommon for pastors to become unsure of their gifts. Attacks, rumors, side-comments, back-stabs and other random criticisms general focus on the pastor’s person, character, and ministry gifts as Satan intends.
Unfortunately, the gifts they attack the hardest are the ones which are most visible. Thus those who oppose pastors take our greatest strengths and in a heart-wrenching “sleight of hand,” make us and others belief these strengths are our greatest weaknesses. The result can be devastating. The unsuspecting, conscientious pastor may respond by frantically doing everything possible to avoid this wrenching criticism by, of all things, playing to his strengths…and playing into even greater criticism and vulnerability.
The Bottom Line
What’s the bottom line? What we thought was our greatest strength, our greatest asset and our most unassailable invincible quality is, in the hands of our antagonists, our greatest weakness. It is that attacks against our strength that may be used to destroy us.
What’s Your Strength/Weakness?
What are your strengths? And, with what potential or perceived weaknesses may they be associated? Here are some possibilities.
Clear and Concise
Not Focused On Task
And So On…
The table above and our experience are in agreement. The reality is that our strength is our weakness. The greater the strength, the greater the potential weakness and liability.
But our strength is our weakness not just because it’s what the opposition may use against us. It’s also our weakness because when antagonists present our strength as a weakness, it sets of an alarm in our hearts. This alarm alerts us to one of the most important, painful areas, but often needed elements of spiritual discipline: we’ve been depending on our own strengths and not God’s strength.
When all is said and done, it really isn’t the antagonists’ ruthless misrepresentations of our strengths as a weaknesses that hurts us…although it can and surely does. Our greatest pain may be when we have to recognize that God and the antagonists are in agreement: our strength is our weakness.
Strength and Weakness: God’s Perspective
Though God and the antagonists are in agreement, they certainly have different motives. And though they’re probably both right about out strengths and weaknesses, whatever the antagonists’ motives may be, God’s motives are to tell us–albeit in a constructive, loving way–that our strength is our weakness. If we want true strength, we have to rely on Him.He demonstrated this to St. Paul, one of the greatest Christian missionaries who ever lived. Perhaps it was because of Paul’s remarkable giftedness and his extraordinary use of these virtually unparalleled strengths that he, like even the most gifted pastors, needed to be reminded that his strengths were his weakness.
Perhaps that’s why it happens so often those pastors who are the most gifted, most competent, most energetic and most creative who often get hit hardest and are affected most deeply by this “your strength is your weakness” phenomenon. The greater the pastor’s giftedness, the harder they try. The more fully pastors utilize their strengths, the greater the chances that they may risk deep disappointment when antagonism comes, damages, and even destroys what has been built largely on their own strength.
God’s Greatest Ministry Gift
In this midst of the deep grief of failure and crisis God, as He did with St. Paul, comes to us with what is perhaps a pastors’ greatest ministry gift:the gift of weakness…undeniable, unfathomable weakness. Though we don’t receive this gift willingly (and sometimes, we only accept it after severe trial when there’s absolutely nothing left), it is during the experience of weakness that God finally shows us where our strength really is, namely, in His strength alone.
It is in this state of weakness that we may finally come to realize that God doesn’t need any of our strengths, our gifts, our efforts, our prudence, our charisma, our ambition or any of these sorts of things. All He needs… is our weakness. When we are in our greatest weakness, God can finally start proving to us that it is He who builds His church and it is He who determines what effect His Word will have through our weak and feeble ministries.
What We Need Most
Whatever we might like to think, God really doesn’t need our strengths. He doesn’t need mine, yours, or anyone else’s. What He needs most from all of us is our weakness. From God’s perspective, the more we have, the better for Him. When we’re absolutely helpless, that’s when God shows His most powerful action of grace in the strength that He works in us through His Word and Sacrament. It’s His pattern; it’s His promise.
If in our personal and professional life we desire only and exclusively what God desires, then what we most desire–and need–is God’s gift ofweakness. It is in our weakness we find God’s extraordinary supra-human strength for ministry. It is in our weakness that we realize His enormously strong work of grace in us. “My grace is sufficient for you,” He told St. Paul. This same promise is all that we have to “hang our hat” on. “My grace is sufficient for you.”
His Sufficient Grace In Weakness
If it was through Christ’s weakness that He achieved His greatest work. By voluntarily humbling Himself even unto death, God’s greatest and most powerful act of grace was given to us. Throughout Scripture, in St. Paul, and culminating in Jesus Christ we see that undeniable pattern: God demonstrates His strength in our weakness. .
What’s your strength? Don’t depend on it. It’s your greatest weakness. It’s you greatest liability. Give up your confidence in it. Give it up…to God so that He may take it, transform it, and use it as He determines in your weakness.
May He who begun this great work of weakness in you, bring it to completion in the most marvelous demonstration of His strength through you and your ministry to Jesus Christ. May His strength be made perfect in your greatest weakness.
Thomas F. Fischer
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