God Wants More For You. So Do We.

Dear Future Pastors, be Content to be Unknown.

Every man God calls to the ministry wants to change the world. Actually, in my experience, every man whom God calls to the ministry believes he will change the world. I know this to be true of myself. Once I was sure the Lord was calling me to ministry, I honestly believed He was going to use me to make a huge difference in the world. Call it pride. Call it youthful naivety. Call it what you want, but it’s true that almost every person I’ve met whom the Lord has called to ministry believes God will use him to change the world.

            But what does it look like to change the world? Or, better, what does it look like to make a difference in the world? Those are the questions I never asked, but I should have. In my naivety, I believed it meant pastoring a large church or becoming a famous pastor. However, what the Lord has taught me is that most often it looks like being used to change the lives of the people God entrusts to you. In fact, God has a tendency to use unknown men and women to make a great impact on the kingdom of God.

            Only the Lord knows that name of the man who led the great Prince of Preachers Charles Spurgeon to faith. Due to a severe snowstorm, Spurgeon, who was unconverted at the time, was unable to attend the church he normally attended. So he went into the first church building he could find, which happened to be Methodist church. The pastor of that church was unable to be there that day due to the snowstorm. So a man from the church got up to preach. He was unprepared and not very gifted. Spurgeon himself recounts that the man was not a gifted preacher. His text was Isaiah 45:22, “Look to Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.”

            Spurgeon said the man had nothing to say other than the text itself, so he just kept repeating it over and over. He looked to Spurgeon and told him to look to Christ and be saved. And by God’s grace, it clicked with Spurgeon in that moment. He saw his great need for Christ, his great need for salvation, and he saw Christ as the only hope and source of salvation. The Lord, through some unknown man of God, saved Spurgeon that day. The rest is history. The Lord used Spurgeon to lead thousands to faith, to start a college for pastors, and to impact the world in a way most of us will never comprehend this side of eternity. And it was all set in motion by an unknown person faithfully proclaiming the Word of God.

            John Owen’s story is virtually identical. Owen attended a random church gathering one day. The church’s pastor was absent, so a man stepped in last second to preach, and the Lord saved John Owen that day. Only the Lord know who that man was, but the Lord used him to lead the great puritan pastor and theologian to faith. Like Spurgeon, Owen’s impact on Christianity cannot be overstated. However, the man the Lord used to set all this in motion is completely unknown.

            I’ve heard people say many times through years, “Where are all the great preachers today? Where are the Spurgeon’s? Where are the Whitefield’s? Where are the Rogers, Criswell’s, and Graham’s?” They believe there’s a lack of great preachers in our time. However, I firmly believe that’s not the case.

I believe wholeheartedly that there are countless great preachers in our world today, but they are completely unknown to the masses.

They are faithful men serving in rural and remote areas, faithfully preaching week in and week out, pouring into the flock entrusted to them.

            Recently, I was battling discouragement, wondering if I was making a difference at all. At the end of our Sunday morning gathering, I had a church member come up to me after the service and say, “I just want you to know how thankful my wife and I are for you. The Lord always speaks to us through your sermons, and our lives have changed drastically since we started coming here. Every morning we wake up and pray. We read our Bibles together. We discuss what we read. We know more about Jesus now and have grown more in our faith during our time here than we had in our entire lives leading up to us joining here. I just wanted you to know the difference you have made in our lives.”

            Brothers, that’s what it looks like to change the world.

The goal of the pastor is not to be known by the masses; it’s to faithfully serve the people the Lord has entrusted to you.

This is what it looks like to make a difference. It’s not about gaining views on YouTube. It’s about people in your flock coming to know and love Jesus more. It’s not about preaching a viral sermon. It’s about your people saying to you, “You’re helping me understand the Bible better than I ever have before.” It’s not about people in other states and nations knowing your name. It’s about seeing your people turn from sins they’ve been in bondage to for years and begin to become more like Christ right before your eyes.

You are not a failure if you never pastor a large church. You are not a failure if your sermons don’t have 100k views on YouTube. You are not a failure if you are completely unknown by the masses. That’s not how God judges success in the ministry. When you stand before God, He’s not going to ask you how many you ran on Sunday. He’s not going to ask you how many subscribers you had on YouTube or how many followers you had on Twitter. He’s going to ask you, “Did you feed my sheep? Did you care for my flock?”

            Brothers, I am pleading with you, as you prepare to answer the call, get the idea of fame out of your head. Get rid of all notions of being the next John MacArthur, John Piper, RC Sproul, or Matt Chandler. If you enter the ministry with the goal of becoming famous, you’re going to be disappointed by the reality of the pastorate. Instead, enter the ministry with the right frame of mind, with understanding that God is calling you not to change the world, but to be an instrument in the hands of God to change the lives of the people He entrusts to you. Love the people He gives you. Teach the people He gives you. Pray for the people He gives you. Feed the sheep. Shepherd the flock. And be content to be unknown.