The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and
gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20b, NIV).
J. D. Grey wrote a helpful little book titled Epitaphs for Eager Preachers. From his experience, he was warning young ministers of the pitfalls which may lead to the death of ministry. One chapter is titled: "He Died Climbing."
How do you handle your ambition? May I simply suggest you take your ambition to the top and leave it there? Tell the Heavenly Father your dreams, desires, and goals. Tell Him and no one else. If He cannot make it happen, who can? If He does not make it happen, should it happen?
One great secret of outstanding ministry is confidence—not self-confidence but God-confidence. Humility is not weakness. This God-confidence is vital to peace and effectiveness in our work. Without it we will be pulled apart like a grasshopper in a biology class.
Our people have many hidden contracts with us. Each one expects us to be like their often inflated memory of a much-loved pastor of years gone by. Some have unrealistic ideas of what a pastor should be. They think the role is filled by someone who is a combination of Jesus, Johnny Carson, and Lee Iacocca. You are expected to preach like Billy Graham, lead like a corporate CEO, visit like a hospital chaplain, counsel like Joyce Brothers, and manage financially like E. F. Hutton.
Some imagined a pastoral search committee drawing up this profile: "We are looking for a young man with the wisdom of one ripe in years who visits all the members and is always available in his office, who will expound the Word of God without fear, and who will tell us with authority exactly what we want to hear." I wish that were more humor than truth.
How do you handle those kinds of expectations? By trusting your career, your security, your calling to God. There is confidence in being able to say: "I am doing what I'm doing because God called me to do it. I am doing it where I'm doing it because He put me here."
I have stated the ideals. It is important to me that you know that I do not pretend to measure up to what I have stated, but these are the goals. To be authentic and prepared to preach, one must struggle with the questions:
Have I bought what I'm selling?
Can I do without it?
Is the main thing the main thing?
Am I real?
Who is in charge of my career?
Handbook of Contemporary Preaching.