There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light" (John 1:6-8, NKJV).
This is an appropriate text for ministers. It is appropriate because of what it offers. Direction. Purpose. Counsel. Even a simple, yet well-placed, reminder. These three verses mention four significant things about John the Baptist that could be (and I hope are) true for us as well.
First, "there was a man." John was a simple man, he was a complex man. He was like you and me; he was subject to the same weaknesses and limitations as each of us is. He had stress, pressure, and 24 short hours to each day. John was a man not an angel, not a supernatural unhuman creation. No, he was just a man. Now, he couldn't have been categorized as a "normal" man. Most of us wouldn't do well in a normalcy test, but what set him apart was something different.
Second, "there was a man sent from God." Although he was a man with human limitations, John was distinguished and set apart from others by his direction. He was a man sent "from God." He had a sense of who he was, what he was, and why he was out in that "Godforsaken" region. He had purpose. And nothing is more crucial for a minister than having purpose. It helps one go places you wouldn't ever go and say things one wouldn't ever say, if it were not for that purpose and direction that come from above.
Third, "there was a man sent from God" "to bear witness of the Light." John had a simple, one-line job description: "to bear witness of the Light." He talked, pointed, preached, exhorted people toward Christ, the Light of the world. That was John's sole and soul mission. He preached with power, paved the path, primed the pump, prepared the people, performed his part, pointed to the Great Proximate.
And therein lies some good counsel for us. Maybe we need to include that again in our job description as truly number one in the "what we are about" category. Maybe we need to make that the only thing we are about: pointing people toward the Light, preparing the way for His coming. Period.
Last, "He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light." John knew he wasn't the Light, even though others sometimes wondered if he was. John never let it go to his head, because he knew that he was simply "a man," who was "sent from God" to do one thing: "bear witness." Most of us don't have the problem of hat size increasing, yet we can get the old "Messiah complex" when we let pride of church size, area of responsibility, ability, etc., creep up into our cranium. That's why direction is so important, why purpose and the ability to take counsel are so important.
This passage also contains a simple reminder, which can be summed up in two words: balance and perspective. "He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light." There is only one Light, and keeping that Light always before us will help us stay balanced, with everything in proper perspective.
When I heard that 1993 was the Year of the Pastor, my initial impression was, "So what? Is it really going to make any difference for me? Is my church all of a sudden going to respond in some new and great way?" Honestly, I'm not sure. I'm not sure how the message is going to be received by my congregation, I'm not sure how it's going to get to them with out sounding self-serving. But one thing I know for sure: the message needs to get to them—and to us. We need their help and support, and they need ours. And as ministers we also need a word from our Sponsor. God wants the same things that were said about John the Baptist said about me—and you. No, not that we dress funny! He wants us to realize that we are simple people—we have limitations. But we are people sent from God we have divine authorization. We are people sent from God to bear witness of the Light—we have a heavenly commission. We are people sent from God, bearing witness to the Light, but we are not the Light—we need to have a perspective-oriented existence.
Maybe that's one good thing that can happen out of this "Year of ... ," reminding ourselves why we truly are ministering. And remember one thing: no matter what, it's always the "Year of the Pastor" on God's calendar because just as He sent John to prepare the way, He sends us to prepare it—one more time.