Conquering mediocrity

Are you an average pastor? Average is as close to the top as to the bottom. I believe God designed every human being for unique excellence.

Miguel Angel Cerna is a special assistant editor of Ministy.

Are you an average pastor? Average is as close to the top as to the bottom. I believe God designed every human being for unique excellence.

Consider Jabez, one man among 600 names in the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles: "And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow. And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested" (1 Chron. 4:9, 10).

What did he do to gain God's attention?

1. A great ambition. Jabez really wanted to make his life count. He wanted to expand his territory not to be transferred to another territory, but to expand the one where he was. Too many in the ministry lack vision for their present circumstances. They have many small ambitions but will never transcend mediocrity until they get a vision. Jabez is an example of big thinking.

2. A great faith. The short prayer and biography of Jabez does not mention any specific ability, gift, education, or possession he might have had. Evidently, greater than talent is faith. It isn't necessarily the most intelligent or gifted workers who achieve the greatest for God's cause, but the ones who have faith and work.

In Jabez's situation, perhaps he may have been handicapped in some way because his name in Hebrew means "pain." How would you like to be named "pain"? Perhaps you have been called other uncomplimentary things. If so, Jabez's example shows that difficult circumstances need not doom us to mediocrity. In Christ's name we can get out of the same old rut. We need not worry about talents we don't have when we have faith in God and know that He has called us to ministry. We simply trust Him and move on.

Are we repelling people by indifference, or attracting them to God by fervor and passion? Are we among the minority who are eager to take up the challenge of the day and make a difference? Remember, Jabez's faith was greater than his problems.

3. A great prayer life. Ask for God's power in your life and ministry.

Jabez prayed, "Bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory" (NKJV). The prayer was specific. And it was not selfish because God answered it! Ambition itself is either good or bad depending on the motive.

Why would you want your church to be the largest? Why would you want your conference, union, or division to be the largest? If we only want God's glory, let us keep praying and working to that end. When we pray for big things, God is able to do much more than we can ask or think. Jabez asked for God's presence in his life and for protection.

Popular misconceptions

Every minister desperately needs to avoid three popular misconceptions.

1. Confusing humility with fear. Often seemingly "humble" pastors and leaders won't attempt great things for God because perhaps in reality they are afraid. The devil is an expert in making us think small, and in deluding us into thinking we are simply humble. Humility does not deny our strengths; it acknowledges our weaknesses and drives us to seek God's grace and do great things for Him with His help.

2. Confusing being content with being lazy. Philippians 4:11 states that Paul learned to be content in every situation. But that didn' t mean he lacked great ambitions or great goals. Paul was simply saying that he had learned to enjoy life even while his goals were not yet reached. If contentment is an excuse for laziness, who, then, will train and organize church members for ministry and soul winning? Who will stand for justice? Who will strive to complete an education?

3. Confusing little thinking with spirituality. Some hold the myth that quality is the opposite of quantity. If quality were measured by size, then a one-member church would be the best of all. Let us not blame God for our lack of growth. Quality yields quantity.

To summarize: How do we triumph over mediocrity? Like Jabez we need a great ambition, a great faith, and a great prayer life. From the day these characteristics are seen in our lives, we will never again be mediocre. As coworkers with Christ, let us allow Him to use us as agents for creation and re-creation. Let us be so that we may do, so that we may have the fulfillment that comes from serving our great God, whose Word says: "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (Prov. 29:18). May our ambition in service for Him be to focus on that vision and make the difference in the very territory where He has called us to labor.

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Miguel Angel Cerna is a special assistant editor of Ministy.

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