Years ago I attended a church that had a family camp. Every summer the congregation would pack up their bags, and live in a tent, trailer or rent a cabin for a week.
It was along the shores of an algae-filled lake. The fellowship was the best part.
But the push was on for God to move at the camp. And invariably at the end of every camp, the pastor would declare in the closing meeting that this was the best camp ever.
There were some good camps. But there were others that were just alright.
In fact, if the truth be told the first camp they held was the absolute best one. The Holy Spirit moved powerfully and people were still talking about those meetings ten years later.
It is so easy to fall into the mindset that meetings have to be better, miracles more profound and the moving of the Holy Spirit greater. I do it with this website. I regularly check the readership stats to see how many people are visiting and to see if this site is growing.
For some, insecurity is a paralyzing force and for others it is a driving influence. If you are insecure, bigger is always better and necessary to be a success.
God needs men and women who are secure enough in themselves to work the hard places. Who believe they are accomplishing things even though it’s not showing up in numerical responses.
When God called Ezekiel to be a prophet, one of the first things the Lord did was confront the insecurity in Ezekiel’s life. God told this prophet, He was sending him on a very special ministry.
Ezekiel was going to a “rebellious” people who would probably not listen to him.
4 I am sending you to them who are stubborn and obstinate children, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ 5 As for them, whether they listen or not—for they are a rebellious house—they will know that a prophet has been among them. (Ezekiel 2:4-5 NASV)
Ezekiel’s only sense of satisfaction was the people would know a prophet was among them. This promised to be an exciting time.
There are hard places and God needs men and women who are willing to go. They can’t be people who count success by the number of converts or the size of their church. They must be people secure in themselves and who base success on obedience, not results.
But Ezekiel was in many ways similar to you and me. He had his insecurities.
God told his prophet:
- “Do not be afraid of them or their words” (Ezekiel 2:6). Ezekiel was going to be criticized and vilified and he couldn’t take it personally. Insecure people take things personally and even find ways to twist things to mean something that was never intended.
- “Do not be afraid of the thistles, thorns and the scorpions” (Ezekiel 2:6). The circumstances were going to be hard and he must not pull back. People who are insecure find it difficult to face adversity. This is because their self-worth is based on outward success; they interpret difficult times as evidence of God’s disapproval.
Similarly, a pastor I know regularly travels to Africa to preach the Gospel. God gave him a burden to speak at Muslim universities. These are hard places, full of obstacles and challenges. It would be easy to avoid them and go to areas more open to the Gospel. But God wants the good news of Jesus preached at these institutions as well.
God dealt with Ezekiel’s insecurity because God can’t build his kingdom with people whose self-image is based on what they accomplish!
By all external measurements, Ezekiel’s ministry was an absolute failure. Nobody responded to his prophetic words. If Ezekiel looked strictly at outward response, by chapter 17 he would have packed his bags and gone home.
But Ezekiel kept prophesying. He had no idea God would include his prophetic words in the Bible that hundreds of millions of people world-wide would eventually read.
God needs people to pastor churches of 50 up to 100,000. But if a pastor’s self-image is based on what they accomplish, a church of 50 is never good enough. They will look to greener pastures — for a larger more successful church, because this is evidence of their success and God’s blessing.
There is nothing wrong with big churches and God does move people on. But it is a heart issue. We need to make sure it is God who is leading us, not our insecurities.
I remember at the Bible school I attended there was one small-town church that had an amazing record — every year it seemed to have kids attending the Bible school.
It churned out pastors, missionaries, and Christian workers by the bucket full. Everyone knew the names of those who headed the denomination’s big successful churches, but I had no idea who was leading that work.
He was nameless in man’s eyes, but successful in God’s.
More in this series: