More on the ego

I was talking to my wife about my theory of ego and the call to preach. I blogged on this earlier, but I want to expand it a bit more.

In the earlier post, I said this:

At the heart of a good deal of it, there must be ego. Are you conscious of ego in yourself? Do you realize how much it drives what you say and do? On a parallel track, how much of the ‘call to preach’ is simply ego? A good deal of it, in my opinion. Leadership involves ego. Very few leaders are in their positions because they are the humblest and godliest of men.

It is possible to be godly while driven by ego, but the challenge of any spiritual leadership is to find the right balance, subordinate and subdue the self, and harness the ego for godly pursuits.

In our conversation last night we were commenting on what drives people in the ministry. I mentioned my theory that much of the call to preach is ego based. The term ego usually has negative connotations, but it can be used at least neutrally to describe something about the inner man. This aspect of our inner being motivates our behaviour and, if it is subordinated to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it can be used to accomplish God’s will and not our own.

Of course, there is a fine line between ego-submission and ego-driven. The flesh can be indulged very easily as we derive pleasure from the position of leadership. But the person who is ego-driven in the ministry, the one who is seeking ever bigger crowds, ever larger and more ‘successful’ ministry, ever widening reputation and recognition… well, that person is on a journey to a destination that will never be reached. It is like a drug. Nothing will ever satisfy. No amount of success, no size of crowd, no position of influence will ever really be enough. Ego can and will consume the soul just as much as drugs do.

I recall reading a quote attributed to J. Paul Getty, at one time one of the richest men in the world. He was asked how much money it takes to satisfy. His reply? “Just a little bit more.” So it is with an ego driven ministry. The ego will never be satisfied if you are in the ministry solely or primarily for ego.

The vast majority of ministry opportunities in the Christian church are small, unknown, insignificant (worldly speaking), frustrating, ego shattering, and necessary. If we choose to enter the ministry for some reason of satisfying ourselves, we are on a fools errand. The work of the ministry is a necessary function in God’s kingdom. It has many blessed rewards and not a few disappointments. But our satisfaction must be derived from knowing and doing the will of God or we will be overwhelmed by the disappointments. If God chooses to expand our ministry to wider proportions, so be it! But let us not be seeking the wider proportions, let us seek to do the work of the ministry.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3