LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Ministers must consider their work a calling from God rather than an opportunity for professional advancement, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said during the fall graduation ceremony Dec. 10.
Preaching from John 1 and John 3 at the seminary’s 194th commencement, Mohler told the graduating class of 125 students that John the Baptist serves as a model of ministerial faithfulness.
John the Baptist “was not a religious professional,” Mohler said. “The professionalization of the ministry is not a recent development, but it is one of the most tragic developments to befall the church. Ministry is not a profession. It’s not a career, and it’s not a job.”
Many pastors in postmodern America see themselves as media moguls, political negotiators, therapists, managers and activists, Mohler said. But the true minister of God must see himself as a servant of Jesus Christ.
“Professionalism kills,” Mohler said. “The spirit of the professional is not the spirit of Christ. The talent of the professional is not the gift of the ministry. The aim of the professional is not the mission of the true servant of Christ. The professional would not say, ‘In the cross of Christ I glory.’ But the minister of God must.”
Mohler drew three lessons from the life of John the Baptist for ministers seeking to live a life of faithfulness of Christ.
First, a minister must model humility.
“In a New Testament perspective, [humility] is a non-negotiable necessity,” Mohler said. “Know that it’s not about us. It’s all about God. It’s all about the glory of God.”
Underscoring the distinction between true and false humility, Mohler said true humility causes a minister to live out his calling by proclaiming the Word of God.
“True humility is assuming the responsibility God has invested in us and knowing it is to God’s glory and burning ourselves out with passion to see God’s glory demonstrated in that calling. Ultimately it is all about God. It’s not about us. But God uses human servants as vessels for His Gospel.”
Second, a minister must model clarity.
While many preachers speak about Christ indirectly or obtusely, the true minister of God must declare the message of Christ with theological specificity, Mohler said.
“We need a generation ready to tell the truth and to be very clear and very specific about what the truth is,” he said. “This is no time for almost saying something. The Christian minister is not to be known for angular speech but for directness. Whatever gifts God has given you, direct them to clarity for the cause of Christ, the glory of God and the mission of the Gospel.”
Clarity requires ministers to preach the offensive message of the cross rather than preaching what people want to hear, Mohler said.
“The Gospel is just so clear — clear about who Christ is, clear about why He came and what He did, clear about what sin is. Clarity will certainly get you in trouble because we live in a day of itching ears. May you in your ministry be used as an agent of clarity,” he said.
Third, a minister must model rightly ordered priorities.
The first priority of the minister must be to increase the glory of Christ while decreasing his own glory, Mohler said.
“There can be no shared glory in the ministry,” he said. “Whatever glory we have will be the glory we are given on that day when Christ shall claim us as His own. In this world we will not see glory. Whatever glory we see is more dangerous than profitable.”
The moments of greatest joy in ministry will come when God’s glory is reflected through the conversion of sinners and the spiritual growth of believers, Mohler said.
“You get to see God’s glory in the broken made whole, in the crooked made straight,” he said. “But it is not our glory, and for us there is no glory in it except the glory we get to see the reflected glory that comes to us because of the work of God.”
Mohler concluded, “Today we declare God’s glory in you and God’s purpose for you. God forbid that you should be professionalized or think that today you are being certified for a profession. Burn yourselves out in the calling of the ministry. Aim for the hereafter. Earth and its careers will sink into insignificance, and God’s glory will be in it from beginning to end.”