Today, as I was enjoying some good Chicago pizza with an ole’ friend downtown- some things jumped into my mind. During our talk I was reminded of who I was when I first started ministry. I know it is easy for us as Christians to confess our past before Christ, but sometimes we give the impression that since being saved we have been perfect and have not really needed to change.
However, during this conversation I made some confessions to this friend on the things I am not anymore and I thought you might enjoy them. Some of you reading this might remember who I was 10+ years ago, but please be nice because I also remember who you were!
1. I used to judge people on things not found directly in the Bible- but from tradition: For example: I judged people if they watched movies, listened to non-Christian music, or even celebrated Christmas! Can I still make a good case for certain things not to be listened to or watched? Sure, but I now would much rather teach the “black and white things” of the Bible and let trained disciples make their own personal decisions in the “grey areas,” Matthew 5-7.
2. I used to boast in prayer and fasting: Wow, that was hard even to write, but yes it was so true! I would be harsh in comparing my prayer and fasting life to others- to the point if you didn’t pray 2 hours a day and fast once a week like me- I thought you were lukewarm! Now, I still love to spend hours alone with God in daily prayer, however, I like to keep it personal. I still teach disciples that they should aim to pray a minimum of an hour a day but not in a judgmental way, but rather in an encouraging way for spiritual growth. And they don’t, “no condo-bondo,” just try to give God your best everyday!
3. I looked down on anyone who didn’t street preach like me: I remember a time when I wanted to go street preaching on a Sunday night and my good friend said he wanted to go to the evening service and I said proudly back to him, “You can go to church, but I am going to be the church!” Funny how back then I was so quick to judge! Now, I love to teach evangelism and share the love of street preaching, but I won’t condemn those who do not. Therefore, I still believe its very important, but its better to help teach people to witness rather than condemning them for not witnessing! (Note: God has sent more people into my life in this season to help than ever before!)
4. I believed low numbers in ministry was because leaders lacked a true passion and anointing: Ouch! I actually remember talking to struggling pastors and leaders and just laying into them with some serious rebukes because they weren’t seeing the same things I was. God forgive me! Today, I believe God expects the best out of His people, but I don’t let goodhearted disciples blame themselves and sit in guilt just because things go wrong in ministry or don’t grow as fast as mine. The event that helped me learn this lesson the best was having to close down my first church. Its funny how personal failure helps you give more grace to others in their times of failures and testing!
5. I really thought I needed my friends approval to be considered great by God:Even to this day its hard to admit it, but in the early years of my ministry I was such a manpleaser. I would bend over backwards just to have friends and try to get people to like me. Now, I still love to be loved but I have a holy confidence that gives me a peace regardless of what others think. I remember when Nancy and I started Metro Praise in Chicago so many people were against it, didn’t understand it, or just ignored us. However, God worked in our lives and did so many great things. Sure, I’m happy to have friends in the city now, but I can truly say I’m just being myself with or without them.
I hope you can relate to my short list of things I have changed over the last 16 years and can also look back on your Christian walk and see how you have grown!
2 Peter 3:18, “… grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”