“You’re going to be the next Billy Graham!” How many of you have heard someone tell you that? Maybe it wasn’t exactly that, but you had a very high expectation of some sort that was placed on you. Talk about pressure. Then, someone else responds with, “There will never be another Billy Graham, just be you.” This really just misses the point. Of course, no one will ever be Billy Graham, but could someone else reach millions upon millions and perhaps be America’s pastor? Sure! As evangelists, it is a God-given desire to want to reach as many people as we can. What hurts is when we fall short of expectations.
I felt the call of the evangelist on my life when I was a senior in high school. I had no idea how I would get started. Then I connected with NGA when I was a freshman in college. From then on, all my studies were dedicated to becoming the best preacher I could be. I majored in Communication Studies and minored in ministry. I joined Keith Cook and On The Go Ministries and traveled with him and other NGA evangelists doing campaigns around the world. Over the past 10 years, I’ve seen thousands come to Christ by the grace of God with these collaborations. It has been amazing. I went on to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where I obtained a Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies and capped it off with a thesis on Billy Graham’s preaching and contextualization. Shortly after I got ordained as a Reverend. It seemed like I was on this trajectory to become this great evangelist.
I thought for sure God would bless my ministry abundantly. Donors would flock to my ministry in droves, we would have enough funds to hire a team, have numerous opportunities to reach more for Jesus and climb to a point where we could reach millions. Not so fast. None of that happened. Here we are 6 years after graduation from seminary and I’m still the only person in my ministry and I’m not even fully funded! My expectations and my hope of a bright future met with the cold hard reality of the present. My relationship with God greatly suffered because of it. I became disillusioned with Him because I felt like He had let me down. Why wouldn’t He want to see thousands come to Jesus through my ministry?
Here we are in the midst of 2020, a tough year for everyone, and I still don’t completely understand why. However, I do know now that I based my relationship with God on my own ministry performance and how much He was blessing it. I even found myself spending time with God just so He would help my ministry.
I’ve realized my love for Jesus shouldn’t be based on meeting expectations, my performance, or how much God is blessing me. Even though my journey hasn’t been easy, God is still God. He has not failed me. He is still the Creator, Sustainer, Savior, and Lord of all. Most importantly, He is still a good God to me. His plans for me are still for my good.
None of my circumstances or yours changes that. He loved us enough to send His Son to die for us so we could be in relationship with Him forever. Really whatever we do, forgetting all expectations, is an honor and privilege to love Him in return. If Billy Graham is on one end of the spectrum of “ministry success” then the prophet Jeremiah would probably be on the far other end. No one really listened to Jeremiah. If that was you and me for the rest of our lives, would we be okay with that? Would we still trust God?
The answer in the midst of pessimism and failed expectations is not just to be more hopeful and optimistic that things will get better, because they might not. The answer is to love Jesus and only Jesus no matter what. Let Him be enough. Period. He is still who He says He is, and you are still who He says you are. If you have fallen short of the expectations of others or your own, please know that you are not a failure. You are a son or daughter of God. I know there are a lot of lost souls out there, but the thing He wants the most is your love. After all, that’s what we are calling the world to, right? To truly love God.
Shifting the Paradigm
If you can relate, then now is the time to shift your paradigm. Talk to God. Put your pain, anger, confusion, all that you’re feeling on His altar. Base your self-worth on your identity in Him, who He is, and what He has done on the cross for you—not how successful you or others think your ministry is. If you lose your ministry, your family, everything you have and all that is left is Jesus, then you will be ok. He is enough for me and you. He is still the Creator, Sustainer, Savior and Lord of all. He is still good to you and me—He knows the way better than us.
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