“If the Lord were to honor me any more, he would make me the janitor.”
With those words, spoken by a friend and mentor, I was simultaneously shocked, rebuked, and encouraged.
My friend had served his church in various roles for many years. He is respected, he has initiated many successful ministry endeavors, he is sought after for his wisdom, he is an example of evangelistic fervor, and he is a passionate communicator of God’s Word. During one particular tumultuous season of ministry in his megachurch, he served as the church’s interim pastor, providing stability and vision for thousands of saints. When a new senior pastor was found, he humbly stepped out of the pulpit and continued to serve the church faithfully in various pastoral roles.
Following the implementation of the new senior pastor, the church offices for the large staff were shuffled around between several campuses. At one point, my friend was given a new office… down a hallway, up a flight of stairs, down another hallway, into the interior of the building, with no window, next to the janitor’s supply closet. It was not easy to find. When I went there I remember thinking, “Why have they put this revered leader in a closet?”
I was not alone in my thoughts. When his teenage daughter first came to his new office, tears streamed down her face. “Baby, what’s wrong?” he asked. She replied, “After all you’ve given to this church, after all the years serving here, after all of this, this is where they put you—next to the janitor?”
That’s when he told her, “Honey, if the Lord were to honor me anymore, he would make me the janitor.”
God has used those words many times in my life to rebuke and encourage me as a leader and a pastor. I’ve found myself mopping the church floors, cleaning toilets, mowing the church yard, and doing countless other jobs and handyman tasks around the church building. Sometimes I do it joyfully and sometimes I grumble inwardly. My friend’s words remind me that there are no tasks in ministry that are beneath me. More than that, his words remind me of God’s Word.
John 3:30 - From John the Baptist - “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
John 13:13-14 - After Jesus washed the disciples feet - “You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.”
Spiritual pride is a destructive force within the church. This force is most devastating when it finds it’s way into the heart and actions of the spiritual leaders in a church. The solution, of course, is humility. But humility is the one virtue that cannot be pursued directly—it must come secondarily. This fruit is birthed out of a contemplation and grasping of the gospel.
Paul’s gospel-centered encouragement for humility, found in Philippians 2:1-11, serves as a model for all Christians, but especially for leaders and pastors. In this passage, Paul reminds us that the gospel is our only hope and power for genuine Christlike humility, “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross!” (v. 8). When we remember the gospel and preach the gospel to ourselves, the contrast of what we deserve and what we receive in Christ is striking… and humbling.
Mark Oshman: At the age of 18 I was rescued and redeemed by Christ. I am privileged to be married to my wife Jennifer for 17+ years and father of four wonderful daughters. For ten years I was blessed to pastor a military community in Okinawa, Japan. in 2013 I began serving with Pioneers International as a church planter in the Czech Republic, and now I serve to help mobilize church planters across post-Christian Europe.