In the event that you do not follow me on Twitter, I spent the majority of last week with my Brother-In-Law, changing out the motor in my Nissan Xterra. I had allowed the timing belt to break on the original engine and had to replace it with an engine from another vehicle. It took a few days, and a few do-overs but we finally got it to start and now it runs great!
As I looked back over the few days it took to accomplish that task, a few highlights stuck out that are transferrable to the field of ministry. Some of these principles are actually transferrable to any occupation, especially if you want to be successful and meet your goals.
Here are the five things I learned about ministry by changing my Xterra’s motor.
1. You have to be willing to get your hands dirty.
I struggled with this in the early stages. It just felt nasty to grab a piece of rubber or metal that had oily grime all over it. I tried for the first little while to keep my hands clean as much as possible. By the end of the project, I didn’t care a bit about my hands. As a matter of fact I was covered in grease, oil, and many other things from head to toe.
In ministry, you will never be successful sitting in a clean office away from the dirt and grime of life. You will never meet the needs of anyone from the ivory tower. You will never make a difference if you hold the dirty things at arms length. You will never be the hands of Jesus if you’re unwilling to touch the unclean.
Jesus ate with sinners. He walked around the pool of Bethesda; which had to be a nasty, nasty place. He touched those with withered hands and even put a spit ball into someone’s eyes.
He was the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords yet, he got his hands dirty by reaching out to the lowest of the low. As soon as we start thinking anyone or anything is below us in our office of ministry, we are no longer of any value to the Kingdom of God.
2. You have to be determined to get it right.
We had the motor back together completely but it wouldn’t start. It wouldn’t even act like it wanted to start. We looked on the internet. We thought and thought. We got aggravated and started wondering if it would ever work. I started fantasizing about scrapping the whole car and buying a new, shiny one. But there was a determination to get it done.
We were just about out of ideas when we realized we had messed up putting the timing belt on. We had followed directions to the letter. We had systematically counted the teeth on the timing belt to make sure the timing was right. We counted on the left side, just like the instructions said. But, the left side when working on a car is always the drivers side, not the left hand. So we got it backwards.
It was about 9pm the night before my family had to leave and drive back to Oklahoma. We realized it was going to take a few hours to pull everything back out to access the timing belt again. We wondered if we should even try because that still might not make it work. But we went back to work.
About 3am, we were driving it around town, finally done.
In ministry, you have to be ready to correct your mistakes no matter how much work it’s going to take and no matter how tired you think you are.
There is always a choice to give up. You can always walk away and hope the mistake works itself out. But you will never advance beyond the last mistake left unfixed.
In ministry, you can’t be too afraid of mistakes to try. You just have to be willing to tear everything apart again and fix the mistakes you made.
You are going to make mistakes. You are going to realize in hindsight things you should have done differently. You are going to make choices you shouldn’t make and say things you shouldn’t say. But there is one way to guarantee you will be successful and that is to make up your mind to always fix the mistakes. No matter how far back, hidden, and out of place they are; fix them.
3. When you stand for something, you will get stabbed in the back.
We had just put the new motor in, and the old motor was sitting on the pavement a few feet away from the Xterra. I bent down to hand my Brother-in-Law a tool and, as I tried to stand, a bracket from the old motor caught me in the back. I was already in the standing motion and the momentum picked up one whole side of the motor. It knocked my breath out and hurt so bad I wanted to cry.
A few minutes later I was able to laugh about it as the pain faded away. But, because I am a genius in disguise, 10 minutes later I did the same thing again. This time I felt like I was going to die. This time, it cut a huge gash into my lower back. As I’m writing this, I can still feel it.
I was simply trying to do what it takes to fix a motor and I got stabbed in the back.
There’s an old country song that says, “You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.” That line is so true. In ministry, you are unable to enjoy the luxury of not taking a stand. You have to stand for doctrine, for truth, for righteousness, and for the will of God.
You don’t have the right to go with the flow. As a minister you are obligated to stand for the things God’s word says to stand for.
These things are not always popular. Usually the necessity to take a stand is brought about by someone, or some spirit, trying to force your hand.
The trick is being willing to take a stand when you know you are probably going to be stabbed in the back. Nobody likes being stabbed in the back. It hurts. I know how bad it hurts.
But as bad as it hurt, I still needed to fix the engine. I bandaged the wound and went back to work. Through the pain and the stupidity of the whole situation, when the day was over, my new motor was running fine, and the broken down, backstabbing motor was on a trailer being hauled off to a far away location.
Don’t allow the fear of pain, confrontation, or the frustration of the stupidity over certain situations, cause you to give up. There is still a job to be done. There are still things that need to be fixed. Broken things that need to be repaired. The pain might hurt for a while but, if you keep on, soon the broken will be healed and the back stabbing will be gone.