by Rick Warren, Christian Today Guest Columnist
Posted: Friday, May 30, 2008, 12:52 (BST)
I like chocolate chip cookies. I like them so much I know how to make them. I don’t even need a recipe. But if I eat the individual ingredients, they taste like turtle spit!
Ever eat a little shortening? Don’t try it. Raw egg? Bad. Salt and sugar by itself? Yuck. Baking soda? Not good. Chocolate chips? Now that’s good. One out of six isn’t bad. Somehow when you mix five bad things with one good thing and stir them up together, it tastes so good that you eat half the dough before you make the cookies.
Pastor, that’s what God wants to do with your experiences. He wants to take bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, good and turn you into Mrs. Fields! He’s a pro at it. God does not want you to waste your experiences. He wants to use them to make you a more effective minister.
There are three ways that God wants to use your experiences to make you a better minister.
1. Use them to minister to others.
Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 1:6-7 (LB): “We are in deep trouble for bringing you God’s comfort and salvation. But in our trouble God has comforted us – and this, too, to help you: to show you from our personal experience how God will tenderly comfort you when you undergo these same sufferings. He will give you the strength to endure.”
God comforts us, helps us, and strengthens us when we’re experiencing problems, so then we can comfort, help, and strengthen others when they go through the same things. God helps us, so we can help others. God wants to use every experience that you’ve gone through to help somebody else.
Who can better help somebody going through cancer than somebody who’s been through cancer? Who can help somebody dealing with an addiction than somebody who’s been through the addiction before? Who can better help parents who had a kid who went off the deep end, than somebody whose son or daughter went off the deep end?
God never wastes a hurt. I’ve said that a thousand times at Saddleback. It’s true for pastors as well. He wants you to use them to minister to other people. What you’re most embarrassed about, what you most regret, God wants to use to help others. But, pastor, before that can happen, you’ve got to be honest about it. If you open up about that pain, it can become you’re greatest ministry. You always help people more through your weaknesses than your strengths.
2. Use them to motivate others.
Your experiences can be inspirational to people because you have been through things and been places that they have not. And you can motivate them.
The Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (TEV): “Encourage one another.”A big part of our job in ministry is to help, encourage, and build up others. Your experiences can help do this.
Your experiences give people hope. You show them they can get through their problems.
Give people hope and you take away the fear that plagues them. When you go on a roller coaster that you’ve never been on, it’s comforting when the guy in front of you in line says, “This is a great ride. I’ve been on it five times.” You realize that you're going to live. If the guy in front of you lived, you’ll probably live too. That’s encouraging!
Pastor, your preaching can do this for people. When you speak from personal experience, it’s always more effective than any other kind of teaching. The most powerful way to say anything is the most personal way to say it. When you speak from your own personal experiences, particularly difficult ones, you’ll motivate others to keep going through their troubles.
3. You use them to model for others.
Paul says in Philippians 3:17 (NLT): “Dear brothers, pattern your lives after mine and learn from those who follow our example.” Paul tells the church of Philippi to follow his example; he’s going to be the model.
Paul knew that we all need models. It is human nature to imitate. Just about everything you learn in the first five years of life you learn by imitation.
There’s nothing wrong with your church members imitating you. You’re not perfect, and I’m not perfect; only Jesus is perfect. But it’s better to have people following you as a model than some Hollywood celebrity who is obsessed with himself or herself. You’re trying to follow Jesus. If you’re trying to follow Jesus, then it’s a good thing if others are following you.
You need to have models in your own life, and you need to be a model. If you’re not being a model, you’re wasting your experiences.
God never wastes experiences – good or bad. He wants to use your experiences to make you a more effective minister. Will you let him?
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and best-known churches. In addition, Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose-Driven Life and The Purpose-Driven Church, which was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th Century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for ministers. Copyright 2005 Pastors.com, Inc. Used with permission. All rights reserved.