Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Why Ministers Need the Wilderness

“It takes a crucified man to preach a crucified Savior.” –Alexander Maclaren

“I abhor the thought of God being robbed of his glory…” That was part of the response that a young man was giving in one of my seminary classes. I shudder as I type the latter part of his comment. “…and if that means the damnation of infants then so be it”.

It’s not my concern to throw this dude under the bus. Truthfully, I see some of myself in him. Getting so wrapped in theology, idealism, and the way things ought to be that I forget the way that things actually are. Grace will likely grab hold of this young man and transform him. Jesus has a way of doing that. While we roll our eyes at statements like this (and maybe rightly so) Jesus moves in and administers grace. Grace that crushes…but grace still.

I was concerned that day as I thought about this young man pastoring a church. I was worried for him and for his congregation. Mostly because broken men don’t say things like that. Even if it were theologically true, broken men just don’t speak like that. As I’ve gone through seminary for a few years now I am becoming convinced that students should have to spend at least one semester in the furnace of suffering before we can graduate.

Jesus was 30…

And he didn’t start his public ministry until he was in the wilderness. The wilderness is necessary. As are the wilderness temptations. There in his, dare I say, weakness, Jesus was confronted with the full onslaught of hell.

  • Would he trust in God’s sufficient Word or would he rely on a quicker fix?
  • Would he plod along God’s redemptive (though rocky) road or would he sell-out to the flash?
  • Would he remain faithful to serving the Lord, careful to follow the God-ordained means or would he take the shortcut with no suffering?

Jesus conquered Gethsemane and embraced the Cross because he had already won that victory in the wilderness. The same applies to ministers today. It is in the wilderness that we learn to rely upon the Lord, to trust His narrow and often frightening path.

A broken minister

When the Lord bruises a man in the wilderness he doesn’t hide behind “correct theology” and call it “just speaking the truth”. He, with dust in his throat, simply holds the hand of the mother who lost her infant. He weeps with her. With nothing to say. No sermon to give. No lesson to be learned. No pontificating about the Lord’s glory. A broken man knows how to be silent and speak with only his empathetic brokenness.

Seminaries and churches that are training ministers ought to be careful about unleashing an unbroken man onto a congregation. Put him in the wilderness for awhile. Ministers need the wilderness.


  1. Absolutely agree Mike. As ministers are trained they need to be broken to idea of the lostness and fallen state of this world. Once they understand, then a minister will understand better how to minister to hurting people and compassionately point them to Jesus and the truths in scripture. Always relying on the grace of God. Great post and a great warning/reminder for young ministers. Blessings!!



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