The Language of Ministry and Calling: Jeremiah

When you speak of your ministry or calling, is your language positive and life-giving or is it the overflow of a profound woundedness and insecurity? Do your words reflect a fire burning in your heart for the people to whom God has called you?

While, in the moment, it may seem like nothing more than innocuous ramblings or venting of our discouragement or reaction to criticism, the language we use to speak of our ministry and the people we are called to has profound implications on our own hearts and minds, as well as in the spirit realm (Matthew 16:19).

Could it be that our venting results in an unwitting agreement with the very one intent on destroying every authentic man or woman of God and the work of the Spirit in the Church of Jesus?

Last week we looked at the life and ministry of Moses. This week, consider with me the life of Jeremiah a story many of us know well. Look at how the language he chose in referring to his ministry and calling reflects the content of his heart.

Jeremiah | Jeremiah 20:1-9

Like many in vocational ministry today, Jeremiah was called to the ministry at a young age (1:6). He served as a prophet for forty years (1:2-3). But, the ministry of the prophet was not kind to Jeremiah. His messages of repentance delivered in the Temple were not well-received (7:1-8:3). His hometown plotted against him (11:18-23) and he suffered persecution (20:1-6; 37:11-38:13; 43:1-7). Although he preached the Word faithfully, he only had two converts in forty years: Baruch, his scribe (32:12; 36:1-4; 45:1-5) and Ebedmelech, an Ethiopian eunuch that served the king (38:7-13; 39:15-18).

For those of us in vocational ministry who may suffer from varying degrees of insecurity and a people-pleasing “need to be liked” issue, Jeremiah’s call and ministry would be extremely difficult. I wonder after a few years of Jeremiah’s experience, how many of us would conclude we could – probably should – do something else with our skills, abilities, gift-mix and talent?

In chapter 20, Pashhur, the priest in charge of the temple, can’t take Jeremiah anymore. He places Jeremiah in stocks and essentially tells him: “shut-up!!” But, not only did he not shut-up, he couldn’t shut-up. Look at the language Jeremiah uses to articulate the content of his heart:

“But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not.” Jeremiah 20:9b

“A burning fire shut up in my bones.”

General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army said:

I want you young men to bear in mind that it is the nature of a fire to go out; you must keep it stirred and fed and the ashes removed.”

Throughout the Word of God, fire is that natural phenomenon that seems to be associated with the presence and power of God: Moses encountered God at a burning bush. Six million Israelis were led from Egypt to Canaan with and pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. Elijah had a showdown with the prophets of Asherah and Baal with a God who answered with fire. The outpouring of the promised Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost was accompanied with “tongues of fire.” The writer to the Hebrews states it plainly: “Our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29).

Fire… passion… the inexplicable divine anointing of the Holy Spirit that is so all-consuming that no man-conceived ministry objective will satisfy its hunger; so holy, so permeative that no thought of giving up or settling for something “not so hard” can or will be tolerated.

John Wesley, 18th century evangelist, pastor, theologian and founder of the Methodist movement, said, “My fear is not that our great movement, known as the Methodists, will eventually cease to exist or one day die from the earth. My fear is that our people will become content to live without the fire, the power, the excitement, the supernatural element that makes us great.”

Charles Spurgeon, 19th century Baptist preacher said:

“Take care of giving up your first zeal; beware of cooling in the least degree. Ye were hot and earnest once; be hot and earnest still, and let the fire which once burnt within you still animate you. Be ye still men of might and vigor, men who serve their God with diligence and zeal.”

How is your fire, your passion for the people to whom God has called you? 

What language do you use to express what you think and how you feel about your ministry and your ministry calling?