Striving to Be First: A Failed Formula for Success

At a young age my son seemed to think I should be famous. Maybe it was because I was a legend in my own mind, or maybe it was the way I was highly motivated in those days to pastor one of the "100 Fastest Growing Sunday Schools" in America.

My mother loves to tell this story: Soon after beginning a new pastorate in West Virginia almost 30 years ago, we were preparing to sit down with visiting family for dinner just as the evening news was coming on with a report about the governor. As his grandmother reached to turn off the tv, eight year old Jonathan pleaded to watch a few more moments to see if the governor was going to announce that his dad had come to West Virginia.

A few years before that, I attended an annual church growth conference in one of the world's largest churches. At the end of the conference, the famous pastor invited attendees from around the country to line up at his pulpit to state one by one how the conference had helped them, which many did. I recall one excited young pastor, when it came his turn, announced to the large gathering that he had, in fact, predicted to his wife that one day he would be invited by the famous pastor to speak from this very pulpit, and sure enough, he glowed, he was surely blessed on this privileged occasion because that day had finally come, just as he had predicted. Since the score was important to him, I guess it counted.

Actually, I had already been invited a year or so before to speak from that pulpit to share about my ministry, after which, an offering was received for me. I recall declaring passionately to a large audience on that Sunday evening the secrets I had learned about successful Christian living and ministry. The long list included such standards as commitment and faithfulness. I remember my passion as I waxed an elephant on each of my points. But, as it turned out, those performance points did not hold up as a good formula to support my success after all. And when I failed, that good pastor and church were not themselves faithful or committed, or even present, to help me.

How I would love now to go back in time to that evening and present the grace concepts of God's provisions (especially through relationship to Christ) to establish us in health and happiness and fruitfulness in helping others

Don Loy Whisnant/Journey Notes 8J18