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April 18, 2011

Chasing after Glory

It’s not about me.

Eleven months ago I stepped out of full-time ministry to give birth to my first child. After working for nine years as a pastor and one year as a hospital chaplain, I knew the transition from ministry to motherhood would be stretching; but I had no idea how stretching.

In place of writing sermons, I now change diapers. In exchange for developing and implementing new programs, I now help my son build towers out of wooden blocks. Instead of poring over commentary by Barth and Calvin, I now read Dr. Seuss. My presence is no longer needed at 8 a.m. staff meetings, but I am now required to show up for all 3 a.m. feedings. Needless to say, life is no longer about me! But, my son’s presence has encouraged me to reconsider the fact that perhaps God never intended my life to be about me to begin with.

Whether we like to admit it or not, using our gifts in ministry leadership feels good. We love to receive good feedback about our sermons, congratulations for a program that flourishes, or thanks from those around us who are blessed by our leadership. And, there is nothing wrong with enjoying what we do, or even accepting gracious compliments about our work; but, leaders must never forget that WE are not the object of our leadership. In other words, we must never lead with our glory in mind.

But, keeping the focus on God as we lead is easier said than done. To do this, we must make a concerted effort to consider whose kingdom (God’s or our own) we are actually working to build as we put together strategic plans and goals for the future. Choose to spend less energy mulling over people’s opinions about us (or our leadership), and more time focusing our efforts on helping those same people better understand Christ’s all-consuming love for them. Be quick to praise and encourage others for the way we see Christ at work in them, as opposed to quietly complaining that we don’t get enough recognition ourselves. Refuse to neglect time with the Lord, even when our schedules are packed. And in my current stage of life, it means choosing to love and serve my son, no matter how foul his mood or how little he tangibly gives back to me.

Matthew 20:28 reminds me that Christ did not come to be served, but to serve and to give up his life! If Jesus (God in flesh) was willing to say “It’s not about me,” how can I refuse to at least work towards saying the same? I certainly don’t have this figured out, but the presence of my precious son has urged me to once again ask some important questions; and to consider, all over again, whose glory I am really chasing after.

Rev. Sara Bentley is currently a stay-at-home Mom. Before the birth of her first child Sara worked as a chaplain at Alvin C. York Hospital, Murfreesboro, TN. Prior to chaplaincy, Sara served for nine years as a pastor in the local church. Sara has a BS in Biological Sciences from the University of California Davis and a M.Div from Fuller Theological Seminary. Sara currently lives in Boone, NC with her husband, Jeremy, and 14-month-old son, Dylan.

Related Tags: Humility, Leadership, Ministry, Selflessness, Service


Ahh! Thank you! I have been learning this in waves as of late... in ways big and small.
Like when my roommate came down with malaria... She was aching all over and miserable. Huddled under blankets (in 85F weather), she made a passing reference to how great a foot massage would feel. Something nagging in my soul told me to give her the foot massage, but I hate feet and resisted over and over. Finally the Holy Spirit had to spell it out: "Remember how Jesus said His disciples would wash one another's feet the way He displayed? A foot rub would count here."
So often its in the small services that a year from now no one else will remember that I personally learn the most about servanthood.
"The greatest test of your desire to be a servant is when you're treated like one."

So good to hear your voice again, Sara, an unexpected treat on a gray morning here in Nashville.

Rev. Sarah Bentley: I am cheering you on! You remind me that God values our work for him in all seasons of our lives--and that our theology matters as we remember we are at all times to be servants. Thank you for writing.

A woman is not supposed to be a pastor according to the Bible. You must be the
husband of one wife God says.

Great job, Sara!!

Ditto what Marl said. Great job. I know that while you're on this very important sabbatical, God is blessing you and will give you opportunities to continue use those pastoral gifts He gave you as well.

I pastored 2 churches before Hospice where I've been serving as a full-time Chaplain. Have been in Hospice for almost 4 years now. I tell people "I still have a church. It's just spread out over many miles now and I don't have to have a sermon for Sunday." I still do love to preach though and am on preaching rotation at church.

Rachel, I would encourage you to learn to read Scripture in context. Otherwise you'd have to cut off your hand or cut out your eye if they offend you as Jesus commanded--if you are going to take a literal approach without knowing what problem the Scripture was intended to address. An in-context reading of what I just cited for example, would make sense if you knew that Jesus, like any other good Middle Eastrern storyteller was using a literary technique called hyperbole (extreme exaggeration to make a point). People in that culture know that the meaning is not to be taken literally, but do get the point. As far as the Scripture you quoted, read in context you'd find a much more extensive situation that Paul was addressing. If you want to be consistent in your application (which you are bound to do), then Paul violated his own rules. His protege, the young pastor Timothy was single! If you're going to be consistent in interpretation, then you'd have no choice but to conclude that Paul contradicted himself and was a hypocrite. If you try to make excuses for it, then your case crumbles. Pulling single Scriptures out of context is salad bar theology not solid theology. In other words, treating the Bible as a salad bar, making up a theological salad plate with various Scriptures of one's liking to bolster one's ideological position. You really can make the Bible say anything you want apart from context.The biggest offenders? Both radical liberals and fundamentalist conservatives

Women pastors such as Sara and myself, do not spend the years of preparation it takes for ordained ministry and church pastor, because we are trying to prove a point or because we're some kind of radical feminists. What a foolish waste of time and money that would be! For myself it meant studying all those texts in depth-in the original languages I might add--in context.

I want to recommend some books to you by highly qualified scholars on the subject.

"I Suffer Not A Woman: Rethinking 1 Tim 2:11-15 In Light of Ancient Evidence" by Richard Clark Kroeger and Catherine Clark Kroeger

"Women In the Church:A Biblical Theology of Women in Ministry" by Stanley J. Grenz with Denise Muir Kjesbo

"Beyond the Curse: Women Called to Ministry" by Aida Bensacon Spencer

"What Paul Really Said About Women: An Apostle's Liberating Views on Equality in Marriage, Leadership, and Love" by John Temple Bristow

Keep an open mind for the Holy Spirit and study for yourself. God gifted women with beautiful intelligent minds to think, wrtestle with and work out our faith.As a pastor, I fault the church with too many years of promoting/enforcing regurgitation (especially for women) over intelligent faith, which I did my part to eliminate in the churches God called me to shepherd.

God threw wide open many doors once I said Yes to His call and obeyed Him. He blessed me with a loving husband of 30 yrs. and 2 now grown children who supported me and defended my calling every step of the way of 7 years of education and training. What sheer joy it was officiating my daughter's wedding. (Best view of daddy bringing daughter down the aisle by far). Now both children have given us grandchildren. We are very blessed indeed.

Those of us who are called to pastor don't worry about human disapproval. We already have approval from the only One whose approval matters-the One who called us in the first place. We just had to obey. Human opinions are just that--opinions. Everybody's got one and they are "strictly those of the one expressing them.Take what you like and leave the rest." as they teach in 12 step groups.

I'm too busy serving the Lord to worry about anyone's opinion. I figure I'll just keep serving the Lord. Then when we're standing before Him I won't have to account for anyone going to Hell because I got so distracted worrying about what others did or who was in charge, that I didn't share the message of salvation with them. Jesus rebuked 2 of His disciples for doing that.

I praise God for Sara's faithfulness in responding to His call on her life. Sara, your children will rise up and call you blessed!

A couple more books I would recommend to Rachel:

"Women Leaders and the Church: Three Crucial Questions," by Linda L. Belleville

"Paul, Women & Wives: Marriage and Women's ministry in the Letters of Paul," by Craig S. Keener

All 6 books I have recommended are by respected biblical scholars

I felt really really good after reading your story....WHOSE GLORY AM I REALLY CHASING AFTER? From now on, I will ask myself this question whenever I get frustrated and down because of the things I failed to do. It's quite hard to balance our time between career and family but now it will be much easier because I learn where my priorities should lie.

Way more Glory for raising a family as a Godly mother. That role has been downplayed too much. As for the Pastor thing, hey, the Lord uses who is available. I'm sure she had accountability leadership, in the form of elders, or some official lead. She had to follow her husband, the leader of her home to boot. I say good job. Don't be attacking her. :)

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