Yesterday I had a great time preaching at my Alma Mater Cincinnati Christian University (’95) on the topic of “Fearful Leadership.” I spoke from Isaiah 6:8 which contains the famous cry of the prophet, “Here am I send me.” I discussed how Isaiah, after his encounter with God, realized that he could not send himself or be sent by mere mortals to do the task of authentic ministry. He understood he needed to be specially commissioned by God to succeed.
One of my comments that drew some “Amens” (Church of Christ I hear yah!) was when I said to the students concerning ministry, “if you can go do anything else go do it.” One of the things that baffled me while I was a student there was the the lack of an urgent attitude of some of my classmates concerning the call (or being sent by God) for ministry.
Some would say things like “I might be a minister or teacher” like their destiny was to be decided by a flip of a coin, or” I’ll try ministry out for a few years but if that doesn’t work out I’ll just sell insurance.” I never understood comments like that, i.e. comments that made ministry as a full time vocation optional. For me it was a zero sum game – if it was optional then you obviously did not have an Isaiah 6:8 experience. And if your ordinary life has not collided with the power of His presence, are you really capable of ministry?
The Bible talks about fear in two ways, one good and one bad. The bad way is to live your life always waiting for the other shoe to drop, scared of some boogie man that doesn’t exist to come and get you. I see this all the time concerning reconciliation and it is usually focused on a perceived identity threat .
People move out of neighborhoods because too many blacks or Latinos are moving in; they are scared to go downtown because they think some panhandler is going to go “postal” on them; or they set up glass ceilings within their organization because they don’t want women to “take over.” There are too many imaginary identity boogie men to name them all here.
But the other way the Bible talks about fear is reverential. This is a healthy respect of what you are dealing with. This is what we see in Isaiah 6:8. He realizes just how human and limited in his understanding of the world he is in comparison to God. He also realizes that he is one of the lucky few to understand that he needs some divine help. His faith is humbled. Couple this with the leadership task he is charged with, he knows he can do it if the all powerful One makes it so. Send him! My prayer is to send us, too.