When I was ordained into the gospel ministry at North Side Baptist Church in 2003, I was overwhelmed by the weight of the moment. As people prayed over me and exhorted me concerning what a pastor should be, I left that day a changed man. While I believe that an ordination affirms God’s calling rather than creates it, I still trembled at the solemn occasion. Most of my life had been with these people and now I was being charged to help pastor these people.
When I was asked to address the assembled, I could barely get any words out, but I do remember one thing I said. I told them about my favorite character in the Bible and how I prayed it would represent my ministry.
My favorite character in the Bible (other than the Godhead) is the donkey who brought Jesus to the people.
Do you remember the scene (Matt. 21:1-11)? At the start of Passion week, Jesus comes into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday riding a donkey. As they enter, a crowd is awaiting them. Spontaneous celebration erupts on the streets. Let me tell you what didn’t happen:
As the people threw down their coats and waved palm branches, they sang, “Hosanna to the donkey! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the donkey!” They marveled at how the donkey strutted down the road and tried to imitate him. They each tried to snap a selfie with the donkey looking their way. They stroked his fur just so they can say they had been near the donkey on Palm Sunday.
Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Yet that is so often what I see happen in ministry! We become so enamored with the messengers that we neglect the message! That’s why the donkey is my favorite character. No one knows the name of the donkey. No one was impressed with the donkey. No one was distracted by the donkey. No one was trying to strut just like the donkey.
The only reason why people remember the donkey is because he brought Jesus to the people, and that is a worthy example to imitate in ministry.
14 years laster after my ordination, my prayer has not changed. In my time at North Side, I don’t really care if I am remembered but I do pray that Jesus is. I truly pray that my greatest accomplishment has been bringing Jesus to the people.
I long to be forgotten by the crowds as long as I am known by the Rider.
Anything good in me has come directly from the LORD (Ps 16:2; 1 Cor 4:7; 2 Cor 4:7; 1 Chron 29:14; James 1:17). So if there is anything worthy to remember, it belongs to Jesus. If there is anything you wish you could avoided in me, that was all mine.
To the people of North Side Baptist Church, I have cherished the opportunity to bring Jesus to you and to usher you to him. The most agonizing decision of my life was taking this new assignment at Rocky Creek not because I didn’t sense God’s call but because I just couldn’t imagine discipling anyone other than you! Even as sure as I am about God’s calling, this has been so difficult because I have had such a fond affection for you that I wanted to give the gospel and my life to you (1 Thess 2:8). You have given me more than I could have ever given you. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve Jesus among this local congregation and thereby serving you.
I can’t wait to lead you in worship this morning, spend some time giving and receiving love this afternoon at your generous drop-in, and praying and working for God’s Kingdom together as we go forward!
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel (Phil 1:27).
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.