What a person treasures defines their spirituality before God. Such attachment to material possessions is where all Christians tend to live, what author Francis Schaeffer calls “ash heap lives” (No Little People, 228). In his book, Schaeffer writes that human materialism is a sign that personal possession, personal pride, and personal gain have distracted leaders from seeing God clearly.
There is an appropriate section where Schaeffer radically redefines ministry for the reader. He wrote the last chapter on “Ash Heap Lives” and fittingly concludes the chapter with encouraging someone to write a “meditation on an ash heap” (237). So here is an attempt to think reflectively about Schaeffer’s word and how Scripture encourages us to seek humility in ministry leadership.
Be Scum-Package Leader
First, leadership and serving others cannot be weighed down by material possession, the desire to get ahead, and the attempt to redefine success in human terms. Jesus taught his followers to leave everything behind and follow him (Matthew 19:21-22; Luke 5:28). The Apostle Paul shares his thoughts on how he sees leadership. He says that he has become the “scum of the earth” (1 Corinthians 4:13). Scum-package leaders resist prestige, fame, and possessions.
The Christian leader cannot be coerced into thinking such muddled thoughts. Rather, the Christian leader should willingly serve with humility, receive God’s reward, and seek to honor God in the assigned place of his choosing.
God’s tool in the “little places and among little people” can be a noble, Christ-honoring calling (25-26). A pastor must recognize that he is a steward of God’s revelation in these places and among these types of people (1 Corinthians 2:10). The leader is to be God’s rod in the place that God has assigned.
Schaeffer (32) writes,
Only one thing is important: to be consecrated persons in God’s place for us, at each moment. Those who think of themselves as little people in little places, if committed to Christ and living under His Lordship in the whole of life, may, by God’s grace, change the flow of our generation.
Be a God-Submitted Leader
[tweet_box design=”default”]Weakness is the arena in which God can most effectively manifest his power. (Stott)[/tweet_box]
Second, the minister as God’s servant in “consecrated” places is a holy calling, for those leaders who are willing to submit their weaknesses to God. The late John Stott aptly stated,
God’s power operates best in human weakness. Weakness is the arena in which God can most effectively manifest his power.
Schaeffer and Stott encourage the Christian leader to refrain from boasting in wisdom, strength, or riches, for these things will captivate our hearts (Jeremiah 9:23).
Be a Small-Place Leader
Third, the leader must understand that God’s divine work assignment is not always glamorous. The Scriptures often portray that the weak servant is the one who is respected and given the blessing. Paul likened Abraham and David to such wonderful examples that learned humility from their sin (Romans 4:1-7).
The great truth for the leader is in the gospel, which shows us both the justifying and sanctifying work of Christ. A small place is the place of much-needed sanctification. Let us not count our troops like David (1 Chronicles 21), and let us be honest that most people do attribute smallness as insignificant and unsuccessful.
However, God-consecrated places are holy endeavors. The “ash heap” is an excellent metaphor to conclude his book because material possessions really can keep a person from true, humble service. Numbers, material possessions, titles, and trophies can do little for examining character, competency, contribution, and calling.
Numbers can lead a leader to pragmatism, the work of counting beans.
Be a Calling-Focused Leader
Lastly, future pastors, current pastors, and the Christian should seek God-consecrated places, laying aside possessions that only weigh us down (Hebrews 12:1-2). The consecrated places could be the remote places untouched, unthinkable, and maybe even displaced by darkness and pain. Such calling strips away fame and praise.
A leader that travels to a place of the “Gerasenes” (Mark 5) might be at the place where he or she must meditate on an “ash heap.” In this place of humility, the leader will see a mighty work of God’s power (Jesus saw a demon-possessed man come to his senses).
Let the leader be marked by his or her willingness to enter holy-consecrated places so that God might send them to deliver a people out of a state of slavery (Exodus 3). Let the leader return to the words of Jesus if he is to be effective in this life: “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11).
Let the leader “meditate on an ash heap” so he may refuse those worldly claims that grip the heart against gospel-saturated works.