It was a dream come true. I was sitting at a table in my favorite steakhouse with one of my heroes in the faith. He was a prince of preachers who had traveled the nations and built one of the most significant megachurches in the country. When I was eighteen, God used this man to impact my life significantly. From prophetic words to the messages he preached, they seemed tailor-made just for me.
As we sat at the table, he began to encourage me concerning the gifts and calling upon my life. He was speaking to my potential and calling me higher. I was getting the best advice any young preacher could receive. Here is a man who had been there and done that. From Hillsong to Winterfest, this man had made some waves. Of course, I’m soaking it up like a sponge. It was a total overload of mentoring, something every young preacher would dream to hear.
He looked me in the eyes and said, “Mark, with what I see in your life and the path that God has set you on, I can show you how to make a million dollars each year. It’s easy, and if you just follow these things I’m about to tell you money will never be an issue for you again.” My young ears perked up. I have seen money, traveling 42 weekends out of the year, book royalties, and honorariums from conferences. But this was the million dollar plan.
The conversation went something like this. Learn to be adaptable. The secret to success wherever you go is to become a chameleon. If you are at a church that is “high church,” then you bring them a message that takes them to church. If you are at Hillsong, then be like Hillsong. If you are speaking to a particular denomination, be that for the day. Wherever you are, don’t rock the boat, just get in the flow where they are. Wear what they wear and speak how they speak.
Work on 6-8 strong messages and preach them everywhere you go that year. Each time you preach them, go back and listen to it. Take new notes on anything that comes fresh to you the last time and craft the sermon, because preaching is an art. It’s taxing at first, but once you get the ball rolling it becomes a minimal study, and you just get better at the message each time you share. Find those buttons you know how to push and make it pop. If the altars are filled, you have done your job.
Hire a great secretary. Someone with a good voice on the phone and someone easy to look at. Let her make you a beautiful formal letter of confirmation, a traveling itinerary with all pertinent information, and the pastor’s contact. Once you get there, become the pastor’s friend, get to know his family. Love on them and pour into them. Get their information, find out their birthdays. Make sure to mark those on the calendar so when it comes that time of the year your secretary can send them a card and they will feel like you are celebrating their life. It’s a little work, but it will go a long way. Once you become their friends, then they will introduce you to their friends. Just remember every small door leads to a bigger one.
Be adaptable. Work your craft. Work the system. That was the advice I received from a hero in my life. Think about how enticing that must have been. A young preacher, ready to change the world, gets to spend time with a man who seemed to be shaking the nations and this was the advice I received. There was no talk about the secret place, fasting, prayer, or solitude. There were no keys for hearing the voice of God; I guess all that is just assumed? Relationships were work or pawns to get you somewhere bigger and better.
I just needed to learn how to fit in, even if it meant compromising truth and personal convictions. After all, we must become all things to all men to win some. Was that scripture about the lost or what platform you want to inherit? Hire a beautiful looking woman with an excellent phone voice? Is ministry just about making money?
I was sick to my stomach. I sat at that table and began to realize that not everything that glistens is gold. I was waiting to hear stories of fasting and prayer, miracles, and breakthrough. But instead, I was handed a system that could be worked with or without God. These wolves are roaming the church today and indoctrinating the minds of young ministers all over this nation. Teaching ministry as industry and relationships as pawns for their advancement.
Many things impacted my decision to walk away from all I knew, but this conversation helped seal my fate concerning exiting the system and answer the call of the wilderness. I refused to repeat the cycle. When Yahweh called me there was a burning for Him and people in my heart. I never dreamed of platforms, instead, I dreamed of awakening on the streets of America. Not how can I become famous, but how far can I go in Him.
I don’t want to teach a generation how to turn ministry into financial gain. I want to show a generation their identity in Christ until the spirit of Mammon is broken and any system of man is eradicated from their thinking. The earth is not looking for preachers. The Bible says they are waiting for the manifestation of sons. Don’t be naive; there is a sick darkness behind the popular church culture. The grossness of religion is not easily displayed because it hides behind platforms and crowds all in the name of ministry. It’s hard to see because it talks like the Kingdom and ends everything in Jesus name. But is it in Jesus’ name? The man whom I had this conversation has since experienced allegations of an affair, had to resign from pastoring and go through a restoring process. Just another statistic that the system has produced. Of course, I believe in the grace of God to restore this man. However, I pray that he will be able to reject the system and answer the call of devotion to Jesus or the cycle will undoubtedly repeat itself.
Would Jesus have sat me down and told me to fit in with the Pharisees? Would Jesus even have taught me how to preach? Would Jesus had recommended “Linked In” to find attractive women to care for the daily tasks of the ministry? Would Jesus care to teach me the ways of making money? The answer is simple, no. Many days I have wondered why the Lord would show me these things or why did He allow me to see the things I did. But I realize today that it’s for the purposes of reformation.
The wilderness saved my life, and I will remain here until this wilderness begins to blossom with beauty. I will stay seated in this wilderness until something beautiful emerges that will cause slaves of the system to run for the freedom of home. I have drawn a line in the sand. You can keep the money, just give me Jesus.