Ministry not only attracts those who have a deep passion for God and the spread of the Gospel but it can also attract those who have personal and selfish ambition, are driven by money or power and who find ministry platforms a convenient means of realizing their ambitions.
Why choose a ministry platform? Because it is relatively easy to hide behind a facade of spirituality and ministry. It is just another platform to use for their own purposes and believers are not always as discerning as they ought to be.
There are signs of those who are more about ambition, money and power than they are about humble service.
I am always cautious about Christian leaders who are going to "change the world." Now I am a guy who loves great vision and we are praying that God would allow us to impact 100 million people with the gospel in ReachGlobal. But that is going to happen through indigenous movements in specific areas of the world as God works. No one can "change the world." Jesus will when He returns but grandiose claims are often more about the personal ambition of the one making them than they are about Jesus. I can impact corners of the world through the Holy Spirit. I cannot change the world.
I am always cautious about Christian leaders who broker power, are unaccountable to others and who make major ministry decisions by themselves rather than through team. Power is a dangerous thing and does not leave one unscathed. The healthiest leaders surround themselves with accountability through boards, team and live with great personal humility demonstrated through service to others rather than through power. When I don't see that I am very cautious. The more power one exercises autonomously the more dangerous it is to them and to others.
When it becomes about money
I deeply believe in Christian stewardship and live that out. When, however, ministry becomes more about money than anything else, where there is an emphasis on what money can do or when a leader has not used money with integrity beware. I have had a situation recently where I did an online ministry seminar for an individual before I did my due diligence by checking him out on the web. After all, many prominent names were attached to his "ministry."
When I Googled him I found that he was under several federal charges (regarding money) and was in litigation with a number of churches who charge him with defrauding them of half a million dollars. In addition he has a string of unpaid bills. It is a long list of financial issues. Yet his ministry is all about raising one billion dollars for ministry and he advertises himself as one who can help ministry find those dollars. Of course he will not take my content down because he is making money on it.
In another case in a church I am familiar with the theme became more and more about money and the pressure to give went up and up. Eventually the leader left and has since declared bankruptcy.
Personal ambition, power and money are warning signs to beware because they can hide behind spiritual language and be lived out in the name of ministry. The ministry veneer does not make them OK.
The truth of the matter is that we often allow behaviors in ministry that would never be tolerated in the secular workplace and the sad thing is that those behaviors are often coated with a veneer of spiritual language that others find it hard to press back on. Bad behavior is bad behavior but it is worse behavior when it is coated in a spiritual facade because one is using the Holy to cover the unholy.
We are far too reluctant to confront unholy behavior in ministry settings under the guise of "grace." Grace, however does not allow sinful behavior. Rather it forgives sinful behavior when it has been confronted or acknowledged.
Jesus told us to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Wisdom is about recognizing what is spiritual and what is hiding behind a mask of spirituality. It is also about being aware of our own motivations in ministry because none of us are immune to what can happen when left to ourselves.