4 Reasons You Can’t Pastor With a Chip on Your Shoulder

“Chips and ministry don’t work; pastoring with a chip on your shoulder will destroy you.”

I think most of us can admit that, deep down, we love chips. Save your comments on saturated fats and cholesterol—I know chips aren’t healthy. But can we just admit that, apart from the health factors, chips are amazing? As you are reading this, you are most likely imagining not just a type of chip (corn, potato, barbecue, veggie, etc.) but a specific brand of that chip.

Growing up, we were a Better Made family. Not only were they a local chain (Detroit), but they were pretty dang good. And I can’t remember a time in my childhood when we didn’t have a bag of Better Made chips around. It was my father’s favorite brand, and it was the perfect accompaniment to a tall glass of ice-cold Coke and a football game.

But when I think about chips, this is the commercial that comes to mind:

It takes me back to a simpler time when I didn’t have to care about what I was eating, because track and football was burning it all off.

But, lately, that slogan, “You can’t have just one,” has been what’s on my mind. Why? I was recently preparing for a sermon on offense. And as I studied, I recognize that entertaining offense in our hearts only opens us up to more offense. Like a small bite from a poisonous snake, the offense venom spreads throughout our spiritual bloodstream at a prolific rate.

My focus turned from my message and went into inspecting my heart. Here in the coffeehouse, the Holy Spirit began to work on me. I looked over the past 19-plus years of ministry and could recall far too many moments when it seemed I had allowed offense to not just be present in my ministry, but to frame my ministry.

I found myself staring at a blank page in my journal and writing the words:

Chips and ministry don’t work; pastoring with a chip on your shoulder will destroy you.

Have you ever heard the phrase “chip on the shoulder”? I’ve usually experienced the usage of it in the sports world as someone is described as “playing with a chip on his shoulder.” Usually, it means that someone is acting out of a feeling of inferiority or a grudge. So in the context of my journal entry, to pastor with a “chip on your shoulder” means you minister while holding an offense or grievance.

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And, unfortunately, I’ve wasted too much time and squandered too many opportunities feeding off of those “chips.”

I wonder if a few of you have, as well.

So why don’t “chips” and ministry work? Here are four reasons why.

1. Offense disguises itself as passion and progress.

One of the most deceptive things about offense is it impersonates itself as something that is permissible to entertain. We think ministering with a “chip on our shoulder” is a badge of honor. But in reality, that sensation of momentum and drive we’re experiencing is really a focus that is directed inward. In other words, the false sense of motivation isn’t Christ-focused, it’s me-focused. You’re determined to make “you” shine as to prove a point instead of living to glorify Christ.

2. Offense is addictive.

Living with offense is, far too easily, a place to hang your hat. It feeds a victim mentality that finds identity in a place of hurt. And that place of hurt is an addictive place to live. It creates a story, a narrative to live by. But I wonder if too many of us are more addicted to talking about our pain than we are talking about the healing Jesus can bring.

As a minister (let alone a believer), if we find our identity in ANYTHING other than Jesus, we are living from a subpar place that will lead us to subpar locations. We don’t live FOR an identity; we live FROM an identity. And from our identity in Christ, a victim mentality is impossible to maintain. If we are healed in him, if we operate in him, then what we do will flow out of him and not our offenses.

3. Offense gives a false sense of fullness.

I think there’s a real challenge to this. When I entertain offense, I tend to continue to feed off of it. And the more I feed off of it, the less healthy mindsets I feed on.

I’ll go back to my “chip” metaphor. How many times have you started snacking on junk food before a meal because you were extremely hungry? But when you got to the meal, you couldn’t eat what was put before you (which was probably 10 times healthier for you) because you had filled your stomach with junk. Offense wants to stuff you and weigh you down by leaving no room for that which can build and grow you.

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4. Offense clogs up the life flow.

Offense in ministry is what high cholesterol is to your blood. The presence of it will slow down life, inflame issues beyond what they should and lead you toward death. The death I’m talking about is beyond the physical. I’ve seen churches and ministries die from issues of offense. Relationships between churches have been destroyed over it. I’ve seen pastor’s marriages plummet as offense is entertained. The more you entertain it, the less surprised you should be when you, your family and the ministry you are involved in start suffering from offense’s catastrophic results.

I love the quote from Steven Furtick on the subject: “Offense is a moment; offended is a choice.”

Are you ministering with a chip on your shoulder? Are you living with offense? I’ve been there. I understand. And like you, I can have a lot of excuses to carry on my offense. None of us are immune to being faced with offense. But we do have a choice whether we pick it up and let it be the frame for which we live life and operate in ministry. But no justification can rationalize carrying the burden of the unnecessary pain of not dropping offenses, offering forgiveness and allowing Christ to bring deep healing.

Is there any more fitting scripture about this than John 10:10?

[Jesus said:] “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Please learn from this pastor who used to live off “chips.” Offense is what the Enemy wants to use to steal your joy. He wants to kill your calling. Destruction is all he is after. But releasing the “chip” and grasping onto Christ bring us to a place that is nothing short of a full life (which includes a full ministry).

Dave Barringer (@PDBarringer) is the lead pastor at Kalamazoo First Assembly of God in Portage, Michigan. He blogs about pastoring and marriage at PDave.me.