Even in writing this, I am plagued with the thoughts of acclaim and “likes,” but I must admit that I am not worthy of the calling of God, nor am I capable of carrying it out. It is only with God’s grace and mercy on my life that this is written, along with learning from the mistakes I’ve made while being tested.
The following words fall heavily upon my soul and motives, and I hold myself to the same scrutiny and examination.
Being addicted to the approval of others is a nasty and deadly trap. Using people and ministry to satisfy my approval addiction is like a cocaine addict using heroin to kick his drug habit. The lack of significance can only be resolved by becoming insignificant to applause and accolades until your soul is so quiet that you hear only God’s approval. It is only necessary to have the confidence and support of your Heavenly Father. The applause of heaven is far greater than the applause from men. Heaven’s applause will echo for eternity.
Did you know?
1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure.
Doctors, lawyers, and clergy have the most problems with drug abuse, alcoholism, and suicide.
70% of pastors don’t have any close friends.
75% of pastors report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation. The list goes on and on.
This stems from the stress of being a resource and reservoir rather than a funnel. It is far healthier teaching people to hear directly from God and how to read and study the Bible rather than becoming the “Bible Answer Man.”
The movie, Bruce Almighty, comes to mind, and when the chaos ensues after Bruce checks the “yes” box to everyone’s prayer request. Bruce learns he’s not equipped to be God, and in the end, he surrenders the power back to the Almighty.
“All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. Matthew 5:37. (NIV)
Perhaps all your yeses and nos came from the wrong place. And your ministry has become a coffin rather than a platform.
And this is exactly what’s killing our pastors at the rate of 50 per day. We’ve expected our pastors to be god and to answer all our questions with “yeses.”
We are like the wilderness children of Israel, who were too afraid of God and stayed, trembling in their tents, crying to Moses, “Speak to us yourself, and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us, or we will die.” Exodus 20:18-21.
Their “no” to God was a “yes” to Moses, and it nearly killed him. His frustration built up over time until he exploded with anger, disobeying God and striking the rock. Moses became disqualified from entering the promised land.
Not much has changed. And like the children of Israel, we’ve failed the test as a people and have burdened our pastors like they’ve burdened Moses. It is a two-way street, to be sure, but pastors need grace too!
However, clerical abuse is like domestic violence. The wife cannot leave her abuser; his abuse validates her wounded psyche, body, mind, and soul. Our pastors need to relinquish power back to God. They need to allow The Almighty to be God to their congregations.
Pastors need to let their people feel the weight of God as He is, so they can genuinely encounter the Lordship Jesus Christ. God’s grace must become the motivator for both the pastor and the congregation. We need to bring our pastors back down from the mountain and directly seek the presence and heart of God as obedient sons and daughters.
And so, both the pastor and the congregation need to do their part. We must let our pastors off the hook and allow them to be human. And pastors need to cease their co-dependency and enablement of weak believers by usurping God’s role in their lives.
When the only acclaim sought after by the pastor and congregant is, “well done, my good and faithful servant…,” with no other obligations or legalities, the congregation can reach maturity. The workload becomes lighter and not heavier. If we are motivated by the applause of men, we have our reward, and it goes no further than the dust of the earth. The gravitational pull of pride keeps it from heaven and creates an imbalance in the life of the pastor, and so affects the entire body.
Your mission is not to be the “man,” the pastor, or preacher, but to be the son, in strict obedience to the Heavenly Father, and to carry out His work in His way, in Spirit and Truth. Your authenticity as a servant of God is your sonship to Him. The strength of your ministry flows from the depth of your belovedness in the Father-heart of God.
The burdens you receive from the heart of God, in Christ Jesus, are always light. The limitations and expectations from the people are always heavy. You are God’s servant and not the people. The people belong to God, and God belongs to the people. Ask God for balance and be brave enough to establish reasonable boundaries. Redistribute the ministry to the people so that the Holy Spirit can distribute and apportion gifts accordingly.
The Church is under a Kingdom economy and not a democratic order. If you want the Prince of Peace, relinquish the governance to His shoulders. Isaiah 9:6.
Don’t settle on becoming a traditional Church pastor, aspiring to build a Mega-Church, but rather, aspire to be faithful with the little God has given you. Therefore, allow His favor to exponentially grow the Kingdom of God and His Royal Economy in and through you. The Good News is the Kingdom of God, and it must be good news to you too! Then when Godly order has entered your own life, the reign of peace will begin, and the lost and lonely will hear and see its message.
The Church needs to cease its favoritism of the attractive and wealthy and its addiction to celebrities. They may give you resources and bodies to build a cathedral, but the Spirit of Christ will not inhabit it. We have had many King Sauls as pastors and desperately need King Davids.
It’s all about the fulfillment of Isaiah 6 and those humble yet daring souls who’ll serve the least and the last.
I was in a meeting several years ago in Antioch, California. There was a long line of men and boys waiting for a sumptuous buffet. Naturally, it was always the teenagers that fought to be at the head of the line. We offered our thanks for the food, and then I announced:
“Okay, the start of the line is at the end.”
You should have seen their faces! I will never forget it. The following week, the line formed again, and all the boys were clamoring to be last! So that night, the first became the least, and the last became the proud. The guys at the end of the line revealed their foolishness, and the guys at the head of the line showed their humility, as they gained understanding.
And this is how God works. He’s constantly changing things up, even though He remains the same. We want greatness or the privilege of being first, but genuine humility will always prefer anonymity and silently promote others rather than themselves. A humble man is always searching for the will of God and is brave enough to obey it, even though it comes with risk to his reputation.
“…but emptied himself by taking on the form of an enslaved person, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:7-8
Pastors, we are called to the way of the cross and not just pulpits!
Church, we are called to the way of the cross and not just pews!
If you settle for doing things you do not need God to come through, you are burying the talent that He’s entrusted to you. Raw talent and seminarian training are not an indication of true anointing. True spiritual talent and anointing is birthed in a humble heart and a contrite spirit. His effort is not to be seen, or even heard, except for the character and nature of Christ being exalted through his humility.
There is more power in the death of reputation because it leaves room for God’s power. It allows the Church to become transformed into the radiant Bride, and the world will see her beauty through her actions. But egotism stops the process of authentic spiritual transformation. When the body of Christ engages the Great Commission, doing all the work of the ministry, true maturity reaches every soul that participates.
True pastoral talent and anointing are to serve and equip the children of God to do the work of ministry, which you tirelessly, and at a high cost, hoard for yourself and your glory.
You may think you are carrying the weight of the Church, but it is the weight of your ego which is weighing the Church down and keeping her from her beauty and spiritual growth.
A lingering question remains: will all your work stand the fiery test? Will it burn up like wood, hay, or stubble?
“Take particular care in picking out your building materials. Eventually,y there is going to be an inspection. If you use cheap or inferior materials, you’ll be found out. The inspection will be thorough and rigorous. You won’t get by with a thing. If your work passes inspection, fine; if it doesn’t, your part of the building will be torn out and started over. But you won’t be torn out; you’ll survive—but just barely.” I Corinthians 3:12-15 (MSG)
As goes the pastor, so goes the congregation!
Are you a good, bad, or fake pastor?
The answer to this question is between you and God. Just understand that your church is a vehicle, and where you are headed in your private life is where the church will end up.
Better to be ashamed before men than to be ashamed before God.
Be the good, not the bad, and certainly not the faker!