Most of you are aware one of my original reasons for this blog was to help people in ministry come to grips with issues, theology, personal problems, and general roadblocks to living life to it's fullest while serving in full time ministry. [That can be a misnomer for sure.] In keeping with that purpose, I'm going to share autobiographically for the next few weeks, some problems that I believe plague many today in Baptist life.
If you're a reader with no connection to FTM, [Full time Ministry] I think that what's said here might benefit your life in general if you're willing to read it. Regardless, here's the first installment of "Seven lies that can trap your ministry." [Substitute 'life' for 'ministry' here if you wish. It's applicable I believe. Full time life...that has a ring to it.]
The first lie is.."THEY SAID IT..I BELIEVE IT TO BE TRUE."
I guess the desire for "heroes" is in us all. Maybe that's the reason for the popularity of Superman, Batman, the guy at the top, and every other super hero who all have comic books written about them. It may also be that in some, like me, who may have few childhood memories of strong role models in adults, a need for heroes is stronger. Who knows?.."what evil lurks in the heart of man?" [For the UN-initiated.."the Shadow knows." ;)] But when that is carried over into the realm of your Christian walk you create big time troubles. Trust me..I know. [What I'm about to say some of you reading who are NOT in FTM might want to substitute your own heroes whomever they may be.]
As I've said several times before, I started preaching when I was fifteen years old and was called to pastor my first part-time church at seventeen years of age. Then is when my heroes became men of the cloth. [Preachers] I admired them, followed them, and believed them. Some were correct in how they lived and what they said.. some where not. But the over-riding issue with me was not the truth.. but the fact that they were my heroes. And, you see, heroes are NEVER wrong and would NEVER lie. My truth WAS what they said about the scriptures. What did I know. If they said it..I believed it to be true.
Who are the 'THEY?' Frank Coy, Danny Recer, Fred Cherry, Billy Graham, Hershal Ford, A.W. Pink, Warren Wiersbie, John R. Rice, and a HOST of others. Don't laugh. Some of these were the greatest individuals imaginable. [Some still are.. but some I've found to be less than heroic in behavior and even in belief.] If we genuinely checked, I think we might find that we all have lists..maybe just with different names on it.
Problems resulted from this as you can imagine. A lot of them in fact. One was my having a low view of the importance of the text of scripture itself. I'm not saying I didn't believe the text of scripture to be inspired. I'm saying I didn't know/study the text to find out what I believed it said. In actuality, I assumed I knew the text BECAUSE of what "they" said about it. So.. what do you study for sermons? The text? No! Who do you listen to for the truth of a text? The Spirit? No! The answer is obvious.
Systematic theology became my goal for knowledge. Style of delivery became my goal for preaching. Studying the masters [My heroes] became my goal for reading. Systems written for leading a church and imitating the authors became my goal for pastoring. You see the problem.
You may be thinking that if I had gone to seminary I would have laid all this aside. I did go to seminary. I just changed the names on my list of heroes. The names then included people like..[Name any professor you wish that was strong in the Word.]...along with new friends like Jack Taylor, Peter Lord, Ron Dunn, Manley Beasley, T.W. Hunt, Oscar Thompson, and a host of NEW others. These became my new greatest individuals imaginable. I'm not saying they wanted to be any one's hero. They would probably have died if they had known they were mine. But you see the result I'm sure.
Celebrity worship may be the prevailing sin of SBC life today. If it is, The roots of it are probably in what I've just described autobiographically. Left unchecked in ANY ONE'S life and these kind of roots will wind up in a CELEBRITY STYLE CHRISTIANITY which is so obvious in SBC life today. So tertiary truths have become the issues that divide us, with anger on both sides, as we [Ministers basically] defend positions held by our heroes, past or present. Or worse, we defend our heroes whatever they do or say.
A second problem that resulted from this faulty thinking was I failed to comprehend who I was and how I was uniquely gifted in whatever way God chose for me to be. So I never believed I was someone who could do or be what my heroes were. This became the second of seven lies that hindered my ministry and is the lie that will be spoken about at length next time. Remember I SAW no failures or weaknesses on my heroes part. But that's WHY they remained heroes isn't it. I DID, however, see the failures and weaknesses on my part and that laid the foundation for the second lie. If I can be like them everything will be right with me. We'll look at it next time
I said there were other problems that resulted from the lie, "If they said it..I believed it." Without getting into specifics, permit me to say what some were as I close. You will notice that there are no WOMEN'S names on my lists. That's a problem because the only way I thought of most women was as the 'wife' of one of my heroes. Will it surprise you to find out that that was the way I thought of my own wife early on? I don't think it will surprise you at all. It also made me a perfect candidate for a hierarchical system of authority [That's a REAL problem] that left men in charge of everything. I read the scriptures through this filter for several years which was unfortunate for my own family and the churches I pastored.
I'm glad I can now say that filter has been removed and were I to have a list of heroes, and I don't, my wife would head the list. But she has her head on straight and her heart right and will not abide that kind of thing in her husband at all. So we now talk of our weaknesses and our faults without shame or a desire to hide, which is healthy and necessary for any true relationship to grow. But will not happen when hero/celebrity worship is in play.
I know what has happened to our marriage and family with the demise of hero worship. For those family members willing to plug into it, there is an ability to know and love without shame, anger or condemnation. Now think of what would happen to church-life if hero/celebrity worship were to be laid aside there. What? No shaming, condemning or perpetual anger? No defending in anger a position on doctrine or a need to maintain an image? My goodness.. perhaps REAL Body-life would be experienced.
Next time___lie number two.. "They did it..I should do it also to be truly spiritual."