Monday, July 12, 2010
SEVEN LIES THAT CAN TRAP A MINISTRY----PART SIX
LIE NUMBER SIX...THEY WON'T RESPECT ME ...UNLESS I'M ON A PEDESTAL.
Pedestals create problems. There is no doubt about that. The dictionary definition for 'Pedestal" the way I'm using it is.."A position of high regard." Granted, this is somewhat connected to my first article that talked about having heroes. But here I'm looking at a different sort of lie that people and pastor may believe that can effectively ruin a ministry if not addressed.
I'm fully aware that people in a church may put a pastor on a pedestal and that's very unfortunate. But my issue is more with the pastor who tries to place himself there or tries to maintain that position if others have put him there.
Pedestals are not the best position for real people and to be on one takes too much hiding or being secret about ones self to effectively remain in that exalted position. When a fall comes, and it will, the pain is great and often disillusioning.
I know there are those who don't like knowing of the struggles of ministers because, their argument goes, if THEY [ministers] don't have it together how are we to trust ANYTHING they say? It's almost as if they [ministers] are that person's last bastion of hope for everything to be as it should be in somebody's christian life.
It might should be mentioned at this point that only our Lord deserves to be on a pedestal anyway because He is the only one who has it all together in terms of life.
In fact, to look at a pastor in this manner could make an idol of him were one not careful. [Or maybe just the pulpit or position of pastor is the idol in that person's mind. Who knows!!]
Those who do wish preachers would remain silent about their own struggles sometimes use Ephesians 5:12 as a biblical basis for their objection. This is a verse that says it is a shame to speak of those things done in secret. So, their argument goes, preachers should keep their mouths shut about their own secret struggles or failures. It's a shame for them to mention them from the pulpit the bible says.
It would be good for those folks to actually understand that verse in context I would think. It's speaking of the secret things unbelievers [those in darkness] are presently [present tense] doing and how those things should not be spoken about with affirmation but confronted with light [as children of light] giving direction out of such things.
So unless you believe your pastor to be an unbeliever, the things he might share about his struggles and how God has given grace in them are not the subject of that passage at all.
I believe a major weakness of the modern pulpit is the LACK of identification of the one in the pulpit with those in the pew anyway. [This is that pedestal thing] This weakness may be the single greatest failure of the pulpit. The only greater failure would be to NOT preach the text of scripture itself.
So..how was this pedestal thing corrected in my own pulpit through forty years of pastoring? Whether I was successful in correcting it may be for others to say, of course, but I can give you what I used in my attempt to correct it. Several things were involved and this isn't a complete list at all.
One...I made a commitment within myself to be truthful and express what I really was, not what people wanted to think I was. An example is when I would preach/teach on having intimate time with the Lord, I would be honest about my own struggles and failures in doing so with any solid regularity. This was before I realized the truth that every moment of every day I'm in union and fellowship with Him and special times are good but not essential for fellowship. That is an atmosphere not an activity.
In the same manner when teaching on not letting the sun go down on anger in James, I would honestly confess that anger was a problem area in my own life. My control struggles were in that category as well. So when I would teach about God being the blessed contoller of every event, I would use my own struggle with a need to control as an illustration of the battle that often takes place in a believer.
Earlier in my ministry I was honest with struggles about impure thoughts or actions that were debilitation to my walk with the Lord and I shared how I learned, as a result, ways of focusing my attention on Him during those struggles that led to cleansing and even hope.
So you can see that, in my ministry at least, the people were aware that their pastor was, in reality, a fellow struggler, as evidenced by control issues, anger issues, impure thought issues and a general inability to practice ALL I preach about what a Christian should be and do.
You say, "But doesn't Paul say that the Corinthians should imitate him? Doesn't that mean Paul HAD to live what he preached if he said such a thing?" No , it doesn't have to mean that at all. In fact, remember that Paul regularly told of his struggles personally [Romans 7-8] but always found in the Lord what was needed and we ARE to imitate him in that. I say the same to those I pastor. Follow me as I deal with my issues of the flesh and learn to see the work of the Cross of Christ as it does it's true work in deliverance and victory. That's the ONLY way any person other than the Lord can ever recommend himself as one to be followed.
Remember, no one is speaking about details that are salacious in nature. I've found that is really more a matter of a choice of words and an overall willingness to recognize the nature of an audience. On the other hand some people think the word "sex" IS salacious and should never be spoken in public. You can have peculiar people both in the pulpit AND pew remember.
Two...I made a commitment to drop the pomposity and self-righteousness that can come from thinking I'm better or even different than the people served. So I quit using the personal pronoun "you" and replaced it with the word "we." Too much preaching/teaching, IMHO, is crouched in words like...God wants you to know you will have no victory over sin if you play games with it privately... instead of...God wants us to know we will have no victory over sin if we play games with it privately. [If you don't believe the first is often used listen to sermons on the Internet.]
Let's face it, preachers are ordinary people and face the ordinary problems and challenges that other people face. I haven’t “arrived”; I don’t have an exclusive path to God; I am a student of life and not a graduate of life, just like other ordinary people. To pretend otherwise by leaving myself out of the pulpit language used is unworthy and simply the height of spiritual arrogance it seems to me.
Three...I made a commitment to practice what I preached. It was my desire to convey to the people my own hope of BEING what was taught scripturally about behavior. This is NOT a retraction of what was previously stated but a companion to it. I would often end messages with the prayer that God would deliver me from preaching to others what I refused to have built in my own life.
The key here is "presently being built." No one of us has arrived at what the Christian life is all about and we're on that journey together. Let's just be honest about that and people will not likely be as tempted to place a minister on a pedestal or a minister will not be as likely to try to climb up there himself.
Besides..spiritual "Acrophobia" [ἄκρον φόβος meaning fear of heights] might be a good phobia to have for any Christian leader.