I love my job. Pastoring is such a fascinating vocation and I work with absolutely wonderful people. However, there are moments in ministry life that are very difficult to walk through. These are messy and ugly interpersonal conflicts that are very rare, but also very real. I am sure there are many causes of these problems, but I am going to focus on two: idolatry and pride.
Idolatry – Pastors generally deal with two main expressions of idolatry: people idolizing the pastor and pastors idolizing the church.
Idolizing the Pastor – There is a tendancy in the Church today to place our senior leaders on pedastals and to look to them for everything. While it is good and right to honor our leaders, the American Idol syndrome needs to be addressed quickly. Jesus instructed us to not call one another “teacher,” “father” or “leader” (Matt. 23) because our true Teacher, Father and Leader is in heaven. I think the same holds true for Shepherd.
My goal as a pastor is not to have all the answers or to be a top-down CEO that values people by what they do. My goal as a pastor is to facilitate an environment where the Spirit of God is comfortable and works in a powerful way. My goal as a pastor is to lead from the front and be an example. My goal is to create a culture of honor where everyone is valued for who they are, so that they can be free to share their gifts in a healthy way.
Do I cast vision? Yes, but Jesus is the one that came up with it. The First and Second Commandments and the Great Comission weren’t my ideas. There is only one ministry- Jesus’, I am just trying to partner with him.
Idolizing the church – Pastors love the church, and that is a very good thing. It is not a good thing when pastors love the church more than Jesus. And no, the two are not the same. Pastors frequently lose sight of relationship with God. How easy is it for pastors to not pray and just work? How easy is it to not read the Bible except for when we are preparing messages? The answer is “Too easy!” In our efforts to love and serve the Lord, we start working “for” Him and not “with” Him. Sadly, I don’t think many of us know the difference. But the Lord, in His mercy, won’t let this go on forever. Either we will return to our first love or He will remove our lampstands – it is our choice.
Pride – Pride is a nasty beast, quite possibly the root of all sin. Pride in pastors in deadly because we are so stinking good at covering it up. Pride in pastors usually manifests as a religious spirit or false humility. We try so hard to be good little boys and girls that the work of the Spirit in our lives gets snuffed out.
Therefore, humility and vulnerablility in pastoral leadership is an absolute necessity. We need to constantly go low, not make use of our rights and let Jesus be our Shepherd. We can’t pretend to be overcomers, we actually need to overcome by God’s grace. We must live authentic lives of discipleship if people are going to take us seriously and if we are going to get a crown at the end of this race.
Pastors deal with great amounts of stress and do many wonderful things, but we can’t cut ourselves any slack when it comes to idolatry and pride. We can’t let people set us up as idols, we can’t set up idols ourselves and we certainly cannot let pride go unaddressed in our hearts. These are the ugly realities of pastoring, the serious temptations that plague an otherwise terrific career.