Hello beloved friends!
My post on Christian art was published at ChurchLeaders.com!
Check it here.
Prepare to be slightly offended.
The original article is here.
You already know it’s going to happen.
There’s always a cringe-worthy moment on Sundays when the preacher drops an anvil in the pulpit that suffocates the whole sermon.
It’s a shrill phrase, nails on a chalkboard, subtle as a sledgehammer, insensitive, no tact, no grace, a lazy tactic that’s meant to stir up something but disregards actual human interaction.
Pastors: don’t just describe the water that we’re drowning in. That helps no one. Show us how to swim.
I’m not above these things and have and occasionally caught myself in the middle of a sermon to laugh at them. Let’s be a little more self-aware and nip these at the bud.
Hi! So, I tend to forget that pastors are people with struggles, and I appreciate your past posts about what being a pastor truly entails. Do you find it hard to take advice from, to ask for prayer from, or to be comforted by people since you’re usually the one in that advice-giving/comforting/praying role? What are some overlooked things we should know about/do to support you who have been charged with being earthly shepherds? Does this question even make sense? lol. Thanks in advance.
Thank you for asking this. Just — thank you.
Indeed I do find it awkward and difficult to seek counsel, and in my early days of ministry I made the mistake of trying to get that from church members instead of seeking wise men who guide pastors.
While I absolutely love the church people and want to be as real with them as possible, it’s not always wise for a pastor to divulge such personal daily struggles with the people. That’s like if the President came over and told me how his wife and kids were shutting him out and smashing plates at dinner; I’d seriously start to doubt him as a leader.
So if you love your pastor (or don’t love your pastor), some things I could recommend –
I seriously hate this part.
Someone asked me if I could guide him to be a pastor. I had to say no.
Even after confessions of, “I know I’m a screw-up but I think God could use me,” I still had to say no.
Questions I asked him to think about:
“Would you be your own pastor?”
“Would you trust yourself with someone else’s kids?”
“Would you trust yourself to lead an entire family?”
No one is expecting perfect, but people trust pastors with their lives. It’s not a game. No one needs inspirational speakers. They need Jesus. They’re looking to men who model Jesus.
God will also not call you to anything you’re not already doing. Seminary is not the place where you suddenly change or grow or become Uber-Christianite. If you’re not already praying your guts out, eating up Scripture, helping people flourish, and pointing people to Christ, then there’s foundational work to be done.
Even then, no one “earns” pastoral ministry. It’s a supernatural calling. Acting on a whim or to grab a spotlight or because everything else seems too hard are NOT valid reasons.
I’d like to be loving and gracious and fair and offer a chance to everyone who wants to be a pastor. I feel like a jerk for not doing so. But I’d also be a jerk to tell you what you want to hear.
God can absolutely use the screw-ups (I’m the proof), but He doesn’t do that for fun. You might think you’re so totally broken before God to be used by Him, but if that’s your only qualification, then you’re not broken enough.
It’s pretty serious, bro. I couldn’t love you unless you got the whole truth.
Here then, are ten qualifications to be a pastor.
Every pastor I know is a neurotic mess of jumbled nerves, daddy issues, attention-seeking, approval-needing, swelling ego, and jumpy restless anxiety. Overburdened, undernourished, self-torturing, second-guessing, misunderstood souls making the best of it.
For the pastor: every funeral, even of total strangers, is a wrenching stab in the heart. Every marriage is a glimmer of hope, marked by the weariness of counseling and two-sides-of-the-story and accumulating bitterness. Every church member who leaves is a swift punch in the stomach. Every prodigal is rugburn on the knees. Every rumor is hurtful, every ounce of slander stings, every criticism is considered endlessly. No Sunday goes by without thinking what we could have said differently.
It’s our silent struggle. The weight of the world, literally.
The life of a pastor: not really a life at all, because you’ve given it over.
If you’re a pastor and you don’t know that: then Satan is pretty happy with what you’re doing.
If you’re being wrecked, reamed, and ran through: you’re doing the Kingdom work.
There’s no way around it. The high calling of a pastor is an office destined for discouragement, division, and heartache. Occasionally you see the light — and it’s totally worth it all — but most of the times it’s that dark fog, parting now and then as if waking from a bad dream, but a loneliness that we won’t shake until we’re finally home with Him.
From Desiring God by Jared Wilson, a “letter” styled after The Screwtape Letters in which a demon writes to his apprentice about defeating pastors.
Help your patient to see all that he lacks. Stroke his discontent. The less satisfied your patient is with what the Enemy has done for him and all the Enemy has given him, the more alluring the validation, approval, and praise of others will be. Empty him of his confidence by highlighting his failures so that therefore his head will be far more easily swelled with adulations and self-confidences. Then pop those like a pin to a balloon and start again. It is easy for a pastor to move to pride—it is his default setting—so this should not be too difficult for you.
Convince him that difficulty is something strange, undeserved. Convince him that allegiance to himself is a suitable substitute for allegiance to the Enemy. Convince him to seek peace at all costs, especially at the expense of the truth of the Bad News. Your patient is a needy, insecure little man. Ply him with the tenuous, vaporous security of being liked as if it is the end all, be all.
Continue Reading at Desiring God
We’re not surprised anymore when a famous preacher who blasts homosexuality gets caught in a homosexual affair doing meth. A governor who pursues ethics in Wall Street is busted for carousing with prostitutes. An actor turned governor turned actor hides a secret child outside his marriage for ten years, fully realizing his role as an actor. We’ve learned that Nazi doctors who ordered the deaths of countless people were also fathers and husbands, a phenomenon later coined “doubling.” At least a third of pastors are addicted to pornography. And half of Christian men are in the same boat.
Once you claim a standard, you’re claimed by that standard.
Even the reckless prodigal or the pseudo-reasonable atheist has claimed categories of superiority. They both sneer at the religious right. The only difference is a Christian works from a deficit: he is expected to be impeccably polite while an atheist lacks all accountability and likes it that way. The atheist has infinite loopholes when he falls — especially when he falls — while the Christian is ready to be hanged at any second for a single outburst.
It’s a sort of reverse bigotry. The non-religious gets in a scandal and it’s “business as usual.” The pastor destroys his marriage and he’s no longer qualified for ministry, or to be treated like a human being.
How far do we take this? If an atheist turned out to be an axe murderer, his atheism as a cover is as good as a cheap hooker’s dress. Try to call that the usual business and you’re likely to be called insane.
No matter who you are or claim to be, a standard has claimed you.
The late John Stott said, Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross … It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.
While no one has a valid excuse for hypocrisy, a follower of Christ has more reason to keep it real. He is held accountable even when others are not. And if we claim no superiority, then we have no right to judge outside the church. We have every right to confront each other in the church, to build and not to destroy.
But we cannot ask of others what we first are not doing ourselves.
Do you think your faith could be where it is now if you hadn’t gone through seminary? What do you think of serving in either the church or the missions fields without attending a seminary school?
Near the end of my seminary studies, I wrote a blog post about my entire experience plus wisdom for students here. Read it whenever you like.
One thing seminary does is it will expose your strengths and weaknesses. I hear plenty of pastors say, “Seminary will destroy your faith and make you resent God” — but that’s impossible. No one makes anyone do anything: your environment only exposes who you really are. Same with the car who cuts you off, the friend who betrays you, the dude who holds you at gunpoint, the seminary that pressures you. All of it reveals what’s already inside.
That’s why some seminarians come out with huge Bible-heads all puffed up from learning Greek, or some will have a dried up faith when they learn about Creationism, the Old Testament genocides, and how the Bible was made, as if they finally get to say, “This is what we believe?” No one did that to them.
So be ready for the most rigorous refinement of your intellect in the context of your faith. If you’re humble and teachable along the way, you’ll love it. If your expectations are otherwise, it’s a minefield.
A list of Christian books I’m looking most forward to in 2012.
For all book reviews, click here.
One of the most straightforward Christian authors today, Jerry Bridges enters the Reformed landscape of Gospel Centrality, though he had been doing this before it was cool. I can’t wait to read his gentle, powerful voice talk about the power of the Spirit in sanctification.
Reviewed May 4th, 2012
The great apologist Dr. Ravi writes on the competing field of spirituality that has surged through the likes of Oprah, Deepak Choprah, and even Dan Brown, taking them all on as no comparison to Jesus. With careful reason and vivid illustrations, Dr. Ravi is sure to bring his best here.
Reviewed January 26th 2012
One of the “Big Johns,” (including John Piper, John Calvin, John the Baptist, and Apostle John), Dr. MacArthur re-releases an old work written nineteen years ago with two new chapters. This is sure to be as hard-hitting as his countless other works.
My church asked me years ago — demanded me — not to get too involved with my own people. Don’t give rides to the youth. Don’t do that program, it’ll be out of control. Don’t have outings after church, they’ll get home late (on a Friday). Don’t do anything that will diminish your authority.
I really cared about my reputation with the church leaders and the parents. I always wanted to obey; of course that’s the right thing. But the trade-off was that I played it safe, never got into the gutter with these kids, never got into the trenches with their lives, and had my hands tied. Well cut off. I let them.
Almost any time I tried new things, I’d get in trouble. Too radical. Too novel. Too much. I’d back off instantly. I was the King of Deference. In seminary they teach you to lower your head and throw your vision under a bus. Being a coward is easier. I’m reminded of Francis Chan’s youth pastor, who was fired for raising disciples. That made an impact on Pastor Francis: that sometimes pursuing God’s vision means abandoning manmade protocol.
Having a breakdown made sense: I was feeling impotent, powerless, fruitless, ashamed. I did not do anything God called me to do in fear of reprimand. I feared man. So inevitably I imploded.
When I come back to ministry, I think I’ll have to ask for forgiveness later instead of permission now. I’m dealing with youth who might never go to church again after graduation. These parents don’t see much at stake. I see eternity. I see life trajectories turning to glory or destruction. Is that too dramatic? The Bible says no.
Please pray that I would do this out of conviction and not rebellion. I want to push the boundaries of a safety-obsessed church: not for me but for Him. It’ll be exhausting, I could run myself into the ground again, I could be fired, but at least I won’t have regrets. I’ll be doing it how God wants me to. It’ll be a joyful struggle.
Originally posted on my Tumblr.
To those who are embarking on a journey to ministry:
You’ve prayed up. You got the internal calling from God. You got the external confirmation from your mentors and peers. You’re ready to fill out the application, start a sermon file, canvass the local churches, take the plunge. Maybe it’ll be like college, but just Bible stuff. Maybe it’ll be a breeze since you’ve been to Sunday school every weekend of your life. Maybe you’ll get closer to God than you have ever been before, what with all the super-strong Christians at seminary. It’s going to rock.
Ready for the truth?