Egomania

I’ve been in the church long enough to know that pastors are not always all that they’re cracked up to be; that the divergence between what you see publicly and what goes on behind the scenes is often fairly severe.  Still, I get really disappointed.

I recently heard a story about a pastor – a younger guy with a fairly well known church whom I have a lot of respect for – being an egomaniac behind closed doors.  Hard to work with, moody, demanding, taking advantage of people, etc., he’s left a “trail of tears” of fired/resigned assistants.

That makes me sad.  Sad on a human level because treating people badly is always bad.  But sad on a pastoral/theological level because … well, cripes, I mean, this kind of behavior is completely at odds with the New Testament’s model of leadership.  You know … “If anyone would be first, he must be last, and be the servant of all.”  How in the world do you get away with conducting a ministry that chews people up and spits them out with that kind of clear teaching from Jesus to light your path?  How in the world can you claim to follow the Christ who “takes up the towel” (John 13) as a model of how to “do” leadership in the church when you treat people like that?  People feeling “abused” by leadership is perhaps the strongest sign that leadership is only giving lipservice to the gospel.

Sadly, I think that part of the reason that pastors do this is because they think that there is some “mandate” out there for them to use their churches/ministries as a way of validating their sense of calling.  Which means that their leadership is driven not by love or a desire to “serve the servants of God”, but by their ego-needs.  That is to say, it is driven by Hell.

If you’re a leader, and you’re doing this at all, please stop.  If you can’t stop, please do us all a favor and resign from ministry.

If you’re almost-a-leader, please take heed of Christ’s teaching and remember that the church is NEVER your tool for validating your ego-needs.  It’s a collection of God’s people whom you are called to serve, and if the New Testament is anywhere close to being correct, because of your position, you are actually the lowest person on the totem pole in your community.  Everyone else is ranked higher than you (see Phil 2).  So please act that way.  Don’t ever say (even of your staffers), “You guys work for me.”  They don’t.  They work for God, and God’s people.  And you work for them.  That’s how Jesus set it up.  So “serve the servants of God”, make their lives and their service a joy, don’t take advantage of them, and by all means, do your best not to leave in your wake a bunch of good-hearted people who got burned out of serving Jesus because of your egomania.

Die to your ego needs

Lift God’s people

Take up the towel

And serve

Grace and peace to you.

Andrew

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“Soul-Force”

This spring and summer at Bloom we’ll be working through a series on the Sermon on the Mount.  I absolutely can’t wait to get started.  I think the Sermon on the Mount, in one way or another, basically says it all about how God’s people are to embody their “difference” in the world, and I’m REALLY looking forward to blowing some misconceptions about the Sermon out of the water.  I think it’s going to be a really healthy and wonderful and challenging time for our community.

Yesterday, in a conversation with my esteemed colleague Austin, he mentioned that he had been reading through Martin Luther King Jr’s book “Strength to Love.”  As we conversed, it became pretty clear that if ANYONE in the 20th century embodied the Sermon on the Mount, it was Dr. King.  I couldn’t help but remember a quote of his I ran across recently.  After being imprisoned for his part in the Montgomery Bus Boycott (recall Rosa Parks), he wrote and then later delivered this sermon on Christmas in 1967:

”We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws and abide by the unjust system, because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good, so throw us in jail and we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and, as difficult as it is, we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hour and drag us out on some wayside road and leave us half-dead as you beat us, and we will still love you. Send your propaganda agents around the country and make it appear that we are not fit, culturally and otherwise, for integration, but we’ll still love you. But be assured that we’ll wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.”

Jesus, in a memorable moment in the Sermon on the Mount declared, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5)

Jesus seemed to think that non-violent, truth-telling enemy-love was the purest expression of God’s “God-ness” manifested in the lives of human beings here on earth.  I think that’s probably what compels us about the life of MLK Jr.  He lived it.  He really lived it.  And the victory he prophesied, a double-victory of love over all the powers of darkness and hate and evil … the powers that divide and enslave us … came to pass.  We’re the beneficiaries.  Because someone had the balls to believe in the Kingdom of God and live it out.

I wonder what that looks like now…  I’m sure your fertile imaginations can think of a few examples 😉

Praying that God gives our little flock the grace and strength to see and live out the vision of the Kingdom here in Denver…