For my entire Christian life, I have been the man. Within a week or so of coming to know Christ, I began teaching a small group. Within a year, I was teaching bible studies 2-5 times a week and I never stopped until recently. Being the man, the teacher, has been my whole gig. There is some good to this constant ministry. By being constantly in ministry and in leadership, we are always aware that we might quench the Spirit in our lives. This “fear of the Lord” keeps one holy and always confessing to our discipleship partners. My whole life as a Christian has been one inspired idea after another. Pastors learn the word but for what motive. We seek the power of the Holy Spirit and most often this is for good reasons. We desire to see the kingdom expand. But, if we dig deeper we may find a less altruistic motive.
As I step aside from ministry for the first time in my life, I find myself less motivated and less spiritual and less intimate with God. If this is true what was my motive in the first place? This question can only really be answered from experience. For a pastor to know his real motives, an involuntary season out of ministry can be an eye opening experience. For me, I feel completely like a fish out of water. Ministry is my whole gig. Without ministry, I am like the hole in the donut. Being the man, leading others in knowing and understanding God, is my whole life. But ministry isn’t life and service cannot be our motive. When we are left without a religious motive to be spiritual, do we have enough fear of God and love for God to walk in holiness. Is the real reason we live in the fear of the Lord, because we want to be seen as spiritual or to actually be spiritual so as to be successful. Jesus said, “the Pharisees love praying long prayers and to be seen by other men”. Without leadership and the hope of status in the religious community, there is no real love for God.
We all have a role we play in life and we play it before others. There is the alpha male who is looked up to and followed. There is the pretty girl, the smart guy, the nice person, the tough guy. Some play the simpleton and as a simple person they feel comfortable. Some are victims. Some play weak. Some play strong. Being a pastor can be very insidious because the role seems to be focused on living before God but in reality it is a role played on the stage before men. When that stage is pulled away and the drama is over, do we feel like the whole in the donut, a fish out of water? Does the season of inactivity lead to adoration or addiction?
A Challenge to Pastors and Church Leaders
Meekness is to cease managing the perceptions and behaviors of others in order to maintain one’s status in one’s social community. Meekness is to cease all controlling and manipulative behavior and to abandon oneself to the permissive will of God. Pastors are perceived as being controlling. I have heard many stories of pastors being “hard to work with”. The meek are not hard to work with. Many pastors are very “my way or the highway”. Many churches have very authoritarian management cultures. It must not be like this. If it is, it is because the leaders are managing their status and are not abandoned to the will of God. What is the real motive? We are holy because we do not want to offend the Lord. We do not want to offend the Lord because we desire His blessing. We desire His blessing because we want to extend the kingdom. We desire to extend the kingdom because ministry success is our whole life. Ministry success is our life because we are self-centered and narcissistic. If we are controlling or fearful, is it not because the real root of our motives is not the love of God but the love of honor from men. This is a hard confession to make but God is good and trials come for our good.
If without ministry, we feel like the hole in the donut, then we must realize the our inner person is not truly motivated by the love of God but the love of religious promotion before and by others. If we appear controlling to others, it is probably because we are. If we are tired and nervous it is fear of men not fear of the Lord. If this heart is our heart, the deep death of meekness must come to us by any means necessary. We need to ask God to purge us of our carnal motives if we are to be truly effective in doing spiritual work.
For me a time off is bringing all my brokenness to the surface. It is a deep work and a good work for God will not share His glory with another. My the Lord heal His church and cleanse us of our sin.