This weekend I heard about the fall of another minister I know. His marriage is over and he’s out of ministry. In fact, his name has been expunged from the website of the church he planted.
It makes me very sad.
Early in my ministry he was a “big deal” and the guy that everyone talked about and wanted to have speak at their conventions. Honestly, I was always afraid it wouldn’t end well. He wasn’t a bad guy; it just seemed he REALLY like being a big deal and–even worse–seemed to believe he was a big deal.
I’m sure he didn’t mean to, but he was condescending in conversation and always left me feeling like he was just too good for the rest of us small-church ministers. He wouldn’t return phone calls. He wouldn’t stop walking if you were talking to him, which was really odd and made you feel like a member of the paparazzi pursuing a fleeing star.
I felt guilty for how I was beginning to feel about him, so I took him to lunch one time and he talked only of himself and never once asked about me or my ministry.
That was fun and a little discouraging.
You know, there are some guys that you don’t hate but you wouldn’t want to take them fishing, especially if the fish weren’t biting.
That day, I decided he’d be no fun to fish with.
After that, I stopped trying to get to know him and avoided being around him.
If I’m being honest, the biggest reason I avoided him was because I was afraid I’d become him. I’m prone to pride. Sometimes I think I’m a big deal. Sometimes I think my time is more important than other people’s time. Sometimes I think I should be asked to speak at the big conventions, but I also know that kind of thinking is what gets your name expunged from a church website and sitting by yourself in a fishing boat in Minnesota.
So, here are some things I try to remember to keep myself humble.
It’s not my church.
I heard that the minister of whom I’ve been writing said, upon hearing that he was being fired for inappropriate behavior, “They took my church from me!” Pastors, we serve the Bride of Christ at His pleasure. It’s not our church!
It’s not about me.
It’s never been about us. The success of Christ’s Church does not depend on our cleverness, our creativity, or our cunning; it depends on Christ. If we lift him up, He will draw all people to Himself. If we lift ourselves up, we only make it easier for Satan to hit us with his fiery arrows.
No one is indispensable.
Except Jesus, and we’re not Jesus. The Church is not the Church without Jesus. If I get killed by a crazed caribou today, someone else will preach at Journey next week and–after a very fun funeral where my life is celebrated with Andrew Peterson music, with memories of the time I cussed in my sermon and rode my bike into church, and accidentally went to the bathroom while my friend’s wife washed her face in the sink right in front of me because I didn’t realize I was in the wrong bathroom and that the woman washing her face wasn’t my wife, and lots of Krispy Kreme donuts–things will quickly go on very well without me.
Except God, and we’re not God. Now, I know that some of you may be offended by this reminder but it’s true…and the most direct way I have found to remind myself that we’re all in this together. And by “this” I mean the human experience. The second we start to think that we’re a better brand of human than other humans is the day we become as dung to God.
Ok, there you go.
I hear the trout are biting up at Red Feather. I hope someone will want to go fishing with me?