Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Glory Trap

1 Thes. 2:5-8 (ESV)
For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed— God is witness. [6] Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. [7] But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. [8] So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others. Seeking glory from people, it is a trap, a temptation of the devil that tortures the soul of a pastor. Pastors are human. We want what others want, respect, glory, atta boy. I am reading Eugene Peterson’s book “The Contemplative Pastor” for the third time now. I am struck that it is this idolatry in the heart of a pastor that chews them up and spits them out. If you are looking for approval from your congregation, chasing numbers, and otherwise making yourself busy with appointments and meetings you will wear yourself out, the devil will succeed in burning you out. There is plenty of this that does need to be done. No one wants to have their congregations disapproval. Who doesn’t want to see their congregation grow? Well perhaps there comes a time when it is time for your congregation to stop growing. Sometimes it might be smarter just to help plant another congregation. Why does everyone want a huge congregation with so many people they can’t possibly know everyone. We chase after success as the world defines it. We wear ourselves out, we compromise on our principles, we begin to hate and loath ourselves. We are upset when we don’t see massive conversions of people, as if that would be some sort of validation to our ministry. I look at my parking lot, I’m proud of it. Shameful I should be so proud of a chunk of concrete. Truth is I am tempted by these things. Tempted to see validation of my ministry in the physical, the numerical growth, the new parking lot, the fact that today it would be impossible for me to drive by the church seven times and not see it as I did on arrival in Tooele. But this congregation has a long record of success, longer than my tenure here. A successful congregation is one where the Gospel is preached, and the sacraments are administered according to Christ’s institution despite all else.
So a successful ministry is the same. I am amazed at what the apostles accomplished, the Apostles who forsook everything in the administration of the church so they could preach the word, who devoted themselves to nothing but prayer and the ministry of the word. (Acts chapter 6) It hit me yesterday, we as pastors might actually accomplish a lot more if we did that. Oh we might not get as many kudos. The district office might not be all that impressed with us. They synod would more likely be scandalized. But we would get a lot more done. Let the others have the glory of the world, God has given us something much more precious, he has entrusted us with the ministry of the Gospel.

1 comment:

Brigitte said...

Joy and gratitude in things accomplished is one thing and false pride is another. We are always tempted no matter high or low or whatever our calling, or however big or small our church. Keeps us on our knees begging for mercy, of which there is thankfully always more and enough.

And even with the hassles of the ministry who would want quit preaching the gospel of which one lives oneself? I know one minister who just can't stop saying that he gets to do what he loves and gets paid for it, too.

In terms of administration and governance, there are many sides to this. As laypeople getting involved, you can see that maybe pastors really should stick to their calling of preaching. Really talented preachers are administering in offices, that maybe should be populated by people with the appropriate qualifications (accountants, mediators, businessmen...). This cuts both ways and maybe should be looked at more.