Leadership's editorial team is posting from sunny San Diego this week. We've gathered with 1700 other church leaders for the National Pastors Convention. At the opening session Methodist bishop Will Willimon spoke (with his charming and colorful Southern humor) about our pastoral tendency to control and squelch the Spirit of God.
Building his case from John 3 where Jesus speaks with Nicodemus about being born from above, Willimon found it interesting that the only person Jesus told, "You must be born again" was someone "like him" - a church leader. Nicodemus' responds to Jesus with a question church leaders can relate to, "How?"
"How?" is a question pastors ask a lot.
How do I lead my church? How do I minister effectively? How do I deal with conflict? How do I grow my church? How do I (fill in the blank)? "How" is why we buy books, attend conferences, and go to seminars. Modern evangelical pastors are all about the "how." And we base our credibility as leaders on our ability to tell other people "how." We give them three-point sermons on how to do all sorts of things.
But Jesus irritates us by not sharing our passion for pragmatic answers. Jesus responds to Nicodemus' question, "How can a man be born again," with an unashamedly ambiguous answer. He says, "The wind blows where it wishes ?you do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit."
Willimon says that like Nicodemus many pastors have a desire to control, manage, stabilize, and harness God. But we serve a Living God, and this God does not yield to the desires of men. His Spirit goes where he chooses, blowing freely like the wind. This, said Willimon, "is why we nail down our pews." We don't want the Spirit to blow in and disrupt ...