Pastors have an image problem. Despite the growing number of celebrity pastors on television, radio, and bookstore shelves, the wider culture's respect for clergy has been declining for generations. Jim Martin, pastor of Crestview Church of Christ in Waco, Texas, reflects in this article about Jesus' words to religious leaders and how they can help us
The plane was about to take off from Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. I noticed the man in the seat across the aisle, one row up, as he began to read The Dallas Morning News. On the front page of the paper in bold letters was a jarring headline. A local pastor had been found guilty of sexually assaulting three women. I watched my fellow passenger as he began reading the story. I wondered what was going through his mind.
Many people are cynical about the church. That's not news. There are many reasons for this cynicism. Some are cynical because of a basic mistrust of the people leading these churches. Some feel burned after learning a leader was living an immoral lifestyle. Others have been burned by placing their confidence in some church leader only to be severely disappointed due to displays of anger, ego, manipulation, etc. In contrast to these experiences, many people today would find genuine Jesus leaders to be quite refreshing.
I honestly believe most preachers, pastors, ministers, and church leaders in general want to do what is right. We get bogged down in systems and models of ministry that are choking the life out of the body of Christ. It might be helpful if we think about preachers, pastors, ministers, and church leaders the way they were meant to be. I want to refer to all of these roles as "Jesus leaders." So, what were Jesus leaders meant to be?
(You may recognize these as Matthew 23 in reverse.)
We are at our best when we practice what we preach. Jesus once scolded the Pharisees and teachers of the law. Yet he told the people to obey them and do what they say to do. He then told his hearers not to follow their example. He bluntly said they did not practice what they preached. Imagine this conversation today: "You are going to visit XYZ Church? Oh, you will enjoy the sermons! One warning: Beware of the preacher's personal example; it's lousy!"
Jesus paints a stark picture of a people who tell others what to do while they sit by aloof and distant, watching the people struggle with their lives but offering no help. It is not enough to have a church full of talkers. Theology and practice are not two separate issues. They are one. Credibility for ministry is not found in talking alone but in doing the Gospel as well. Jesus leaders both talk and do the Gospel.
We are at our best when Jesus ? rather than our own ego ? is front and center. Jesus leaders model service instead of seeking ways for their egos to be massaged. The pastor I mentioned earlier was just sentenced to fifteen years in the penitentiary. State District Judge Scott Wisch said in the sentencing, "You manipulated ? (religion) for the worst possible purpose." He went on to say that this showed the danger of abandoning Christian self-sacrifice for self-gratification.
Far too many ministers allow ego to get in the way. While we may be critical of some who are much too focused on church size, others of us get just as focused on how many hits our blog might be getting compared with someone else's. Ego has a way of revealing its ugly head in a variety of forms.
In contrast, Jesus leaders are to model self-sacrifice, not self-gratification. They understand that the son of man did not come to be served but to serve. Jesus leaders do not see service as a path to greatness. Rather, the service itself is greatness.
Part 2 of Jim Martin's article will be posted soon. To read more of his reflections on the church and ministry visit his blog here.