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Home > 2013 > February Online Only > Calling Killers

I was an angry man. But I didn't know I was an angry man. I didn't think I was perfect, and, yes, I knew I needed others in my life, but I lived as though I didn't. When my wife, Luella, would approach me with yet another instance of this anger, I would always do the same thing: wrap a robe of righteousness around me, activate my inner lawyer, and remind her once again of what a great husband she had. I would go through my well-rehearsed and rather long list of all the things I did for her, all the ways I made her life easier. On one occasion, I got on a roll and actually said, "Ninety-five percent of the women in our church would love to be married to a man like me!" Luella quickly informed me that she was in the five percent.

I was a man headed for disaster. The gracious and patient pastor our congregation saw in public ministry was a very different guy from the irritable and impatient man at home. I was increasingly comfortable with things that should have haunted and convicted me. I just didn't see the spiritual schizophrenia that personal ministry life had become. Little did I know that God would expose my heart in a powerful moment of rescuing grace.

My brother Tedd and I had been on a ministry training weekend and were on our way home. Tedd suggested that we try to make what we had learned over the weekend practical to our own lives. He said, "Why don't you start?" and then proceeded to ask me a series of questions. As Tedd asked me questions, it was as though God was ripping down curtains and I was seeing and hearing myself with accuracy for the first time. I couldn't believe that the man I was now looking at and hearing was actually me. It was a pointed and powerful discussion, a bigger moment than I was able to grasp at the time.

There are three underlying themes that operated in my life, which I have encountered in the lives of many pastors to whom I have spoken. These themes functioned as the mechanism of spiritual blindness in my life, and I'm convinced they also do in the lives of countless other pastors.

Letting ministry define my identity

No one is more influential in your life than you are, because no one talks to you more than you do. You are in an unending conversation with yourself, and the things you say to you about you are formative of the way that you live. Smack-dab in the middle of your internal conversation is what you tell yourself about your identity. There are only two places to look for identity: vertically, from who you are in Christ, or horizontally, in the situations, experiences, and relationships of your daily life. This is true of everyone, but I am convinced that getting one's identity horizontally is a particular temptation for those in ministry.

Ministry had become my identity. I didn't think of myself as a child of God, in daily need of grace, in the middle of my own sanctification, still in a battle with sin, still in need of the body of Christ, and called to pastoral ministry. No, I thought of myself as a pastor. That's it, bottom line. The office of pastor was more than a calling and a set of God-given gifts that had been recognized by the body of Christ. "Pastor" defined me. It was me in a way that proved to be more dangerous than I would have thought.

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Related Topics:CommunityRenewalSelf-examinationVision
Posted: February 4, 2013

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Displaying 1–4 of 4 comments

Michelle

February 15, 2013  3:52pm

Thank you for sharing your struggle with sin Paul. I have had a similar struggle this past year but instead of anger it was fear. I too am finding the freedom, and pure joy, that comes from seeing the truth of your sin and humbling yourself before Christ and those you love. I too was surprised to find the person I was after giving into fear and anxiety for so long. Now on the other side of the "surgery" I am surprised when I notice that I don't think or feel that same way I would have in the past. I am becoming a better lover of God and those in my life. I am so thankful for the precious blood of Jesus that covers over the insidiousness of my sin. I am so thankful for the gift of repentance and faith. May we always stay humble with eyes open.

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S.L.Thompson

February 12, 2013  5:59pm

I say amen to what Trisha said. Thank you for writing this it is needed. But the core issue is our unbiblical structure. We ALL follow Jesus in the context of others or we are in trouble.

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trisha

February 10, 2013  9:09am

I deeply appreciate your openness and honesty and the humility to put yourself and your sin out there for all to see (okay-well maybe they already saw it but now you know it). What concerns me is that you did not get there all by yourself. The deeper question that nags at me is where were your close friends, the people you eat with, the small close group of your family circle? Or did you not have them? I believe the structure of the American church is not biblical, it sets pastors up as "god's gift" the CEO of a cooperation. Pastor are just men and woman who have a gift-not a better gift than any other member of the church. Get off the pedestal, hire a pastor for every 50 people in your church (yes you can-but you won't make as much) , get rid of pyramid leadership, and return to a true community of Jesus.

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Ann

February 09, 2013  8:53pm

Thank you for sharing this!

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