In the first article we dealt with four lies pastors can easily believe. Here are four more that can deceive pastors if we aren’t careful.
5. I just need to love God better!
This one is so easy because, like so many lies, it has an element of truth to it. We do want to love God with our heart, soul, and strength. But we tend to get this wrong because of our innate tendency toward self-justification and self-righteousness.
Whenever we put ourselves or our performance at the center, things go sideways in a hurry. It’s not about you loving God. It’s about God loving you. We love the One who first loved us.
This is why grace is so amazing: God loved us when we were unlovely. To paraphrase Jonathan Edwards, the only thing you brought to salvation was your sin. And yet God loved you so much Jesus died for you. You are his child; he’s not mad at you.
Try as you might, even if you did everything right, you would still be an imperfect person trying to love God better. Take some time to just rest in the knowledge that God loves you.
Sometimes pastors do a better job of telling others the truth about who they are in Christ than believing the same truth they teach others also applies to them. Understanding our identity in Christ may be the most important issue for the church in our changing times today.
Who you are in Christ defines you, not what you have or haven’t accomplished, or how well you love. Drew Hyun reminded us at the Summit, “What you do matters, but who you are matters more.”
6. God is disappointed in me for not doing _______ .
We have a tendency to think of God like we do people. We have anthropomorphized him such that our default mindset is of a towering figure shaking his finger at all of our wrongs. If we prayed more, he’d love us more. Or if we didn’t watch that series on Netflix, he’d be more proud of us. If we began every day with 30 more minutes of quiet time, he’d think we were on the right path.
Here’s the truth: We've got to stop making ourselves the hero and let Jesus be the hero that he needs to be. Pastor, it’s not about you, or me. Or what we’ve done or haven’t done. It’s about Jesus. That’s it.
Take a lesson from David. David was the man after God’s heart, right? He loved the Lord and focused on serving him. But David also sinned terribly and felt remarkable grief (see Psalm 51). Here’s the thing, though: David didn’t spend the rest of his life in the shadow of his sin, but in pursuit of his Hero.
Maybe that’s why the New Testament doesn’t say a negative word about David. He’s remembered as being one, though imperfect, whose hero was God.
7. I just need a better team, and then our church will be healthier.
There’s a verse on seeing the plank in our own eyes. Go back and read it if you need to. Servant leadership, healthy leadership, begins with the humility of us saying that, like Paul, we are the chief of sinners. There is no way to serve without embracing and running towards a leadership that embodies the humility of Christ.
The most dangerous person in your church is the one who forgot he or she is a sinner. If that person is you, it’s really a bad deal for your church!
Derwin Gray summed this up well at our summit, “Our God loves broken people because broken people are all he has to love. Being found in the Son means that we don't have to run.” If you have a team you’d like to see functioning healthier, first ask yourself how you are part of that problem—and that solution.
8. I must be doing something wrong, otherwise our church would be doing better.
Pastors at some time or another face the question: How can I help fix others when I have things that need fixing in my life? This lie deceives in two ways.
First, it brings the focus inordinately on us, not the Lord. In many ways, pastors tend to personalize all the wrongs they see around them. We tend to think that if we did evangelism better, our church would be growing. Or if we had a better discipleship path, our people would be going deeper in their faith.
We should want to be more effective in evangelism or discipleship simply because this helps us grow closer to Jesus and brings him glory.
Nothing kills a church quicker than a pastor or church staff member who thinks that he or she is the one around which the whole church revolves. Jesus was clear: he will build his church.
The other part of this lie comes down to what is meant by “better.” “Better” is usually subjective. Better than what? If we focus more on drawing closer to the Lord, on knowing him more, we can be sure whatever “better” is needed will take care of itself.
Perhaps “better” isn’t what you need right now, for your church is what it needs to be right now. Don’t think the world depends on you.
Derwin Gray said something that is worth repeating here and a hundred times over: “When Jesus is your all in all, you don't give a rip what other people think. People OVER production.”
Before we look at strategy or plans, let’s first look to Jesus and to what he wants to do in and through us. After all, he led us into ministry, and he can give us the strength and guidance to help us continue, and finish well, no matter how long the journey ahead.
Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Chair at Wheaton College, serves as a dean at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.
Laurie Nichols is Director of Communications and Marketing for the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, creator of the Our Gospel Story curriculum, co-host of the podcast Living in the Land of Oz, and she blogs at Not All Those Who Wander.