Spiritual pride and self-importance all wrapped up and twisted in with passion, commitment, and a desire to serve.
Somewhere along the way I was taught that commitment to the vision and ministry of the church equaled service to God. I not only bought into this, I was a pusher.
I encouraged people in their giftings and helped them find their place of service in the ministries of the church, believing the more involved they were, the more committed and spiritual they were.
Thank God he took me away from that before I understood why.
We sat in a meeting listening to the "apostle" questioning our commitment and telling us that sometimes ministry has to come before family and that possibly we should consider a new line of work because our business was so demanding of our time. This was really ironic because up to that point, we had practically given our entire lives in support of the ministry.
That was the day we took our lives back. It was the day my children were given the gift of parents whose lives are no longer wrapped up in church meetings.
Scott Williams is writing some interesting posts from the perspective of a pastor. He is one of my favorite bloggers. I would tell him so, but he doesn't have comments on his site.
Drives me crazy!
Based on my twenty years of ministry and my fairly intimate relationships with dozens of pastors i have found:
1. many pastors believe, down deep, that they are the first among equals.
2. many ministers subconsciously believe that most of the vocations their parishioners pursue don't matter.
3. career ministers have absolutely no idea what the real world is like.
4. pastors believe the vast majority of lay people are spiritually and perhaps physically lazy.
5. ministers love to brag about how overworked they are.
6. seminary is almost useless.
7. 20+ hours of preparation is necessary for a sermon of 40 minutes or... how can you possibly believe you are good enough to even speak for 40 minutes?
Expanding his thoughts on point #1, he says:
at minister's retreats we strategize how to motivate you lazy people. we complain and gossip about your shortcomings. we bemoan how hard it is to equip you to "do the work of ministry".
i was wrong but not completely guilty. i was put on a pedestal and though i knew better i let it happen. i wore my humility like a crown and by pointing out how i was one of you, i showed how i was not.
It seems like instead of equipping and releasing, pastors end up corralling people into the organization. What if by roping everyone into programs, they are actually keeping people from their true ministry.
Instead of being yeast and salt dispersed to the world, everyone is tightly penned in corrals. Not caring much about what happens outside the walls, the cowboy in charge can stroke his ego about the size of his herd.
Some interesting quotes from Michael Kruse's most recent post in his emergent series:
Intentional or not, pastors often function as gatekeepers for ministry.
I see congregation after congregation trying to create the right programming so their congregants will be involved in ministry.
Way too many congregations spend the biggest part of their human and financial resources perpetuating “ministry” that someone at sometime decided the congregation “ought” to be doing.
The primary ministry for most of us is caring for our families and our employment.
So how about we start by changing the paradigm of ministry within our congregations and help people identify the ministries they are already doing?
It is sad that we actually take people away from these things, and feed their feelings of importance by having them climb the ministry ladder at church.
I have learned that I had too much of my identity wrapped up in the things I did that were called ministry. It has been a necessary time of detoxing for me. It was disorienting to no longer have the feeling of purpose and the automatic respect that being a leader brought to me.
Laura shares her thoughts about this:
My heart still aches for a place to be needed, to contribute, to play a part in the great things going on, to meet the needs of others. And this in itself isn't bad. But if you add the small bit of honesty I'm allowing myself, I'd also have to admit that my heart aches for power, prestige and status.
Will I ever get off my own pedestal long enough to see that while God may have given me specific gifts and purposes, He may have just planned perfectly enough to use me in small, quiet, secret and unknown ways?
There are many of us learning this downward journey. The things I have had to die to are less important than what has been around me all along.
Picture this, every minister approaching God on judgment day, paperwork in hand with a thick stack of credentials, ministry, and good works ready to turn in. But, God doesn't even look at it, and He only has one pass-or-fail question:
How well did you love and serve your family?