Has the preacher become a promoter, planner, pusher, and performer, rather than a prophet and pastor?
In this age of “heat ’n eat,” “brown ’n serve,” and “chili ’n pour” we have turned more and more to religious innovations such as “dial-a-devotion,” “drive-in church,” and a general juke-box religion. The average pastor finds himself caught up and borne along on the tide of it all. (I speak as one who has spent nearly twelve years as pastor of various churches and who is now a pastor in a “specialized setting” as an Air Force chaplain.)
More and more I have found that there are forces that push the pastor. He must “be a success” at all cost, “go-go-go.” He must be “all things to all men”; but, unlike Paul, he is expected to be all of them at the same time. His call is to be Prophet, Priest, Pastor, Promoter, with the emphasis on the first three. However, he often wakes up to find that he is Promoter, Planner, Pusher, and Performer, with hardly any time to be any of the former.
The peril of this is that we may grow stale, go to seed, or become mechanically professional. For, you see, one could promote, plan, push, and perform even if the Holy Spirit did not exist. God could very well be on the sidelines, or not be considered at all, if our ministry consisted only of these things.
It is possible for us ministers and Christian workers to get so busy doing things for Christ, running Christlike errands, that we fail to see that the spiritual life is being Christlike. God has called us not just to do something but to be something. When one finds his spirituality lacking, his first impulse is to do something. Often what he needs is first of all to be something, to be what God wants. Those who do God’s work without being what God wants are the ones the world sees as hypocrites. Ultimately God’s cause is hurt rather than helped.
There are some defenses against this kind of mechanical professionalism. We need a bigger view of God and Christ. Often our God is too small, limited to certain programs, a certain church, a particular denomination. The story is told of a Japanese Christian in this country who had just heard a sermon by a famous preacher. Asked what he thought of the sermon, he replied, “From listening to him you get the idea that God is a white man, an American, and a Baptist. But everyone knows that God is a yellow man, a Japanese, and a Methodist.”
We need a bigger view of the Church. It is the only institution Christ founded. It is not primarily a money-raising institution, or a cultural center, or a museum or library. Rather, it is the only institution charged by Christ himself with the responsibility of teaching and preaching the Word of God. It is the only institution concerned about man’s soul and eternal destiny. The Church is in the business of changing lives, redirecting energies, recovering what is noble in man.
We need a bigger view of our own lives and ministry. First, we need to ask ourselves whether we are being what God would have us be. The basic question concerns, not what we are doing, but our attitudes and our status before the Lord. Perhaps the starting place is a renewal of dedication—not to our own breathless little program but to the Lord Christ himself.
Above all, we are called to live lives of holiness. Sometimes we cringe from that word, but this is still our first requisite for being used by God. We are never criticized for being too holy, only for not being holy enough. People expect us to be what we are inviting them to become. Self-imposed holiness is not the way to Christ, but Christ is the way to true holiness. We may be the “good organizer,” or the “good mixer,” or some other kind of good fellow; but if our lives are not primarily characterized by holiness, we must ask ourselves what place Christ really has in them.
We are called to be saints. A saint is not simply someone who has been elevated to religious prominence; he is first of all a person in whom Christ lives. The early Christians were called saints, holy ones; and we today, if we are the New Testament kind of Christian, are obligated to be saints also. We are called to live the spiritual life, which has been described as adoration of God, adherence to God, and co-operation with God.
The world is crying out today with a need as deep as the inmost part of the human soul. Some clearly feel their need; others feel only a dissatisfaction and an uneasiness they cannot explain. What they need is not more planning, promoting, or pushing, but a real demonstration of old-fashioned piety. The world needs someone who can say with serene confidence, “This is the way; walk ye in it.”
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