Consider 2 Timothy 3:1-5. It’s a pretty powerful and prophetic scripture:
“But realize this, that in the last days, difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self … boastful, arrogant, revilers … ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited... Avoid such men as these.”
Veteran Christian workers get this a lot. People tell you of a conversation they had with you years, or even decades ago, in which you either said the magic words that changed their lives or came out with something that infuriated them back then, and continues to bug them to this day.
You don’t remember any of it.
I’m finishing my fourth year as an itinerant preacher and have been the beneficiary of some great (i.e., generous, encouraging) love offerings and the victim of no poor offerings. (That was a good place to have said I’ve been victimized by some unscrupulous pastors or lay leaders, but thankfully, I haven’t. Every check given to me has been more than I deserved and well appreciated.)
On the other hand, I’ve seen the other side of it. I regret to say that a time or two, when I was pastoring, my church was struggling financially and we gave the guest preacher far, far less than he deserved.
Every minister understands this. If a church does all it can, that’s all anyone can ask. On the other hand, some have some funny ways of doing the Lord’s business.
At the risk of not showing honor to peers in ministry, I want to tackle the topic of honor today. I’m concerned. I see a trend in churches that I think is unhealthy. Honestly, I believe it’s also unbiblical.
There are a number of churches today that are trying to teach a culture of honor. The concept of honor is biblical. In fact, Romans 12:10 tells us to:
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (ESV)
We should show honor to our leaders, but God designed it to go both directions. If it’s one-way, it’s unhealthy and unbiblical.
“I was the student minister in a fine church many years ago,” Will told me. “We had a wonderful ministry. The single negative about the entire experience was the pastor. You never knew what he would do next.”
“Case in point, one night in a church business meeting, the pastor announced that the property the church owned, including the former pastorium, was being offered for sale. At the time, my wife and I were living in that house! And now we learn they’re selling it. This was the first we had heard of it.
“That night, my wife was angry because she thought I had known about it and not told her. But that was the way this pastor worked. Staff members were nothing to him. Just pawns to be manipulated.”
Along with millions of Americans, I have watched The Bible miniseries on the History Channel. As much as I’m enjoying the TV series, the book is way better.
Highlights from Part 2 included: the crumbling walls of Jericho, Samson doing major damage with a jawbone, Saul and David’s dysfunctional relationship, and Nathan calling out David.
I can’t stop thinking about the sad story of David, Bathsheba, Uriah and Nathan, especially that last scene when Nathan confronts David. Because of a faithful and fearless friend like Nathan, and a forgiving and gracious God, David repented and ended strong.
I’ve consulted with several churches over the years, and one thing I’ve often said to church leaders is this: What if all your dreams come true?
What if your marketing worked? What if everyone did invite someone? What if you arrived one Sunday and you had doubled in size? Could you handle it?”
I ask this because rapid growth can sometimes cripple organizations and businesses. If you don’t have a solid foundation and infrastructure in place, you could crash and burn.
I’m dealing with this currently at my church. We’ve tripled in size in less than two years.
I’m up late at night thinking about things like adding a third service and developing more leaders. I’m urging my staff to invest in leaders and build their teams. I’m praying through who I, as the Campus Pastor, can invest in and what areas in our overall church need my attention and focus. I’m thinking through systems and strategy and processes.