When Ministers Lose Their Focus

woody-selfieMost ministers who I know are good people.  In fact, some of the best people I know serve as ministers in churches.  Many preach and some serve in other roles.

Ministers have the opportunity to influence other ministers as well as the elders of the congregation by what they model in their professional life as well as in their private life.

Some ministers are overly concerned with their visibility and their status among others instead of focusing on their character.

As a result, some ministers become preoccupied with things that just don’t matter that much. Some may keep score.  “They asked him to keynote a lecture at Pepperdine again!”  Or, maybe you see that your friend is preaching at a number of churches over the next few months and you can’t believe they asked this person instead of you.  Or, you find yourself checking to see how many Twitter followers that a certain preacher has or how many Facebook friends this person has. 

When the forming of our character is ignored, it may show up privately, publicly or both.  Privately, one may begin to harbor grudges, resentment, and hatred for others.  Or, you may begin to make poor personal choices and give yourself the license to follow your lusts.  Quite often this means opening the door to pornography.  Once that door is open, it is often quite difficult to ever get it closed again.

When we ignore the building of our character, it may show up publicly, perhaps in the way we do ministry.  We may lie about the attendance at our church.  We may exaggerate the good things that happen at our church.  Many ministers take short-cuts. Some plagiarize sermons while others practice manipulation and dishonesty with the elders or a congregation. 

Consider these examples:

One church leader told me, “It is easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.”  Consequently, he regularly behaved in ways that frustrated the other elders and ministers.  If one or more shared their displeasure at his behavior, he would “ask forgiveness.”  Sheer manipulation!

One minister regularly talked badly about various people in his congregation.  Yet, when he was standing behind a podium and microphone, he spoke of those same people with glowing language and affection.

A preacher had the reputation among a group of elders as someone who could not be trusted.  “We never know what he is really up to.”

There is no substitute for Godly character.  Church leaders who are attentive to their character are free to be transparent, open, and authentic.  These people have nothing to hide.  

When we are not attentive to our character, we run the risk of doing the kind of ministry that Paul warned us about many years ago.

For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness.We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. Instead, we were like young children  among you.

Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.  (I Thessalonians 2:3-8)

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