a few years ago, i had an encounter with a young couple. they were visiting our church but belonged to another. the first sunday they were there, i just said, “great to see you!” the next week they showed up again, and i asked them what brought them our way. after talking for just a minute or two, it became apparent to me that this was going to be a longer conversation than we could have right then so i scheduled an appointment to visit with them. in the interest of total honesty here, let me say that i was going to their house with every intention of talking them into leaving their current church and joining ours…but that’s not what happened… something totally different occurred.
when i arrived, we chatted for a few minutes and then eventually arrived at the desired subject of discussion. they shared with me that their church was going downhill in many ways, and it was very difficult for them to be a part of it any longer…and i remember the moment they said that…i was like a shark…i smelled blood in the water…because another church was bleeding. if they bleed enough they will die…and when that happens…more for the rest of us…i know…it’s a scummy thought process, but i’m just being honest. as soon as they were done telling me these things….i was ready to go in for the kill…i was gonna close the deal. i was going to increase the church’s membership and bring in more money, and more workers, and did i say more money…but like i said….something different happened. i don’t know how best to describe it, but it was a moment in which God spoke in heart and mind that i wasn’t supposed to do what i wanted to do. i was supposed to help my fellow Christians, and also my sister churches…especially when they are bleeding. so what came out of my mouth next was this, “if you can at all do it, you really need to stick with your church. they need you and if people like you keep leaving, then the necessary growth and changes will never occur.” they looked at me like i was an alien. i thought, “what did i just do?!” but at the same time, i was really relieved to have said it.
i wish i could tell you that every time i had such an encounter i acted in such a way…listening to God…obeying His nudging…being more concerned with the overall Body than i am for my private little empire…but i can’t. more often than not, when people visit my church and i have the opportunity to speak to them, i think perhaps i come off as a used car salesmen…trying to schmooze and impress…courting their possible transition….and obviously, the question i ask myself is, “why?” the answer is alarming as much as it is sobering. the answer is that i’m more concerned with my comfort, well-being, and egotism than i am with the good of the Body of Christ at large. in truth, i want everyone to come to my church, affirm me, tell me i’m the greatest, pay me generously, stand in line for autographs, and enable my false humility that would say, “it’s all about Him.”
the truth of the matter is that we, as pastors (at least this one), will swim around the ocean of theology, sniffing for the scent of injury…and the moment we smell it…we move in. i think the reason i’ve done this is much more disturbing…and it is because in some strange way…i’m dissatisfied with God. i’m not content with what He has given me but am instead shining bright green with jealousy of what others have. to clarify something, let me say that it is not wrong for us to grow and we should have a desire to do so, and every time a pastor approaches a potential member, they are not always being self-serving. the problem i am speaking to here is one of motivation. am i driven by a true desire to see the Kingdom grow, or am i driven by my jealousy? if i’m driven my by jealousy, then i will not be concerned with the welfare of my sister churches, but if i’m driven my a desire to see the Kingdom grow, then i will do all i can to ensure the health of all involved, including the “competition.” (by the way, it really bothers me that at times i view other churches as competition. we are all on the same team, and we all win.) the reason that jealousy wins out so much in my own mind is a very troubling truth…perhaps you can relate…perhaps not…but here goes: judging by my desires and attitude…truth be told…Jesus isn’t enough for me. i know it’s an awful thing to say, and you should have seen my face grimace as i typed it and simply stared at it on the screen…i hate to even publish the title…but the sad reality is that He is not enough for me because i don’t allow Him to be. i’m too busy looking at everyone else’s stuff, obsessed with the temporal, barely thinking of the eternal…i’m too busy comparing myself to other pastors…thinking they don’t hold a candle to me…i’m too busy dreaming about how great it would be if i were the pastor of a huge church with thousands of people downloading my sermons…i don’t stop to remember that every time i achieve some level of accomplishment that seems to me to be the solution to my desire for fulfillment, i still feel empty.
but…when i stop…and remember…Whom He is…and what He’s done…and what that means…and that no amount of man-made flattery will deliver the peace unto my heart that He has and does… then i remember the greatest truth of all. HE IS ENOUGH. He is all i need. He is everything…and we can really help others the most by not only preaching that message…but by living it out instead of consuming everything in our paths under the guise of righteousness…all the while serving our own interests.
we should do what we can to help our failing churches…even if it means that some difficult discussions have to take place…and some relationships have to be tested…we should do this because Jesus is, in fact, enough.