let me be honest: i’m an egotist. as a pastor, and as an egotist…i have a very big problem…because when egotism enters in to the mix of being the leader of a local body of believers, it very much affects what i care about and the things to which i pay attention. this all became real to me recently when i began to upload my sunday morning sermons to the church website. i record it and then come home and do just a little editing (not of content really but just of sound effects, in order to try and have a good quality). then i listen to it again…and i realize something…i’m not a great preacher…and that eats me up. some of you listen to me weekly and are very supportive and very appreciative and for that i am incredibly grateful and humbled…so let me explain what i mean when i say i’m not that great of a preacher…actually, bear with me for just a moment as i admit something else very much connected to this issue…
our church owns a lot of property in one of the most beautiful settings in which a church or house may find itself. we have several acres and we try to use them as good stewards. years ago, when i became pastor of the church, i remember looking at the property and thinking that we would definitely have to use that property in the near future to build a newer, bigger facility to accommodate the masses from miles and miles around that would be coming to hear the powerful preaching of this young man…yes…truthfully that was my thinking. several years later…that land is still there…unused in that way…as a matter of fact we have a garden…a beautiful garden. and the reason is that our current facility is just fine for handling the “masses.” actually, it is more than enough. we have yet to fill it up.
to be totally transparent, i have to say that this kills me. it kills me because i realize that i’m not the great preacher that i thought i was and when i listen to myself preach, i VERY hesitantly upload the message to the web…in truth hoping that no one hears it before they get a chance to meet our family of faith…and let me tell you…they are the true draw. imperfect? yes. sometimes difficult? yes. at times, petty? yes. they are just as messed up as you and i, but they are other things also, like…human…and loving…and patient…especially with young, arrogant, egotistical, self-important preachers.
so why do i say that i’m not that great? because i compare myself to others. this is the wrong standard, but we all do it. the ministry is no different. when pastors talk to one another, i’ve noticed a quirk. when speaking to someone that has a larger congregation than we have and they ask about how large our attendance is, we respond with some nebulous number like, “around 100,” and by the way, sometimes our estimates are akin to the ones you hear after a weekend fishing trip…and then we follow it up with, “but we don’t really care about numbers.” when we are asked by the pastor of a church smaller than ours, we will often quickly give them a number without hesitation, and once again…it can be somewhat exaggerated at times…giving the number that includes total membership as opposed to actual bodies present. i do this because i find myself attaching greatness to the size of audience that i have, and that equation is very much attached to my ego, which seems to be insatiable in its appetite for more.
this takes me to the place of not caring about what i should. i end up caring about how many people are there in order that i may find some dysfunctional affirmation. i’m not always concerned about the welfare of those who show up and am hardly ever content with the size of the crowd. a good shepherd could tell you exactly how many head of livestock was in his flock and he definitely knew who was missing. i tend to notice more that there’s an empty spot in the pew, not always thinking about the person who should fill it. i care about people giving me pats on the back for an incredible message that really knocked their socks off and as i listen to myself i can pick up on some of the language used in order to entertain or jolt people.
there are great preachers who can absolutely “throw down” with the Word of God in an edifying way, leaving us with thought provoking phrases and truths. i thank God for them. but i’m not called to be any of them. i’m supposed to be me, and i will never be me as long as i’m comparing myself to anyone, and i will never be satisfied with anything when my end goal is greatness in human measure…and i will never be satisfied as long as i’m as self-centered as this…caring about me and my world…not realizing the existence of anyone else’s.
i thank God i’m not that great because in all honesty…truthfully…i just don’t know that my ego could handle it if i was. i don’t think, in my current state of immaturity, that i could handle being a person of prominence or greatness. God knows all of that about me and knows what is needed…and what i have learned clearly is that i should spend more time being grateful for those entrusted to me, spend my energies on their growth, and realize that i deserve none of it…and remembering that the greatest Teacher focused on humility before God, obedience to Him, and love through Him…and He did it with about 12 working class guys…and changed the world…and continues to…a few at a time.