I’ve been in the ministry for well over 12 years now. A little over 10 years ago, I became the pastor of a small church in a rural community. During this time, I’ve counseled countless people. I’ve conducted numerous weddings as well as funerals. I’ve baptized people from all over the age spectrum, preached/taught over 1500 times, not counting the various teaching moments wherein someone requested my advice or knowledge on a subject. I have something to admit: I’m a fake.
When I say that I’m a fake, let me explain. People in the church tend to elevate leadership in their thinking. What I mean is that we tend to look at our pastors and other leaders with “rose-colored” lenses. I can’t tell you how many people have been extremely flattering to me. I was in a room after a funeral once, mingling, and there were conversations going on all around. One of them was about me. I overheard someone saying, “He’s the real deal. He’s honest, trustworthy, and sincere. He’s really a good man…a man truly called by God.” I acted as though I didn’t hear it and walked to the other side of the room…making sure not to try any doorways, because I’m pretty sure my head would not have fit through. I had a man contact me recently in order to get my opinion on a Biblical subject and the reason he wanted to speak to me was that he thinks that I’m a good man…an honest man…the genuine article. When he said this, I gave the bashful, humble response, “Well, I try to be…thank you.” As I’ve pondered these types of things over the years, something has occurred in my thinking. Whereas I used to really, RRREEEEAAAALLLLLLLLYYYYYY love those kinds of things being said about me…the most recent occurrence made me cringe quite a bit…
I guess I should tell you a little more about my “call” to the ministry. I was more of an agnostic or a skeptic when I was in my early twenties. I really didn’t know what I believed in relation to God. In January of 1998, my newlywed wife and I started attending church services at an evangelical church. I was confronted with the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and I had a decision to make…one of following or rebelling further. By God’s grace, I followed. Within a few months, I felt a strong desire to preach…and I have to say…a lot of that desire was fueled by the attention that one gets in the pulpit. I also think that the desire was fueled by the fact that I had always been a real jackass and I wanted the affirmation that comes along with the pulpit. In any event, about a year later, I “surrendered” to my “call” to the ministry. When I entered Bible college, I truly believed that I was God’s gift to the world. He could relax now, because I was on the job. The first time I preached, it was energetic and well received…and did it ever feed the beast of my ego… After a couple of years in pastoral ministry, I had really screwed some things up. Those of you that really know me are not at all surprised by that. I was driving one day…and I began to think about my situation in the ministry…about my position…and most importantly…my “calling.” A realization hit me that brought tears to my eyes…the realization that I went into the ministry for me. Some of you may be wondering about whether or not that means I had a true “calling” or not…don’t get lost in that question right now. No matter how I ended up as a pastor, the fact was, I did it for my glory, my benefit, my affirmation. I talked to God as I was driving. I told Him that I was aware of the truth about myself and I then began to ask Him what I should do next. I was ready to step down because I didn’t think I was truly called by Him for this. The impression I got next was this: No matter how I got here, God can use what I’ve realized and where I’ve been. I felt okay with continuing on in the race…but I would have to do so with a serious limp.
Since that day, I wish I could tell you that I have changed, become more humble…become the man that many people think I am. But that’s a lie. I’m not a good man. I’m a judgmental, hyper-critical, hypocritical, egotistical, self-centered narcissist with a microphone. You may think I’m being too hard on myself…but I have to remind myself constantly that I’m not the person that many people think that I am. I’m not the guy with all the answers…I’m not the guy with more concern for all others than for myself…I’m not the guy that hears directly from the throne of God due to my close personal relationship with Him.
What those people said about me at the funeral was untrue. I appreciate it, and when I think that others think that about me, it really is humbling…because if that’s what people think of me…if that’s the image I present…then I have to tell you…I’m a fake. I’m a fake because the truly humble, sincere, person would never fish for those kinds of compliments…which I’ve spent much time and energy doing.
It’s liberating for me to say these things…because I need to not be held up to a standard that I cannot meet. I need for you to know that I want to be that honest guy. I want to have a clear conscience before God and before you. I want to change. As a leader, I am not the person that’s arrived at a higher plane of spirituality than anyone else. I’m the kind of teacher who has learned and is learning from really blowing it all along the way.
Graphic taken from http://www.rarerecords.com.au/white-i-m-a-fake-t-shirt