4 Posts from August 2014

Pastoral Traps: Greed

Pastors can easily fall into the trap of money-grubbing. Or in simpler terms, we can be greedy.

This is true if money winds up in the pastor’s pocket that was earmarked for some other realm of ministry. This is true if the minister is asked about his financial policy with regard to ministry money, and he responds with a “that’s-none-of-your-business” type of reaction. Dependable shepherds are not motivated by what Peter referred to as “sordid gain” (1 Peter 5:2). The old King James Version bluntly calls it “filthy lucre.” That’s an archaic expression, but it says it straight. “Not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.”

My counsel to all in ministry is to keep your hands out of the money. Period. Don’t take cash from people. Don’t give change. Don’t take up the offerings. Don’t count the offering . . . or even concern yourself with where the money is counted. And by all means, don’t try to find out who gives the most! If you do, it will affect the way you preach. On the other hand, if you don’t know what passage of Scripture will offend the largest donors, then you’re free to preach the truth to everyone!

We pastors have to watch out for doing ministry just for the money. Or officiating at a wedding, for example, because there’s money in it. Or doing a funeral because you’ll get a hundred bucks. Greed has no shame. It will wink at you and tempt you, especially in a day when many pastors are underpaid relative to their education.

What I’m saying has nothing to do with “muzzling the ox.” My warning is simple: If you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself justifying greed.

Please . . . don’t go there.


Pastoral Traps: Exclusivism

A major trap pastors can fall into is exclusivism. That’s the attitude that says, “I alone am right.” It’s the “us-four-and-no-more-and-I’m-not-sure-about-you-three” kind of attitude. An exclusive spirit occurs when a pastor allows (or even promotes) a clannish, cultic kind of following around him.

Paranoia often accompanies an exclusive spirit: “Other ministries don’t do it as well as I do”—or some similar statement. Watch out for that kind of attitude. Guard yourself from too many first-person pronouns. It is nothing more than pride.

One time John told Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us” (Mark 9:38). Jesus’s rebuke revealed that we don’t have to be one of the twelve to minister to people. And others don’t have to be one of us either.

We have no corner on the best way to serve Christ. We need to display an absence of competition and an absence of jealousy . . . while cultivating genuine humility. Pray that your attitude and words—and those of your church’s staff—will not become exclusive.


Pastoral Traps: Authoritarianism

Not long ago I put together a short list of some of the unique battles that accompany the role of the pastor. I’d like to share them with you over the next few blog entries. While the battles we pastors face are many, I want you to consider five in particular . . . not necessarily in the order of their importance.

The first is the problem of authoritarianism. It’s easy for the pastor to become authoritarian. What does that look like? If the minister needlessly represses the freedom of God’s people, if he becomes inflexible and dictatorial, tyrannical and oppressive, if he bullies people with threats, if he lacks a servant’s heart, if he himself is not teachable, if his arrogance has replaced humility, then he has become an authoritarian. He needs reproof . . . even if he is the pastor.

Tell just a few who are close to you, perhaps a trusted colleague—even your wife, if you have the courage!—to let you know if you start to drift into authoritarianism. It’s not the same as leadership. It is leadership gone wild. Put bluntly, it is sin.

Remember Jesus’s words to His twelve men when they were haggling over who should be first in importance: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served . . .” (Mark 10:45).

You remember the rest.


Pastoral Traps: Rationalization and Unaccountability

I know a minister who began to live a lifestyle of sensuality. He got around it by preaching the doctrine of “privacy.” I’ve never seen anything near the doctrine of privacy in Scripture, but he found it. (I should say he forced it!) And it became one of his major messages.

When black-and-white facts are whitewashed, when wrong is justified with a defensive spirit, when inappropriate actions are quickly glossed over and/or denied—watch out. Something’s wrong. Rationalization is occurring.

As pastors, we have to be careful that we don’t exchange our role of teaching what the Word means with a dogmatic deciding what it means. Scriptural truth must never be altered to fit the pastor’s lifestyle; it’s the other way around.

We are to be accountable—not isolated islands of independence. Sustaining unaccountability in a pastor’s life is like moral quicksand. Beware of becoming a secretive and untouchable man. And by all means, don’t rationalize your way around it by claiming, “I am God’s anointed.” Please . . . don’t go there. Don’t even think it! You are the Lord’s servant. So am I.

No matter how eloquent or how competent we become, none of us is above accountability. It’s good for us. We need it. Otherwise, rationalization may worm its way into our pulpits . . . or, worse, into our hearts.