If you read When the Light Fades two years ago, you probably picked up on the fact I had a problem with preachers in the past. While I have, for the most part, outgrown my distrust or skepticism of pastors in general, that does not mean I accept all pastors at face value.
Pastors are human, and humans are still a long way from being perfect. Sadly, that is the reason we often hear of a pastor in trouble, or, stealing a poorly turned phrase from Prince Andrew, conducting himself in a “manner unbecoming.
Before anyone jumps to any conclusions, this piece is not intended to accuse pastors of hanging out with the likes of Jeffery Epstein. Nor am I issuing a blanket indictment of pastors for other cardinal sins. Truthfully, one can find examples of such behavior in many professions or vocations, from the clergy to high-profile politicos.
Thankfully, the most likely failures of those who claim they are called to the ministry do not reach the level of misconduct that will make headlines. Still, those failures are not something one should overlook. For example, consider the story of Pastor Jimmy.*
Pastor Jimmy was a rising star in the evangelical community. He developed a team that helped build an extensive and effective ministry. A ministry that is still thriving after four decades. His ministry and church helped many a sinner, this writer included.
He helped me find my way back to a faith I abandoned or never really knew. The pastor is as rock-solid as one could imagine in today’s world. Yet, the pastor almost destroyed himself, his family, and his flock at one point.
No! He did not lie, cheat, or steal. No! He did not give in to the temptation of lust, gluttony, or strong drink. He gave in to the temptation of self-sufficiency. He became just a bit too full of himself and a bit too confident of his abilities and gifts.
As Jimmy admitted later, he began to feel invincible to a degree, and he ignored those who tried to counsel him. He only realized his mistake when God used the sledgehammer of the pastor’s physical and mental wellbeing to get his attention.
The story of Pastor Jimmy is real though condensed for this message. Yet, it is merely the back story for the message I hope to share here. You see, this message is not about pastors like Jimmy. It is about those of us who know and respect these pastors.
It is about those of us who never miss a chance to tell these pastors how fantastic their sermon was and how much we love them. It is about the lengths to which we will go to pump up their egos while often overlooking the fact they are fraying a bit around the edges.
I was reminded of Pastor Jimmy and his situation while visiting another large church with a dynamic and loved pastor. As I listened to his sermon and remembered some of his past sermons, I caught a hint of the path he might be walking.
Like Jimmy, he has a thriving ministry, and his congregants have him on a pedestal. Like Jimmy, he has that air of giftedness about him that makes you want to tell him how great his sermon was and how much you love him. I watched people treat him that way after the sermon, and they meant every word of it.
I cannot swear this pastor is on the path of my old friend and mentor. Yet, there are signs that he may well be. Also, given the atmosphere of his church and some things I learned in seminary, I would be concerned if I was part of his flock. Of course, then the question becomes, “What does one do if their beloved pastor begins to show signs of fraying around the edges?”
Hopefully, I will find the words to address that question shortly. Until then, consider what I’ve said here, and pay attention to the pastor you respect and trust. There’s a bit of Jimmy in all of them, and us, for that matter.
* Not his real name.
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