Thursday, May 3, 2007

My Hero

The allure of full-time Christian Ministry can be at once heady and intoxicating, while being difficult and lonely. Speaking in front of vast numbers of people, constantly being celebrated by those who have benefited from your ministry, having people share some of their deepest, darkest secrets with you, while others seek your counsel on some of the most significant decisions they will ever make in their lives; depending on who you have around you, all of this can be extremely satisfying or extremely draining. With all of this and more happening consistently in Christian ministry, it is no wonder that some pastors and Christian leaders begin to lose sight of their primary purpose. They forget that it is not about them but all about Jesus. It is much less about great preaching, leading and building, as it is about strengthening your personal walk with God. You can only give out what is in you! The less time you spend building your own personal relationship with the Lord, the less you have to give to others.

Pastoring a church of thousands of people, no doubt comes with it's attendant stresses and pressures. "How do you know?", I hear you ask, "since your church isn't a thousand people strong." I guess my response to that would be simply to state that, you don't have to stick your finger into the power outlet to know that electricity can kill. I have been around large ministries and well known ministers long enough to know that it is a lonely and treacherous road to walk. I have recently lost two dear friends from full-time ministry because the perils of the journey became all too real and they found themselves in compromised positions that required that they give up their mandate to lead others (at least as Lead Pastors).

How do Pastors avoid the potential pit falls that attend the calling to full-time ministry? I suggest that it is only by remaining firmly planted in reality. You are not as great as people say or think you are. The real key to determining how successful you are at staying rooted in reality is to take the pulse of your family. Too many men have built large and "successful" ministries at the expense of shipwrecking their homes. Their children abhor ministry or anything that smells remotely of church simply because they resent the way it has negatively impacted their family. Their wives are unwittingly abandoned along the way, victims of their husbands "success." I heard a well known (and well loved) Christian leader once say, "You can tell a man's success by looking into his wife's eyes." I imagine that the stories that many pastor's wives eyes would tell would be stories of broken promises, hurting marriages, and potentially devastated homes. This is not a stretch as I am personally acquainted with families like this.

How do I do it? I listen to my wife. I trust her implicitly because she is my best friend, my most ardent fan, and my biggest and most vocal critic. She has earned all of those places in my life. She once told a group of ladies sitting at a table with her, raving about how great a speaker I was and how lucky she was to have me, that she knows just how human I am because she sees me "put my pants on one leg at a time just like everyone else." Confronted by that reality, I am quickly reminded of my flaws and my fallibility. I am learning that when the church doors close, and the incredible music is silenced until the next gathering, my family are the only ones committed to standing by me regardless of how well I preach, lead, or build. This is where I draw my strength. this is what motivates me to want to be godly. This is why I do what I do. To live as an example before my family.

My now sixteen year old, sophomore-in-high-school son, was asked to write a paper in the fifth grade about who his hero was. Below is what he wrote (not a word or punctuation is changed from the original hand written paper).

"Who is my hero? I bet you would think it is someone famous like Martin Luther King Jr., or maybe even Ghandi. But really, my Dad is enough of a hero to me. My Dad is loving and caring with a super strong soul. He is the kind of person you can always look up to. A hero like my Dad doesn't care for just some people. He remembers those who are in orphanages and some who don't have homes or poor people. Now you know that a hero doesn't have to be famous. But someone who loves you, just like a Dad."

When it's all said and done, the real measure of success is what you did with your personal relationship with Jesus, and how you impacted the family that God so lovingly entrusted to your care. Personally, great ministry comes out of great times with my wife and kids.