>The recent allegations against Bishop Eddie Long have got me really thinking about the nature of pastoral ministry. Now I don’t support a prosperity gospel nor am I a huge fan of mega churches, but the attacks against this pastor – true or not – have reminded me about several things when it comes to ministry.
1. Ministry is such a fragile calling. Like character (and dependent upon it), a good ministry takes a long time to build and only one allegation to ruin. I am reminded of the grace dependent nature of the work I’m doing right now. What seems invincible and strong can only really be so by the protection of God. EVERYTHING I have and am doing is by the sheer grace of God. That said, I am reminded to go to extraordinary lengths to protect the integrity of the ministry I lead.
2. We must be careful of rock-star status. From YouTube to pop celebrity, I think the church has adopted and inherited an idea of celebrating and rallying around a pastor as rock star. Whether it’s Tim Keller and John Piper, or Eddie Long and T.D. Jakes, we celebrate giftedness and persona. I wonder how Paul would have fared in today’s evangelical church scene? (1 Cor 2)
3. A pastor must be accountable to his people. One sentence from the CNN article above stunned me. “Pastors can acquire so much unchecked power that members are afraid to challenge them.” We’ve seen it time and time again. If it’s not Eddie Long, it’s Ted Haggart. The rock star status we ascribe to celebrity pastors isolates them, and gives them more and more power. This is such a dangerous place for any man to be. Any church that is driven by the persona of the pastor, and not a plurality of leadership needs to be carefully approached.
4. A pastor must be accessible to his people. Related to the above, the thing that makes a mega-church most unappealing to me is the trend that pastors become more and more unavailable to their sheep. Appointments to meet with a pastor can take weeks. In fact, the real work of ministry is often delegated to lay leaders because the pastor becomes busy ‘leading’. Eugene Peterson once wrote that such ‘busy-ness’ is the beginning of a weakened ministry. When people become interruptions, I have lost my way as a pastor. Busy-ness is often attributed to one of two things: pride – I can justify how important I am by how busy I am; laziness – I let other people and things dictate my schedule, keeping me from what’s truly important. How can a shepherd know his sheep and his sheep know him if he is too busy to be with them?
5. I need to check my own heart. As much as I decry celebrity status, I know that deep inside I desire it as much as the next guy. The horror of my own depravity is that I want to be SOMEONE – a rock star who is unaccountable, inaccessible, and invincible. At the end of the day when I am faced with such ugliness, I am reminded that the Good Shepherd, who has called me laid, down his life for his sheep. He didn’t claim rock star status (though people wanted to give it to him). He wasn’t inaccessible and pridefully independent. In fact, he was meek, gentle, humble, and sacrificial. He knew his sheep, and his sheep knew him.
That’s the kind of pastor I want to be, and I can only ask that God would give me much grace and protection to, as Luther said, keep me from bringing everything to ruin.