I’ve seen people in this game for all the wrong reasons. Heck, I’ve even been at this for those very same ones. And I’m sure it’s the same in other fields as well. I’m talking about pastors and ministry, since that’s a field I’ve learned much about in my last decade or so of vocational ministry. And now as a pastor, I find myself falling prey to the same temptations that drive me crazy about others that I hear in my same position.
We recently taught through the first epistle of Peter at The Mercy House, the church I’ve planted and pastored for the last six years. In it, Peter gives a charge that hit rather close to home for me, and it’s one I wish many of my peers could hear as well:
“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers — not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.”
Here, Peter gets to the heart behind what it is that we do for a living–at least for many of us. Even for those under the “volunteer” category, the motivations can be the same, good or bad. We’re all human. We’re all fallen. And we all lose perspective.
It’s interesting, because Peter seems to nail these reasons that are as contemporary as ever. He warns against “doing ministry” for any motivations of power, of money, of obligation. Instantly, I wanted to take down names of those I’ve observed of being guilty of this, even as the very arrows were piercing my own flesh. These things are so prevalent in churches across the country (and I assume it’s a global issue as well). And there are many moments when I’m only fulfilling my job description for these very reasons.
How often do we find ourselves doing what we do because we’re too afraid to lose the paycheck? How easy is it to simply go through the motions of ministry because you feel guilty if you even think of doing anything else? How subtle do the promises and enticements of power persuade us to begin to create a religion for people while preaching the freedom that Christ’s blood provides? One minute, we’re in this for the right reasons – as given by Peter in this instance; the next, we’re driven by the control available to us in such positions.
Perhaps this isn’t something applicable around these parts. Perhaps it’s too narrow a category for some to really understand. It’s really not something I can know, I just look at what I deal with and think maybe it’s a universal thing at one level or another. I want to do not only the right thing, but I want to have the right reasons as well. I want to love my church because I am willing. I want to serve my church and be an example to the flock instead of hiding behind my schedule, my agenda, my own needs. It’s amazing that these same issues plaguing the early church find their way into my life today, but then again that’s the beauty of Scripture.
Matt Conner is a freelance writer and music journalist. As the founding pastor of The Mercy House, he led a church community for more than six years in intense community development across racial and socio-economic lines. As a writer, he’s interviewed thousands of musicians for multiple print and web-based publications.