There’s something about us preachers. Maybe it’s in the DNA. It’s one more indication of our fallen nature, as though we need more of those. Here’s what we do.
In order to make myself look good, in order to impress you with my situation, in order to show you what a great job I’ve done at this church, I put someone else down.
The first time I saw it to know its true character, a preacher acquaintance had gone to pastor a downtown church in a huge city. He was always a let’s-think-outside-the-box type, before anyone had ever thought to put it that way. He was an innovator, a motivator, a let’s-get-‘er-done type. And that’s what he did at that church.
Within a year, he had that church packed to the rafters with people he had attracted by his unorthodox ways, captivating preaching, and bright personality. He was baptizing a thousand people a year when no one else on the planet was doing that. And he led that church to relocate, to get out of the concrete jungle where they owned no parking and to erect a great campus on the interstate where they would be visible to the world. He was a natural born fund-raiser and inspired his people to contribute millions of dollars–not one or two, but many millions–to pay for that vast acreage and the spacious state-of-the-art buildings. Everything he did was the biggest, the best, the brightest.
Most of us were understandably in awe of him.
When the invitations to speak in other places began to pour in, opportunities to tell the story of his church and how God had used him there, he saw this as an open door to help other pastors and churches to reach their communities. That’s when most of the pastors of my generation learned about him. And it is fair to say that along with most everyone else who ever heard him, we sat in awe of his preaching and fell in love with his personality. He became a genuine star.
“When I arrived,” he would tell his audiences, “that church was dead, dead, dead. There might have been 300 souls sitting in that cavern of a building, all of them waiting for the undertaker. They had not done anything for years.”
Prior to his coming, the previous pastors had been status-quo types who could not see the vast opportunity God had placed before them. He didn’t use the actual word, but we all knew those guys had been real losers.
He went on, “One day I asked the treasurer, ‘What is this $60,000 doing in a savings account?’ He said, ‘It’s for a rainy day.’ I told him, ‘Good lord, man! It’s been raining for years!!'”
We all laughed. Great fun, good entertainment for the preacher crowd, sharp put-downs for the sightless leadership many of us in the audience were saddled with in our churches. It felt good to see someone go in to a dead church, weed out the do-nothings, and establish a mighty work of faith.
One day something occurred to me. With the nation-wide publicity this preacher brother is getting for the phenomenal work God has done through him in that city, with the acclaim that comes through resurrecting a dead church and building one that is attacking the very gates of hell, with all of us bowing before this preacher in our best “we’re not worthy” manner, I wonder.
I wonder about his predecessor. Who is the pastor who served that church before him, back when it was “dead, dead, dead.” And how is he feeling along about now? Is he still pastoring, or I found myself hoping, was he in his grave so he doesn’t have to listen to this?