The “poor me” pastor with the inferiority complex

“Why is everybody always picking on me?”  –1950s song by The Coasters

The biggest egotist in the room may be the wallflower who sits alone, absorbed in killer thoughts about his isolation.  “Why does no one talk to me?”  “They’re all snobs.”  “Why did I bother coming to this thing anyway?” I, I, I, me, me, my, my.

Over the years I’ve met quite a few pastors who were being victimized and brutalized by their own low self-esteem and their inferiority complex.  It’s tempting to say here that “it’s not a complex if you’re really inferior,” but that would be cruel.  This person afflicts enough mental cruelty upon himself/herself without outside aid.

The poor-me pastor is usually in one of three situations…

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Random observations on The Seven Churches of Asia minor

(14th article on the Seven Churches of Asia Minor)

FALSE REPUTATION.  Back then as now, people fake their credentials in order to fool the gullible.  

I’ve known of people to create Christian testimonies and pass themselves off as having had a sordid past.  Why? To manufacture empathy, perhaps, or to impress the more timid souls in church who would never venture to live such a ragged, rugged life.

There were a lot of impostors in these seven churches.  Consider…

In the church at Ephesus, they had people who called themselves apostles and they were not. (Revelation 2:2).  Who were they fooling?  They were trying to fool the membership of the church. God’s people are known to give great honors and generous gifts to those they esteem highly.  These impostors wanted the reward they were not entitled to.

In Smyrna, they had people who called themselves Jews and were not, but were actually a synagogue of Satan.  (2:9).  (Who would know this better than the Lord of Heaven and earth, who knows the secrets of everyone’s hearts!)  Who were they fooling?  Themselves and no one else.

Thyatira had a woman whom Jesus calls a Jezebel.  She called herself a prophetess, but was a deceiver.  (2:20)  Who was she deceiving?  Perhaps herself,  but clearly a good number of people who were in big trouble if they did not wake up and repent.

The Sardis church had a reputation that they were alive, but they were dead.  (3:1)  Who were they fooling?  The chamber of commerce, probably.

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The people of God are special: Handle with care

“I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

Before the mediator delivered his decision in a church lawsuit which had been kicked into his domain, the adjudicator said, “I am well aware that in rendering my decision, I am dealing with the fine china of people’s lives.”

We interpret that to mean he was taking great care to get it right, knowing that people could be hurt, lives could be shattered.

We appreciate those who exercise such caution and wish the crazy driver on the highway would be as thoughtful.

Every pastor who stands in the pulpit on the Lord’s Day to proclaim God’s word would do well to keep that in mind.  You are dealing with people destined for eternity, souls for whom Christ died, those who were loved from the foundation of the world.  People indwelt by the Holy Spirit, redeemed by the blood of Christ, commissioned by God to do His work in the world.

They are His children and we are to be careful.

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Bad things happen when a church terminates a minister

I should state up front that not everyone calling himself/herself a minister of the gospel is telling the truth.  Charlatans and hypocrites can be found in every field of endeavor, including the ministry.  Those who go from church to church preaching corrupted gospels, bullying the congregation in the name of Jesus, tearing up fellowships and ruining lives–such people need to be put out of business.

Once pastors and denominational leaders see the destructive pattern in a minister’s history, they should quit passing his name along to other churches.  And someone should speak the truth to him and say why.  Then “unfriend” the guy.

But unless a church has good cause, it should never fire a minister.  If there are reasons for dismissing the minister and vacating the pulpit, faithful and mature leaders can find ways to make it happen without ruining that person’s future opportunities for service.  But outright firing a minister forever brands him and may ruin his ministry prospects.

I hear this all the time.  “He’s outlived his usefulness here.”  “We need new leadership.”  “He’s not a good match for our church.”  “He’s offended the key leaders and no one trusts him anymore.”

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Jesus announces plainly who He is (2nd in series on Revelation 1-3; “Seven Churches of Asia Minor”)

What He said:  “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8). 

What the outsiders said:  “How long will you keep us in suspense?  If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24).

What the insiders said, eventually:  “See, now You are speaking plainly, and using no figure of speech!  Now we are sure that You know all things, and have no need that anyone should question You.  By this we believe that You came forth from God!” (John 16:29-30)

Has it has ever occurred to you that the Lord Jesus did not begin His ministry claiming plainly and outspokenly that he was the Messiah?  We might have expected Him to walk out of the baptismal waters declaring, “Here I am–I am the Christ! The One you’ve been waiting for!”

Instead, He did the opposite.

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Rethinking the divorce issue: Let’s start believing the Scriptures

“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (I Corinthians 6:11).

Most SBC churches I know have in their bylaws a statement that divorce disqualifies a church member from being considered as a pastor or a deacon.  I’m suggesting we need to start believing God’s word and quit making divorce the unpardonable sin.

The qualifications for deacons are found in I Timothy 3:8-13.  Verse 12 says, “Husband of one wife.”  The “one wife” business, of course, has been interpreted in a dozen ways, everything from a deacon must be married (no unmarried person, whether single or widowed, can be a deacon), to no divorced person at all  (no matter how many years ago and what kind of record of faithfulness you have achieved over the decades; sorry, Charlie!), to no in a polygamous relationship, and so forth.  On a related subject, some churches have women deacons because, while verse 11 says “the women also”–traditionally interpreted to mean wives of deacons–no similar statement is given in I Timothy 3:1-7 where qualifications for pastors are found.  If verse 11 refers to the deacons’ wives there should be something earlier about pastors’ wives. But there isn’t. So many a church has decided verse 11 is referring to women deacons.  (Argue all you wish, but Paul is not here to tell us what he had in mind.)

The point is: Since these verses are not clear, faithful brothers and sisters in Christ interpret them in various ways.

So, why then do our churches so consistently insist that I Timothy 3:12 prohibits a divorced person from becoming a deacon?

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What really strong people do in critical times

“When I am weak, then am I strong.”  –2 Corinthians 12:10

Jackie called me the other day.  He and I were classmates in high school but we’ve not seen each other in forty years or more.  We soon picked up the conversation like we were together last week.

He said, “Joe, my wife died ten days ago.  I am having a hard time dealing with it.  I know you’ve been through this when your wife died.  Can you talk to me?”

Wow.  Such a courageous thing he did, to reach out and ask for help.  I do not have words to say how much I admire him for this. (We talked for 30 minutes and prayed together.  Then, I sent him the book on grief my wife Bertha and I wrote last year about the deaths of our spouses of 52 years.  I’ve prayed for Jackie ever since.)

Asking someone for help takes courage and strength.  I’m well aware it feels otherwise, like we’re at the end of our rope and cannot think of anything to do.  But only the truly strong person will ask for help.  Most people will suffer in silence and pay the consequences.

Only. The. Strong. Will.  Ask.  For.  Help.

It’s another one of those truths which people call counter-intuitive.  That is, it might appear to be a sign of weakness, but it’s something only the truly strong can do.  Like yielding to the bully on the highway.  A weaker person would give vent to his anger and try to teach that guy a lesson. But the strong person knows no one can teach that guy anything, it’s not worth risking one’s own life to do, and his goal is to arrive at his destination safely. So, he controls his anger and goes forward safely.

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Welcome to the Holy Spirit Beauty Shop

He has made everything beautiful in its time.  (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

People my age do not ordinarily go around thinking about what makes others beautiful or handsome.  They certainly don’t obsess about it for themselves.

I must be the exception (about people in general, not myself!).

The reason the subject hangs around me is that I’m always sketching people. They sit before me, and I ask them to smile and look me in the eye. “How long do I have to hold the smile?” they will invariably ask.  “One minute.”  Anyone can do that.

I quickly study their facial features, the shape of their eyes, the location and direction and fullness of their eyebrows, and all the other details. I try to whip it out in a minute to 90 seconds, then go on to the next person.

Okay, it may not be great art, but I am often surprised at how close the likeness is.

At conventions and large events, I’ll sometimes sit for hour after hour, drawing nonstop. They’ll have me a table off to one side and provide a volunteer to herd people this way.  I bring all the paper and pens. (In answer to your question, yes, they often pay me nicely. But in many cases I volunteer my services.)

Last Friday night, I sketched for hours at a retirement dinner.  Thursday, I sketched all the attendees at a women’s luncheon where I was the speaker. And Saturday, I’ll sketch for four hours at a local church’s fall festival.  In all, in these three events, I’ll have probably drawn 500 people.

Okay.  Now….

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The absolute worst way to listen to a ball game (and why I have trouble with some church people)

“Why wasn’t this perfume sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor?” –Judas  (John 12:5)

We were on the highway returning from a ministry event in a nearby state.  This being Saturday afternoon, the airwaves were filled with football games. And since I subscribe to Sirius XM radio just for this purpose–to hear the games while traveling, no matter how isolated the highway!–I was going back and forth between two stations, keeping up with the two games.

One was a baseball game in which “my” team was in the playoffs, headed, we hope toward the World Series. The broadcast originated in the home city, the announcers were “our guys,” and the crowd was pulling for “my team.”  And, since the good guys won, it was all sweetness.

The other was a football game between my favorite college team and an arch rival. Our guys were the visitors and Sirius XM was airing the broadcast from the rival’s station. This meant the announcers were unknown to me and clearly partisan, just as they should have been.The crowd–all 90,000 of them–were really into the game.  The score was up and down, the fortunes of the teams waxed hot and cold, and the crowd alternately cheered and groaned.  Eventually, the host team won, handing our team its first loss of the season.

So, I’m switching back and forth between the stations. And yes, while driving.  (It’s not as bad as it sounds. Bertha will tell you I’m a safe driver.)

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10 things Christians do not ask the world

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the world, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful”  (Psalm 1:1). 

“The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him…” I Corinthians 2:14

Around Easter or Christmastime polls, surveys, and magazine articles all indicate the world has given up on Jesus, on God, on Christians, on the church, or on preachers.  But let not your heart be troubled, Christ-follower.

We may as well ask a blind man what he thinks of the sunrise I enjoyed this morning, a deaf person how they appreciated the symphony, or my unbelieving neighbor what he thought of my sermon last Sunday.

The world is lost.  Never lose sight of that, follower of Jesus Christ. So, we should not be asking it for direction or seeking its counsel. When the disciples told Jesus the Pharisees were offended by Him, he said, “Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind.”  (Matthew 15:12,14)

And yet, how often do we hear of people polling the neighborhood of a designated area to find out what people see as their greatest need, what they would like most from a church, or why they no longer go to church. Then, they build a church program around the results of their poll.  What’s wrong with this picture?

They are called ‘lost’ for a reason. (See Luke 15.)

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