For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men.
As a pastor, to a lesser extent- a much lesser extent- I share in this being “a spectacle.” One aspect of that is the public nature of my failings. Sure, like you, I can harbor my secret sins. But I do not have the luxury of coming to church, not saying anything to anyone, and leaving. When things are “going bad” at church, no one is blaming the janitor. No one is murmuring about the secretary. No one whispers about the nursery worker. For better or worse, whether you like it or not, the state of the church is a reflection of the pastor’s work. My failings are on display every week. People see my mistakes. People have been my mistakes. People know my failures.
But people have no idea of my failures. I have read the books, I have aced the classes. I know what a “good” pastor should do and be. I have read the books, I know what a “good” sermon should be and do. Have you seen my failures? You have not seen the half of them. Have you seen my failures? Be thankful you do not know their weight. I know what God expects. I know what Christ deserves. I know my failures, be glad you do not.
The Lord confronted me with some of my failures several months ago. I was leaving church and walking home. I was 8 steps out the door. I was at the edge of sidewalk ready to step onto the gravel parking lot.
“What if everyone at this church cared about it as much as you do?” (And by “as much” the Lord unmistakably intended “as little.”)
“You heard me.”
I felt like just getting in my car and driving until there was no more road to drive: and then driving a little more for good measure.
I am the problem.
I have failed at the most important job I have: magnifying a God who is worth loving with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength. I have failed at leading people to fall in love with Christ.
I was in love with “the church.” Not so much with “this church.” I was in love with Hebrews 12:18-24. Not so much with Hebrews 12:14-17. I was in love with Revelation 4, 5, and 7. Not so much with Revelation 2 and 3. The “ideal and end” are a lot lovelier than the “here and now.”
Since that time, slowly, surely, painfully, the Lord has been pressing home a different passage.
And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
The Lord has been taking my narrow, constrained, hard heart and healing it the only way he knows how: by smashing it to smithereens.
I have been a failure. I have decided that if I am going to fail, I am at least going to fail trying. I do not know if it is too late. I do not know if I have built a bridge too far…or burned a bridge too short. But at least I care now. I do not know if it is too late to lead other people to care too.
I am not too fond of the frequent tears. I am not comfortable with my wife and children wondering about my well-being. I am not sure about the cost of caring.
But the Lord has been pressing upon me the anxiety for “this church.” To what end? Hopefully to the end of:
…as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. I have spoken freely to you; my heart is wide open. I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in my heart, to die together and to live together.
I do not know what the future will bring. I do not know the end of this. Did the Lord allow me to be a pastor just to convince me that I shouldn’t be? It very well may be. Until He makes that clear, I am pledging to do all I can to keep my heart on his anvil.
There might be hope yet.