The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7b
Most of the church conflicts into which I get called are swirling (at one level or another) around a pastor. And most of the opposition parties I meet eventually get to a point in the conflict where they are saying, “We never should have called him as our pastor…we made a terrible mistake.” And that conclusion is always based upon a (sometimes very long) list of flaws which, in their eyes, disqualify him/her as their shepherd.
It always reminds me of the life of Israel’s most effective King…King David, the “man after God’s own heart”. So much of God’s story in this world was written through David’s life…so much scripture…so much poetry…so much history…it is hard to imagine anyone being used more profoundly by God. His passion was extraordinary, his love for God immeasurable. His leadership was undeniable, and his lineage would produce the Savior of the world. Not a bad spiritual resume, if you ask me.
Did I mention his poligamy? His adultery? The murder? The “divorce” from his first wife (she apparently had a problem with his dancing in the streets in his underwear), the attempts by his father-in-law to kill him, and the subsequent re-marriage to her? Did I mention his eight other marriages (and that number is just the number of wives whose names we know…there were apparently many others whose names are not mentioned in scripture)? How about David’s first son’s rape of his half-sister…followed by her brother’s murder of that same son in retaliation? How about the attempt by that second son to overthrow David’s reign as king? Did I mention that David’s own men …
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. Matthew 16:16-17
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Matthew 16:22-23
I was the baby in my family. That means I got to learn from my older sibling’s mistakes (sorry, Sis)…not that there were THAT MANY mistakes there to learn from…but there were a few. And I did learn from them. That, it seems to me, is a huge benefit of being the younger brother.
I think of Peter that way…an older brother from whom we can learn. For me, Peter’s spiritual pilgrimage has always served as a great illustration of the human frailty of the church. Just like a local body of believers, there are times when Peter got it so very right, and there are times when he got it so very wrong. Looking at his pilgrimage in Matthew 16 raises for me a couple of important lessons for the church.
1. Celebrate when we get it right, but don’t get too cocky…we may just get it wrong tomorrow. My church happens to be one of the really healthy churches in our community right now. I like that. It makes me feel good. Even though people coming from other, less healthy, churches do not constitute “kingdom growth”, I am not going to lie and act like it doesn’t make me feel good. My …
The only people who should work without a net are people who have something to prove about themselves. Honestly, but for the entertainment value, I cannot think of any good reason to do it. Nonetheless, as I consult with churches and their leaders, I encounter leader after leader working without the safety net of an accountability group. In most cases these are bright, well-meaning ministers with lots of good things going for them. But they will fall at some point (we all do) and that deafening silence they experience just before the sharp pain of rock bottom will be the complete absence of any support structure in their ministry life…and it will be their own fault, because they never pulled any accountability around them.
More times than not, the reason we don’t subject ourselves to accountability is that we do not like being questioned. This is perhaps even more true when we are following a calling God has placed on our lives. In that case, depending on how comfortable we are in our own skin, we are capable of interpreting every question as opposition (rather than as a helpful thing). And we all know that, when we are doing God’s work, we must either ignore the opposition or steamroll right over it. There are no other options, right?
“I’m not accountable to anybody but God.” Believe it or not, I’ve actually heard this come out of the mouths of more than one pastor. It is silly enough that any of us would think these words to ourselves, but to actually say them out loud demonstrates an entirely new level of both arrogance and ignorance. It is arrogant because it implies that I, as pastor, am wired differently than everyone else–that I am NOT wired for community like …