When I think about the marks of today’s contemporary evangelical church, the faithful integrity of its pastors is not one of them. By that, I’m not necessarily referring to men who fall morally, or who are disqualified because of an unrepentant sin (although this too is pandemic). What I’m referring to is a faithful integrity to model biblical manhood. That’s especially true when I think about other pastors my own age. Don’t get me wrong, I know MANY men in the ministry who do model biblical manhood and who express faithful integrity in their ministries, but they are the exception that prove the rule.
When you look across the broad landscape of men leading churches, you mostly see a bunch of pseudo teens whose ministries are consumed with being cool and faddish (which also means they’re constantly changing to keep up with whatever’s new). It’s not just seen in my age bracket though. Because of modern technology, there is perhaps more temptation now than ever to compromise on a biblical philosophy of ministry in pursuit of the elusive “celebrity status.” Quite honestly though, it’s sort of awkward to see a bunch of men in their 40’s and 50’s, and yes, even 60’s acting like they just came out of a high-school pep rally as they run through the isles of their churches, up to the stage to start the message, only to open in prayer while they’re all out of breath! Gasping and wheezing is not a pleasant sound through amplification. I even saw one guy who tried to hide it once, only to start sputtering and coughing when he choked on some phlegm (he was quite visibly out of shape). Needless to say, he couldn’t regain composure.
But they so badly want a “casual” atmosphere, and the question to me is, “why?” Is worshiping God “casual?” Or do we follow Christ and His Word “casually?” Tell me, what about the Christian faith is casual?
In fact, it’s the very opposite of casual. When Paul says, “I discipline my body to make it my slave” (1 Cor. 9:26-27), the word choice he uses is quite graphic. It means to “strike a blow under the eye.” Evidently, Paul doesn’t have a casual perspective of Christian living!
Yet, many pastors with their juvenile behavior syndrome deem themselves successful. The problem is, they use a false measure of rule to evaluate their “success.”
I remember one such pastor being interviewed on Fox News. The host was wearing a suit and tie (the normal TV attire), and the pastor was wearing some kind of I-don’t-know-what. He wore what looked like some kind of high school letter-man jacket (It looked like the material came from a bunch of different letter-man jackets), low-riding skinny jeans (I didn’t know they made such a thing), basketball shoes without laces and a T-shirt. Then of course, he had all the chains and what-not hanging from everywhere a chain could hang from, and a mohawk. The first thing the host said after introducing him to the program was, “So… you don’t look like a pastor.” The guy was beaming. That was just what he wanted to hear. Oh… and evidently he had a church with over 10,000 people.
Many pastors are like that though. Their doctrinal depth is elementary (if they even have the gospel right), their behavior childish, and their churches worldly, yet they call themselves “successful.”
Because they experience opposition.
They assume that what they do must be right, in their own words, because of their “opposition.” They see themselves as a boat-rocker. They’re deliberately edgy and frequently brash. After all, didn’t Paul say that followers of Christ will be persecuted?
Well… it depends on what you mean by “follower.” True followers would be persecuted. That’s true.
Paul said in 2 Tim. 3:12 that “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
The problem is, the converse isn’t necessarily true.
In other words, if your’e doing something “right,” then yes, you will be persecuted. But, just because you’re being persecuted doesn’t mean your doing something “right.” That’s where many men today get it wrong. They see opposition because they’re “edgy.” And they think that that opposition validates their philosophy of ministry.
But if you take a close look at what Paul actually said in 2 Tim. 3, you’ll find that many have this backwards.
It is those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus that will be persecuted, not those who look and act like the world in order to “win” the world. And what does this life look like for a man of God? If Paul were to call you a “follower” of Christ, what would that look like? Paul lays it out pretty clearly in Titus:
Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance… Likewise, urge young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us (Titus 2:2, 6-7).
Did you catch some of those key words? Those are the marks of a man of God. Yet, in many cases, they are hardly synonyms for many of today’s pastors.
Temperate? A lot of what we see today are obnoxiously loud, hot-tempered and snarky ministers.
Dignified? Interestingly, that word can be translated “serious.” It’s not that we can’t be funny and light-hearted at times. In fact, we should be! We have the joy of salvation, which means we should be generally happy, and our lives should reflect that truth. Our own co-author on this blog, Darren Wiebe is often known for telling his music team, “You have the joy of the Lord! Don’t forget to tell your faces!” How true! But at the same time, the man of God should reflect the seriousness of his calling. Dignified is an antonym for “casual.” It means that you operate in a “manner or mode of behavior that is extraordinary and therefore worthy of special respect.”1
And what about “sound in speech?” Many men get caught up in their own emotional frenzy and let a few cuss words fly. What’s the problem with that? It’s just a word isn’t it? Plus, it sort of gets people ruffled up, and some even like it! The problem is, words reveal the heart of a man (Prov. 4:23; Matt. 12:34; Lk. 6:45), and if what comes out of his mouth is vile, then so is his heart. Is a shepherd with a vile heart going to be a good shepherd? I’ll let you answer that one.
The point is, the man of God, and especially the pastor, whatever his age, should not be concerned with building up his own celebrity status legacy. And he certainly shouldn’t be trying to make the local news by being so edgy he’s even offending the unregenerate. And above all, he cannot think that it’s because of his opposition that he must be honoring the Lord of the church… even if his church has 10,000 people. Someone once said, “Don’t mistake the blessing of God for His pleasure.”
If you are faithful, it is the world you will offend because your life and ministry will manifest righteousness and dignity at every turn. But if you are being offensive, you are not being faithful.
- Arndt, W., F. W. Danker, & W. Bauer. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature. 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 919. ↩