Every morning at 6:00 am two middle-aged men exercise to Insanity in front of a big screen in a children's classroom at Emmanuel Enid. My friend and I do sometimes feel insane jumping up-and-down, running in circles, and performing the various exercises, particularly since the professionals in the video are mostly in their twenties.. During this morning's video workout, the Insanity leader said, "I sometimes ask myself, 'Why do I push myself so hard?' Answer: I want to look good!" I appreciated the leader's honesty. His desire to look good drives him to push hard in exercise. That is certainly not my reason for exercise. I just want to be able to bend over without hearing a snap, crackle or pop. Regardless, his comment "I want to look good" got me to thinking about the subject of internal motivation.
Motives for Christian leaders are tricky things to evaluate. The way we talk has become so spiritualized we've lost our connection with reality. We speak about "God moving" when in reality we are manipulating. We assume that what we do is all of God and refuse to pause to evaluate whether what we do is more about us. We push because we wish to shape perceptions and 'look good' in the eyes of others, but we dare not admit this. We are conditioned to hide behind God-talk instead of transparency. When's the last time you ever heard a pastor say from the platform, "I am pushing hard for us to have big crowds in church and more money in the offering because I want to look good to you and feel good about myself!" I would find that refreshing and not near as repulsive as the spiritualization of Christian ministry.
My father is a very gifted teacher. He spoke to our church staff this week on John 10:10 where Jesus said, "I have come that you might have life and have life more abundantly." The word life (zoe) is defined by Strong's Lexicon as "the state of one who is possessed with vitality." My father said that the source for our vitality in life is to be found in Jesus Christ. He pointed out that in Christ there is (1). unconditional love, and (2). a Person who cares that you exist. Your source for life should come from Him.
As he spoke my mind flashed to the 200 letters left behind by those who committed sucide in Tulsa during my tenure as Tulsa Police Chaplain. I keep them in a file in my office. Every letter reveals a desperation that led to death because of something the writer did not believe and something the writer did believe. First, the suicidal person did not believe he or she was deserving of love and acceptance, and second, the suicidal person believed nobody cared whether they lived or died. Most people who ended their lives experienced a 'trigger'--something that led them to snap. The trigger was either the loss of a job, an end to a relationship, an exposure of a secret addiction, a diagnosis of a physical disease, or some other 'loss.'
Their source of life was lost.
Jesus came to give us life and to ensure that we do not depend upon anything else for our inner vitality. The exercise professional who draws his life from the acceptance of people when he "looks good" will one day need another source for his acceptance. The athlete who loves the limelight but no longer hears the cheers will one day need another source for his feelings of being appreciated. The businessman who requires cash flow and more capital to feel worthy will one day need another source for his sense of worth and value. Jesus came that we might find life in Him.
Here's the problem with church work. Too many pastors tie an umblical cord to ministry and suck their life from it. Too many Christian leaders need ministry. It's not just a job, its their life. If a Christian pastor thinks himself more important than a Christian plumber, he is drawing his life from what he does and not who he is. If a pastor feels value, worth and security when doing ministry but on the other hand he feels valueless, worthless, and insecure when not doing ministry, then he is drawing his life from ministry and not Christ. If a Christian pastor controls, manipulates and angrily takes 'authority' over other Christians in order to control perceptions about his ministry, then that pastor is finding his source and security in what he does rather than who he is.
In short, the source of your life apart from Christ becomes your sacrosanct possession. Nobody better mess with it. Nobody better question it. Nobody better criticize it. Nobody better threaten it. Nobody better disagree with it. Nobody better challenge it. Nobody better touch it. Nobody better hurt it. Nobody better say anything that causes people to question its value, purpose or benefits. Why? Because you die without it. Authoritarian, controlling, manipulative, pushy pastors can be better understood when we see the basis for such behavior: they are drawing their source of life from ministry and not from Christ. We only enable Christian leaders to continue down their path of personal destruction by keeping silent when pastors replace Christ with the church.
I suggest the greatest tool in God's shed for reminding Christian leaders that our source of life is to be found in Christ and not what we do is the Internet. It cuts the umblical cord that ties pastors to idolatrous ministry.