The Pastor vs. The World?

Posted: August 26, 2010 in Uncategorized

I was in Dover, Delaware last Saturday…you have my permission to be jealous…and, as is my custom for the first night in a hotel, I couldn’t sleep.  So, I slipped off to watch Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

If you haven’t seen it, it is the best movie about alt. rock, love, video games and Canada ever made.  In sum, the movie is about a Toronto bass player who falls for a girl that looks a lot like Kate Winslet from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind but, for reasons not entirely clear, the bass player (played by Michael Cera who is the same character in everything he does) has to defeat the girl’s “7 evil ex-partners.” 

Coincidentally, I was also reading The Works of Edgar Allen Poe over the weekend.  How is that a coincidence?

Poe almost single handily created the modern detective story complete with absurd crimes, stupid police officers and a brilliant detective whose only real friend is the loyal & brave but clueless sidekick.  The detective story is also very, very American.  Now, it’s true that Poe’s great detective, Auguste Dupin, is french but is really an American archetype–the individual who thanks to talent and training, fearlessly faces an impossible task and against all odds emerges victorious.

The classic exemplar of the lone hero is celebrated throughout our culture, even in sports.  We like to say things like, “there is no ‘I’ in team, but there is a “me”!  Does anyone but the most die-hard fan watch a game for the coolly executed double-play? The smooth assist? The deftly coordinated pass rush? NO! We want to see a home run swat by the one player versus nine others! We want to see Kobe score forty points while being double or triple teamed.  We want to see Chris Johnson charge ninety yards through eleven other guys to score a touchdown.  We hope for the one to bring our team victory and we daydream about being the one…and pastors are not immune.

I see a lot of envy in young pastors.  They want to be Mark Driscoll or Rob Bell or Steven Furtick or whoever.  They want to be THE man. They want to be the one to lead thousands to Christ via their megachurch or their popular vodcast.  They want bestselling books that shape the church for generations to come.  They want to be the hero who faces the bleak post-Christian, postmodern world and singlehandedly defeats the forces of evil through their wit and charisma. 

The problem with such a view is that it is unbiblical and impractical.

It is true that there are many examples of the lone individuals in Scripture that we celebrate as heroes (Moses, David, Paul, etc.).  But we must keep in mind that they were only successful when they yielded to the Holy Spirit.  The “heroes” of the faith never accomplished anything alone except sin. 

Practically, most churches did not become supersized thanks to the preaching and teaching of a charismatic pastor.  Studies demonstrate that churches will grow to somewhere between 150-300, depending on the size and culture of a given community, if there is strong preaching but will not grow beyond that without a strong team.

As is often the case, a growing, Gospel centered church must stand in opposition to cultural mores such as “the one,”  but it is extremely difficult to do so.  For what it is worth, this church planter recommends beginning every day with a lot of prayer! If nothing else, it is a powerful reminder of how truly dependent we are upon our graceful God and King.  I would also recommend prayerfully searching for others to help lead the church God has given you and to pray with them as much as possible as well.

Mark Batterson offered the wise advice to new pastors to “do less, pray more.”  I would only add that it is also necessary to pray with others that God has brought alongside of you…not behind you.


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