“How the mighty have fallen.”
(2 Samuel 1:19 ESV)
“How the mighty have fallen!” What was originally written as a heartfelt lament by David after the death of Saul and Jonathon, has now become a joyous cry of the underdog. When a powerhouse team loses unexpectedly, when the corrupt get their “comeuppance,” when the unjust get their due, when the oppressor is brought low, we hear it said with glee, “Oh, how the mighty have fallen!”
Today, I reclaim the phrase as a lament. I received news last night that a Pastor, whom I consider a friend and mentor, has been asked by his session to resign after “numerous instances of intentional plagiarism, admitted dishonesty when confronted with the plagiarism… and numerous conflicts with staff.” In his own letter, my friend confessed an overwhelming sense of failure, a crippling sense of inadequacy, and a “flawed belief system in that [his] sense of worth comes too much from what [he] does as well as the opinions that others have of [his] work performance.”
My heart is broken for my friend, the church, and all who are involved. This Pastor has been a blessing to my family, to me personally, to the church, and to his community. I cannot begin to imagine the pain that he and his family are feeling, and the turmoil and anguish of the session and congregation of his church.
I am not without sympathy for his crisis. I think any honest pastor who catches a momentary glimpse of the tremendous privilege and responsibility that comes with the ministry can be easily overwhelmed. To be told that “preaching the word of God is the word of God” (see the Scot’s confession), to have the eyes of the congregation turn to you as you work to turn them to Christ, to be entrusted with the responsibility of proclaiming the good news unto the salvation of all men, to be called a servant of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God – who else has such a position description.
Pastor’s have a difficult time dealing finding their self-worth outside of their performance. Our work lives are so intimately connected to our personal lives of discipleship and faith that difficulties in ministry cause us to doubt our faith, and successes in ministry lead to pride and spiritual superiority. Without a constant reminder of God’s love and grace as the basis of our self-worth, every complaint can lead to a crisis of faith, every “Good sermon, Pastor” can lead to a swollen ego that trusts itself rather than trusting God.
If anything, this is a reminder (a self-serving one at that) to pray for your Pastor. A few weeks ago I posted a longer essay by Gardiner Spring on my blog, here is a particularly relevant excerpt:
And who and what are ministers themselves? Frail men, fallible, sinning men, exposed to every snare, to temptation in every form; and, from the very post of observation they occupy, they are an easier target for the fiery darts of the foe. They are not trite victims the great Adversary is seeking, when he would wound and cripple Christ’s ministers. One such victim is worth more to the kingdom of darkness than a number of common men; and for this very reason their temptations are probably more subtle and severe than those encountered by ordinary Christians. If this subtle Deceiver fails to destroy them, he cunningly aims at neutralizing their influence by quenching the fervor of their piety, lulling them into negligence, and doing all in his power to render their work burdensome. How perilous is the condition of that minister then, whose heart is not encouraged, whose hands are not strengthened, and who is not upheld by the prayers of his people! It is not in his own closet and on his own knees alone, that he finds security and comfort, and ennobling, humbling, and purifying thoughts and joys; but it is when they also seek them in his behalf, that he becomes a better and happier man, and a more useful minister of the everlasting Gospel!
I know that Pastor Appreciation Month has come and gone, but please do not cease to pray for and encourage your Pastor. The Spirit teaches us in Galatians 6:6, “One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches.” Let your Pastor know what you’ve learned, how you’ve been blessed, how you pray for him, and how you will lend your support. I am confident that through prayer, patience, and continued obedience to the word of God, my friend will be restored in ministry, and that even this crisis too will be redeemed. Christ’s blood has atoned for every sin, and “everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world” (John 5:4).
Grace and peace,