Monday, October 31, 2011

The Gospel is for Pastors Too...

I am looking forward to reading Tullian's new book Jesus + Nothing = Everything. In it he tells of the tumultuous first years of his ministry [beginning in 2009] as the new pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. Following D. James Kennedy's death, Coral Ridge began pursuing Tchividjian to become their new senior pastor. Tullian however was committed to the church he had planted. After much prayer and planning the decision was made to merge the two churches. And then the proverbial shoe dropped.

With the merger and the leadership transition, a small but vocal group of long-time Coral Ridge members immediately began voicing opposition to practically any and every change we initiated or even considered at the church. Blogs were posted, notes and letters were circulated—some anonymously—with false accusations about me. Just three months after I arrived, a vigorous petition drive was started to get me removed, and it gained steam. Some people began lamenting the huge mistake they’d made in agreeing to the merger, and they grumbled that the whole thing had turned into a “hostile takeover.” Their tone was frequently heated and vicious. Battle lines were drawn, rumors raced, and the spirits of those who supported me sagged. There was a crescendo of misunderstandings, frustration, and pain.

I continued in my determination to bring about what we believed were needed changes at the church, but the virulence of the opposition to them was almost more than I could bear. I was undergoing the shelling of my life—and I was plenty ready to quit and escape elsewhere. I was informed of possible other job offers from around the country, and believe me, they were tempting. It would have been so easy just to walk away from the turmoil I was in and never look back (pp. 21-22).
Church leadership is dangerous. In our context, the danger is usually not physical. Rather, it is dangerous spiritually and emotionally. It is dangerous for a pastor's wife who must help her husband to carry the load. She feels the sting of criticisms leveled against her beloved. In some unfortunate cases, the pastor's wife will be treated poorly by those who oppose her husband's leadership. It is dangerous for a pastor's children who, depending on their age, are able to see their father struggling. Imagine what it must do to a child's love for the body of Christ when they perceive it to be the very thing that makes their father sad.

This is why pastors must regularly, daily, even moment-by-moment declare to themselves gospel truth. Because of the nature of pastoral leadership, the pastor will regularly face the disapproval and even anger of those he is called to lead. There are times when he will respond sinfully which will add the weight of guilt to his already burdened heart. In those times (and many others) the pastor needs the liberating truth of the free grace of God mediated through the Lord Jesus. He needs to learn to take comfort in the acceptance of his crucified Savior, the love of his Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. This the pastor needs, for there will be many days when the costly acceptance of Jesus will be the only acceptance he knows.

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