Thursday, March 11, 2010

The myth of the bullet proof Christian

A few years back I was stunned (and pleased) to hear a pastor and friend of mine admit from the pulpit he's not bullet proof.

He was discussing his own experiences with his heart and learned -- without falling thankfully -- that he can't throw himself into any situation and expect his strong faith to remain so strong.

This is a man that's been married for decades, loves his wife, and I've seen his walk. It's formidable. He loves the Lord.

But he knew if he put himself in the wrong position, he's just as capable of stumbling into sin as the people who come into his office to seek counsel on how to dig out of the hole of their own transgressions.

I was reminded of this as I watch countless Christians, young and old, explain why they want to be in full-time ministry as part of their audition tapes for the Great Addison Road Drummer Search on YouTube. I get the impression some of these well-intentioned people think by getting into that kind of ministry, somehow:

• Their ministry will increase more than anything they might do on the local level
• Their walk with the Lord will be stronger
• They will reap some perceived spiritual benefit
• They will be less inclined to fall into sin like those who live the mundane life of a non-rock star

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The reality is going into any full-time ministry is an open invitation to daily challenges. A friend of mine used to call it "earning name recognition in hell," because being in full-time ministry is akin to putting a spiritual target on your back.

Just ask the members of Addison Road. The moment they went on the road last week challenges set in. And then again, but thankfully avoiding the ultimate tragedy.

And those were just physical challenges that could have led to faith erosion.

The history of visible, full-time ministry is replete with men and women with powerful ministries who fell into all kinds of sin, including philandery, sexual perversion, and divorce. Don't get me wrong here -- I'm not casting judgment on them. Not my job, not my heart.

I just think their stories should serve as a warning, because if there were ever any bullet-proof Christians, those people would be them. They served on the highest, most visible platforms and were reaching the most people.

But their stories of failure aren't the only ones. These things play out over and over again on the local level all the time, in all denominations. Experience suggests any position of authority in the Kingdom, big or small, makes every weakness that much more inviting to the enemy.

But there's no greater example of the myth of the bullet-proof faith than David. He was the King of Israel, God's chosen one, the man who wrote key passages in our Bible. How holy was he? Oh, he just sent his friend to the front lines to be killed so he could have his friend's wife.

The reality of joining a group like Addison Road is that first, it's a challenging job and you are in a touring rock band. All the temptations of indulgence in secular music are there in Christian Contemporary Music. It doesn't matter what you're singing about on stage. It's pretty common to simply become the performer on stage and a less-righteous person off it. There really is no difference.

But even more challenging is that you are constantly in the public, and it causes most people to withdraw emotionally because it can be dangerous if you allow yourself to get messy in front of the public. It can lead to one becoming less and less transparent in ALL their relationships, which seems to always lead to a fall.

Going into full-time ministry requires a deep understanding of your weaknesses, not just a recognition of your strengths. And it requires perhaps a doubled-up commitment to prayer and surrender, because the challenges are only that much greater when you put your faith out there on your shirt sleeve.

1 comment:

steven hamilton said...

this is really encouraging and daunting at the same time, and reminds me of one of my favorite authors and techers, parker palmer, who outlines that leaders especially need to deal with the shadows that populate their own hearts and with "self-knowledge" and cannot assume all my efforts of influencing others are benign, in fact i can cast light or shadow on people unknowningly if i haven't gone very deep with myself. i think this has been particularly prolematic amongst charismatics, with at-times hallow assumptions about the Spirit working it out in the end...we have a responsibility that we must embrace here.

anyway, thanks matt, challenging and encouraging at the same time...