Another week passes, and another painful story about a prominent pastor surfaces. The details vary, but I’ve noticed one common theme. It seems that the very traits that cause a man to rise to prominence invariably lead to his demise. The personality traits that allowed him to climb the mountain of ministry, and do so with relative success, often push him off the mountain on the other side.
A new pastor longs to do something great for God, and he does—but then this drive causes him to base ministry success on how prominent he feels and how big of a platform he has created. Another pastor’s charisma allows him to engage a new culture with ease—but then this charm fosters an improper relationship with a woman in the church. Or, a pastor is a savvy leader, knowing how to put money and people in play in a way to maximize strengths and minimize weaknesses—but then this ingenuity leads to underhanded financial practices that disqualify him from ministry.
It seems that this trend does not merely apply to those who have achieved some national level of fame. It’s not just those who preach to big crowds, write bestselling books or are sought-after conferences speakers. Countless other pastors and ministry leaders crash every day. We’ll likely never hear of them, but I’d guess the process is much the same in every case.
And, the same is true for those who are not pastors—all people face the same temptation to allow their greatest strengths to lead to failure.
So, what do we do? There’s no shortage of answers, and in the wake of each pastoral scandal, all sorts of finger pointing ensues. Certainly, we could, and probably should, question our definitions of success or our defining ministry philosophies. My goal is much more meager.
I’m afraid that if I’m not careful I could fall off the mountain too. My gifts are more modest, and my platform, well it’s barely off the ground. But, I’ve been a pastor for 15 years and, as of today, I still am one. The Spirit has gifted me in certain ways and used them to bring fruit from my life. If my theory is correct, then it is in these very places that I am most prone to failure. It’s in those areas that I have to protect me from me.