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Who Do You Think You Are?

Who Do You Think You Are?

“We are going to find a more loving, compassionate pastor!” I remember the sting of those words, even though they were spoken to me nearly 20 years ago now. I can still see the woman’s tearfully angry eyes piercing through me as we ended a discussion explaining why I would not officiate the wedding of her daughter to a non-Christian.

“We have never found anyone who could teach the Bible as effectively as you! It has been life-changing for us!” I was so encouraged as a young church planter to hear such words from a new family. Yeah, that was a good day!

“This whole place is filled with judgmental *$#@! I’m done with all of you!” I heard those words from a musician we had asked to step down from our worship team because he was sleeping with his girlfriend and refused to stop. That incident occurred in that same church plant, on the day after the “good day” I mentioned above. After all, we can all only enjoy so much sunshine.

“The people here are so warm and loving. We and our children have loved it every time we come here!” Those were words I received just yesterday in an email from a family new to our area who have been visiting our church.

“We just can’t get connected here, so we are going to try some other places.” This was another email I received a month ago, from a couple who enthusiastically joined our church only three months ago!

When they tell you “ministry is a roller coaster,” they aren’t kidding!

We pastors are rightly expected to invest heavily in our churches. But sometimes, the way we invest makes us more subject to the emotional roller coaster than we should be. To use an economic analogy, too many pastors relate to their churches the way an investor relates to an “Exchange Traded Fund” (ETF). An ETF is an investment fund that balances stocks, bonds, commodities and other investments in a way that will most closely match stock market performance. The net result is that market performance is nearly identical to your investment performance. So in a year like we have been having, anyone invested in an ETF is pretty happy. Conversely, 10 years ago ETF investors probably wondered if they would ever be able to retire!

In short, investment in an ETF most likely means your mood is determined by the market’s daily performance. And when something that volatile determines your peace of mind, well, you don’t typically enjoy a lot of true peace.

That’s what happens to a lot of pastors. We are invested in our churches at a level that ties our disposition to the largest pockets of volatility in the congregation. And that’s not healthy.

The truth is, we are never the saint our biggest fans think we are, nor are we the antichrist our worst critics see in us. But when our daily disposition toward our churches—or even our own sense of competence and worth—is measured solely in terms of how people react to us, we can become just as emotionally and spiritually volatile as the most immature in our churches. “The fear of man,” Proverbs 29:25 tells us, “will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” The key to getting off the emotional roller coaster that is powered by a focus on the approval of others—and staying off—is to remember these four truths:

Remember who you are.

You and I are, first and foremost, not pastors, but children of the most high God! We are purchased by the blood of Jesus and adopted into God’s family with all the rights that come with being His children. That, and nothing else, defines the core of who we are. When we tie our worth, or our identity, to the opinions of a few, or to how many people filled the seats this past Sunday, we insult our Redeemer and lose the very stable and sure ground on which He intends us to stand.