Exodus 20:18 & 19 The people trembled with fear when they heard the thunder and the trumpet and saw the lightning and the smoke coming from the mountain. They stood a long way off and said to Moses, “If you speak to us, we will listen. But don’t let God speak to us, or we will die!”
Could it be that this is why we’re prone to let the Paid Professionals “do” the work of ministry for us? As I served as a pastor, I had countless people ask me to pray for them, many of whom I had never met before. I often wondered if they were also asking other people to pray for them or were even praying themselves. Or maybe it was just easier and less scary to let the “expert” do the praying.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s an honor to be asked to pray for someone. It’s an honor to approach the throne of God on someone’s behalf. I think it’s something we should do for each other frequently.
Then we read in today’s reading about how Jesus went off on the religious elite, including…
“For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.”
“For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
It kind of makes me wonder if those of us who have been in positions of teaching and leadership have, for whatever reason, encouraged the very behavior that is weakening the effects of our ministries. After all, we have this idea of what a great ministry leader should look like: outgoing, charismatic, super-organized, phenomenally engaging communicator, and extremely confident – never wavering in his faith….but as we’ve been reading about Moses…I don’t see any of that. But God called him to lead, anyway. I wonder how many search committees would even consider him for an interview. It also makes me wonder what a church would do if I walked in and announced that I believed God had called me to lead them – but that’s a different topic, I think. 😀
The formula I have seen time and time again can be a recipe for disaster. You’ve got a scared (and maybe lazy) group of people who want someone else do do the dirty work for them (like the Israelites did on Mt. Sinai). Couple that with a person described by Jesus here, a learned person who looks good on the outside, going through all the right motions and saying all the right things to encourage people to puff up the leader’s pride, and that can lead to a ministry that doesn’t display the power of God like it could (or should).
Don’t misread me here. I realize that recent posts might make it sound like I’m anti-pastor or have an ax to grind. I’m not. I’m actually very pro-pastor. It’s just that what I read in Scripture and what I’ve seen and experienced doesn’t always line up. As followers of Jesus, all of us are called to ministry, even though it’s much more comfortable for us to just show up on Sunday morning and let the Paid Professionals do the rest of the work of ministry for us.