I am a pastor and this post is a reflection of something that happened to me "on the job." For anyone reading this post without a belief in Jesus, the Bible, or in His constant patience and work through His church, hopefully it's entertaining and can possibly open your eyes to one or more of the following:
1. Church people are no more or less jacked up than the regular "Joe Schmo."
2. Pastors make big mistakes all the time.
3. We believe it's a miracle that Jesus still loves His church & is powerful enough to still use it. Yes, we're crazy enough to believe this.
4. Sorry that me and other Christians are often bad examples, don't represent Jesus accurately, and are sometimes the worst at showing love to others.
This woman had done so much for our church. Under my leadership, for 2 years, she worked tirelessly to serve others. She led small groups, opened her house to church activities, served her community, and sacrificed an incredible amount of time for others. She also was a huge supporter of me. In retrospect, however, the whole time she was encouraging me, she was keeping a Pastor Joey Svendsen “naughty list.”
As we sat in an office, she handed packets to my Pastor, her Pastor (me), her husband, and kept one for herself. And then this woman proceeded to tell me that I would one day make a great leader and pastor, but first things first: “You need to give your heart to Jesus and become a Christian.”
What were the stacks of papers? Prophetic words that God had given her about my lack of salvation, “inappropriate” old ice-breaker activity sheets that I had used at volunteer Christmas parties, and – I’m pretty sure – copies of e-mails that, according to her, shouldn’t have been sent. My pastor wasn’t interested in looking at her presentation – he already knew she was coming from way out of left field. Frankly, he seemed pretty puzzled by the whole ordeal. He was gracious with her, but expressed how concerning these accusations were.
Nonetheless, she stayed firm. She insisted that I “wasn’t a Christian.” And here’s why:
I admitted the extra measure I had to take to not look at attractive girls. “You have no business being my Pastor if you have this struggle.”
I didn’t know the exact time and date of my salvation experience.
I didn’t pray enough. Hmm. I didn’t realize she was watching me 24/7.
I could go on, but I’ll stop there. Do you see the common thread? Her reasoning for discounting me as a Christian altogether was based on things I do, don’t do, do too much, and don’t do enough. Last time I checked, our salvation was based only on what Christ has done.
I began to realize something was up with her when multiple people came to me concerned with how she was leading their women’s small group. She led in a domineering way. She placed herself on a pedestal of “proficient Christian” and perceived the rest as inferior, dumb-ass sheep. She had not forgotten the blood of Jesus. She understood that Jesus was her only hope of salvation. But that was the end of her dependence on Jesus. Now that she was saved, had been matured, and perfected, she from this point on “learned from no man” and “did not struggle.”
This presented a problem of magnificent proportions. Her having any leadership whatsoever within the flock God had entrusted to me wasn’t going to work. I brought these concerns to her attention. I tried to help her understand that we as Christians never stop being dependent on Jesus. It just didn’t take. Jesus was all she needed, she had nothing else to learn from anyone, she hears perfectly from God, and thus she was right about everything, including my current destiny to live apart from God throughout all eternity. She had lost sight of the gospel.
I believe this woman is saved. I believe that her sins of pride, self-righteousness, judgmental/critical spirit were nailed on the cross and not counted against her, ever, as Jesus said “It is finished.” But, I also believe that she will lead people towards the same bondage she was in. Blind people can’t lead blind people.
I don’t want to make a huge learning deal out of this post. I want to confess that I made some unwise choices in allowing her to influence people. I was enamored by her works, and when all this was said and done, had been scarred by experiencing this whole ordeal. I felt violated.
Paul says in Galatians 5:1 that “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” He knew what was at risk when Christians lost sight of Jesus’ grace. I think that this woman, whom I love, demonstrated that when one loses sight of grace, the sky is the limit as to how much they can deviate from the gospel.
This is seen often through readers’ comments on our blog posts; people believing their “putting us in our place” is the more significant need, rather than showing love.
When we lose sight of the true gospel, we’ll either be crippled by frustration and retreat to more sin, or we’ll be consumed with prideful sin, proud of ourselves for our filthy rags.
In my opinion, the life of a Christian boils down to this: the tighter I cling to the freedom and grace that Jesus offers, the less desire I have for the things that He lovingly warns me to avoid.