What’s happening to my generation
I just got off the phone with a good friend of mine after becoming aware that another pastor my age has imploded. Not literally, but has fallen into the all-too-common mess of not being able to sustain a ministry with integrity. This is becoming a church epidemic as we are seeing mega-sized genx-led churches fall into a broken place. As I watch this happening I’m grieved. So much success followed by a fast and painful fall to the bottom. Think about it: Perry Noble, Mark Driscoll, Pete Wilson, my friend – and countless others have gone from an esteemed position of pastoral success to losing the flock they worked hard to reach. Are they bad people? Absolutely not!
What’s going on?
Why is my generation leading the church into implosion?
While I don’t have all the answers, I can certainly pass on a little advice to anyone who desires ministry.
1 – Be transparent.
I’ve been writing about this a lot recently. While it ties into the next two points, it needs to be stated separately that with transparency there is no room for pride, arrogance or insecurity. It is the areas that I don’t want people to “know about” that I find myself suffering the most. Makes sense right? Our instinctive protective act of hiding started way back when sin entered the earth. It has since become our natural response to doing wrong. We turn and hide. “If no one knows, then I’m still ok”. Ummm. Nope
John 3:19-21 ESV /And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
We don’t like the feeling of exposure, especially when we have something to hide. However, we cannot ignore that the enemy has a stronghold when we are hiding something. But there is hope, if we remember the story – God’s response to Adam and Eve’s sin was to still spend time with them. In the first story of the Bible, there was apparently a relational meeting that took place everyday with God. After sinning, Adam and Eve missed because they were hiding – yet God (knowing everything that had happened) still chose to meet with them. We see in Genesis that God showed up to walk with them, knowing that they had sinned.
Don’t chose to hide your imperfections or your faults, expose them so that you can be healed. Expose them so that others may know the depth of God’s love. It’s in that transparency that we are able to enjoy life much better and not drive ourselves to the ground. Trust me – I’ve done it the wrong way for far too long!
2- Be accountable.
I heard a phrase once that the strength of my accountability rests entirely on my transparency. In other words, I can only be accountable to someone to the level I am willing to be accountable. Not only do we need to have accountability partners in ministry, but WE need to be accountable to them.
Be honest, be forthcoming.
When you begin to struggle with something (temptation, burn out, emotional or physical health issues) have the kind of people in your life that you can run to. We have a tendency to want people in our life that will keep us accountable that will only “encourage us” or will keep a high opinion of us, but we should be looking for people that we can be openly honest with and not worry about their opinion of us.
- The keys to a great accountability partner are: prayer focused, nonjudgemental, wise-experienced, spiritually mature leaders. These are not our friends per se, but they are people who care more about us then we do ourselves.
- The keys to being accountable are: predetermined questions, written commitment, scheduled conversations, and access to those closest to us. Now, all of that seems daunting and invasive, however accountability doesn’t just identify the good or the bad, accountability eliminates the room for darkness in our lives.
1 John 1:5-7 5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
3- Be broken in private.
Now when you first read that statement – it seems completely contrary to the first two points, but let me explain. If I am not broken before God first, then I am never going to be useful for the kingdom. There is a passage that says in Luke 9:62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Too often we think that our personal lives shouldn’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t affect our effectiveness in ministry. But it is more than what we look like on the outside, it is the focus of our heart that affects our effectiveness. Couple questions to ask ourselves:
Where am I looking while plowing the field?
What are my eyes entertaining while pushing forward in the kingdom?
See I believe we have a focus problem within my generation. We have seen the success of our fathers, we have seen the success of our fellows and we have become obsessed with driving the plow while looking around. We have spent our time in comparison instead of in commitment. The conversation that is happening in Luke is referring to the regrets of life. When I first read that I was thinking of the mistakes and the sins of my past, but I think it is deeper than that. I think we have a comparison issue in our hearts. It could be towards a specific person, or it could be against yourself. Either way, this place of trying to prove ourselves, or “improve” ourselves, will drive us into an unhealthy place. In fact the word for unfit literally means “rendering oneself useless”. It’s not the plow that is the problem, it’s not the field that’s the problem, it’s not even the strength that is the problem – it’s the focus.
Being broken in private is choosing to living a sacrificed life. It is making the Master’s feet more important than that Thursday night tv show that you cannot miss. It’s making the most important appointment of the day – being at the foot of the cross. I’m intrigued by the life of Joseph. He went through calamity, hard-luck, and disasters all along the way. Yet while he was trailing in a downward spiral, opposite of “the call” in the physical direction, he was actually climbing higher spiritually. God was developing in his character and Joseph was developing his relationship with God. So when the time came to be elevated, it wasn’t the typical growth path, it was simply closing the gap between what God was doing on the inside and what was happening on the outside.
Basically, I am saying that eventually our spiritual health will dictate everything. If we focus our efforts on a successful career, fulfilling our dreams, or growing mega churches – but our souls are depraved of spiritual health – we will fall. Except when we fall in ministry… people fall down with us.
It’s really up to you…