Posted by: Taylor | October 13, 2006

“Be Courageous!”

Preach the WordI recently read an article meant to encourage me.  It was thoughtful, witty, and somewhat inspiring.  The title caught my eye.  I am always seeking new insights and inspiration for life.  The focus of the article was directed toward the courageous pastor.  We all wish to be courageous.  So, with excitement I began a journey, but I ended, frustrated, assaulted, and betrayed.

Just a simple thought:  “Be courageous!”  I agree.  “Be courageous, trust in the Lord, He is your strength,” and He is.  These are great thoughts.  But, then it happened.  The phrase I have come to loath.  The statement, which seems to typify many a successful large church pastor or some other guru who use to be a pastor, “Because of a lack of ________ (insert any of the following words:  faithfulness to the Word, leadership, courage, etc.) the church is currently in a terrible state.”

CowardThese helpful articles have decided that the current state of the church is to be faulted on “faithless, cowardly, and compromising pastors.”  Articles of this nature are hurtful and untrue.  Blaming pastors for the current condition of the church does more harm than good.  This is especially true when these attacks come from fellow pastors most of whom have large and thriving congregations. 

Articles like the one I read encourage pastors to preach and lead with a moral backbone, not worrying whether they will have a job come Monday morning.  “God will take care of you,” is the exhortation.  This is true; God will provide for His servants at all times.  But, it would seem that since the average pastor cannot tout the same fantastic growth as the author, the main problem is a lack of courage.  This is unfair, and unbiblical (by the way, the average U.S. pastor, 70% of them, has a congregation of less than 100). 

Great size has never been the high water mark of success.  Many servants of the gospel throughout church history have had little or no success in the world’s eye, and yet have accomplished great things for God.  But, in the end, to say that pastors are to blame for the current church’s condition in America, is ridiculous. 

Brave SoldierThe pastors I know are brave soldiers.  They stand in the trenches week in and out fighting the good fight with less and less resources every year.  To claim pastors are the problem and that they lack the spiritual backbone to speak the truth of God plainly, authoritatively, and in the power of the spirit, reminds me of two children lying in bed as they hear a strange sound, and the one safe under the covers tells the other, “Be courageous!  Go and see what the noise is.” 

It is easy to throw stones.  It is easy to find fault.  And, it is especially easy for a “successful” pastor to think he is the driving influence behind the success the church is experiencing.

The real problem is not pastors.  The real problem is our definition of “success.”  Once again, the world’s standards are being used as a measure.  This is especially true in America.  We want instant “success.”  We want results.  Results prove productivity.  A consistent progressive growth is not enough.  Building a foundation doesn’t matter.  We want instant gratification, and we want it now.  Anything less, would seem, in the pastoral context, a failure to “boldly proclaim the truth.”

I am a pastor.  It is a joy and a heartache.  I love it and hate it often at the same time.  I love it because of the people God has chosen for me to lead.  And, I hate it sometimes because of the people God has given me to lead. 

Leading is hard stuff.  Even when you are leading people who wish to be led, it is still at best a dangerous mission.  Leading is not for cowards.  And pastors are not cowards, but heroes.  They are normal people who have been called to do an extraordinary work.

Pastors are continually charged by peers with the message of, “Be courageous.”  Allow me a few Hiding in your shellexamples:  Pastors must preach the Word “courageously,” they must lead “courageously,” and they must confront culture “courageously.”  While being exhorted to “Be courageous,” there is usually a subtle unstated truth that is also being communicated.  “The church you pastor is not thriving because you have not been courageous.”  In other words, “You are a coward.  You have failed to do your duty.  You have allowed your fear of those you lead to determine your message, and therefore, your fear of people over fear of God is the demise of the church.”

I am tired of such messages.  I have been in ministry for eighteen years.  And in those eighteen years, I can only recall one man who I believe compromised in his leading of the church.  Each person I have served with is a personal hero of mine.  They all have sacrificed much.  More than this, their families have had to sacrifice to an even greater extent.  These men and women are not just brave; they are laying down their own lives for the sake of the Gospel.

Pastors don’t need to hear this mantra of “It is your fault!”  I don’t know a single pastor who is not “courageous.”  Every man that I know preaches the Word of God without compromise and with great passion.  It seems to me that if fault is to lie with someone on effectiveness then it should lie with the one who promises to build the church, grow the church, and preserve the church.  That someone would be God.  But, I don’t blame God.  You see, blaming is a trait of Satan, not of God’s children.  So, let’s be about sharing the joys, burdens, and victories which comes with participating in this great adventure God calls The Kingdom of the Age!  And, while you’re at it, “Be Courageous!”

Copyright © October 2006 by Taylor W. Kendrick

All rights reserved.  No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.

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