Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Pastoral Traps -- Building Personal Kingdoms
There are many traps that lie waiting for pastors. Over the next few weeks I'm going to write about those traps. One of the reasons I feel compelled to write about them is because, as a pastor, I have noticed my struggle with them. In talking with other pastors, I have come to realize that these traps are not isolated to me, but something many others deal with as well.
The trap this post will highlight is Building Personal Kingdoms.
In Matthew 4 the Spirit of God leads Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Jesus fasted in the wilderness for forty days and forty nights. He is then approached by Satan at the end of the fast and endures a series a temptations. Jesus is weakened physically, but battling Satan with Scripture, he is able to withstand the attack.
However, the third temptation Jesus experienced stood out to me specifically as a pastor. Jesus is taken to a high mountain and showed all the kingdoms of the world and their glory (4:8). Satan then tells Jesus, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." (4:9). The temptation Jesus is presented with is not worshipping Satan, it is having all these kingdoms and the glory that is associated with them. Worshipping Satan is the vehicle to getting the actual offer being made.
As I contemplated this, I realized that this temptation lies at the feet of every pastor. If we are not careful, we will subtly slip into building and working for our own kingdoms. If not guarded, we will stand on the mountain peak daydreaming of those kingdoms of greatness that we are pursuing, and the glory that come with them.
This trap is hard to see because the actions you are doing may not look differently than the person focused on serving God alone. The actions look the same, but the motivation and goal become different. So pastoring can be for personal glory. Writing can be for personal glory. Preaching and teaching can become about personal glory. The kingdom built can become the kingdom of self, and the glory sought can become the glory of a famous name.
Not every pastor is guilty of this; however, every pastor should be on guard for it. Building personal kingdoms is a trap that lies waiting for every pastor.
Jesus' response to Satan shows us the nature of the offer that was made. Jesus says, "You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve." (4:10). This is vital to see. Jesus counters Satan's offer by telling him that God alone is to be worshipped, not Satan, and not the glory of personal kingdoms. It is the Lord our God that we shall serve, not ourselves.
Here would be three recommendations I would make for pastors to do:
1. Continually evaluate and prayerfully examine the motives behind the actions you are doing.
I think it is good for a pastor to regularly ask, "Why am I doing this?" When you ask that question, avoid giving yourself the cheesy church answer. Examine your heart. Search your motives. And move aggressively when you notice seeds of personal kingdom building present.
2. Remember that there is more joy and satisfaction in serving God and His kingdom than all the glory of serving your own.
If we want true joy and satisfaction, it will never be found in making much of ourselves. True happiness and is found in making much of God and living for His glory.
3. Invite some other local pastors or current pastoral friends into conversation about this trap, and share honestly with one another the personal struggles in this area.
Other pastors struggle in this area. This trap is something any person can be vulnerable to. Grab some local guys together and be real with one another in this area. It will be both refreshing and helpful to all involved.
I hope this will be helpful. I would love to hear other recommendations you have for avoiding this pastoral trap. Contribute your thoughts in the comment section below.