Today, the "church" is once again looking like a mess to the world outside, once again creating countless reasons for those on the outside - those who doubt God, who argue religion is toxic, who say it's a created institution that should die - to smugly suggest that maybe they are right.
My heart is grieved.
We have pastors building million dollar mansions.
Pastors preaching that God wants to bless us with money and riches.
Pastors protesting funerals of soldiers, abortion clinics and churches.
Pastors who are vulgar, sexist, cheating control freaks.
Pastors looking to make themselves a name politically, socially or culturally.
Pastors falling to temptation of drug use, alcohol abuse, adultery and more.
Pastors known as "celebrity-pastors." (Cue Brad Paisley "when you're a celebrity it's adios reality...")
Then there are the pastors publicizing letters and blogs to said pastors for their lack of ethics and care.
As I read the articles and blogs, comments and attacks going back and forth, my heart broke. I wept for the bride of Christ. And for all of us within it, as leaders and members. And for followers of Jesus who have been hurt by the actions of church leaders. And for the many leaders caught in sin, who at one point in time looked at the mess and wept too. And especially for those who just want to love others and share the good news of the Savior who reached into their sloppy mess of a life and pulled them to freedom.
And I wept for myself.
Let me explain why.
I am seeking my M. Div., learning what it takes to be a leader in the church, pursuing what God has pulled me to - despite my kicking and screaming. I read these stories of pastors falling hard, and I can't help but be fearful of the slippery slope of pride and how it leads to lust for power, prestige, influence and a false sense of invincibility.
You see, pride is part of each of us. It's lurks in the background, somewhere near good intentions, ready to take over. In my years of youth ministry I have daily - daily - had to check my motives, check my heart. I've daily asked myself if the ministry I am serving is still about God or if I am making it about me. There have been times when the edge of pride has been well escaped. There have been other times where its been tested and rebuked by people I love and trust. And then...there are the times it's been slippery, catching me in the muck and sliding me right into the canyon of disaster. Those have not been good times. Thank you, Lord for your grace and the grace of those I serve.
Those times and all of the news in the world about pastors leaves me terrified.
I'm terrified because I don't know what it is that makes a well intentioned, Christ-centered, kingdom oriented leader stop checking their pride and loosing their grip on reality to full surrender to Christ. I know all about accountability partners, staying in the bible, having quiet time with God, daily worshipping, and taking time off for self care. But so did all the others. What changed?
Sin, at the very root, is our doubting the goodness of God. Because we doubt the goodness of God, we move into that place of pride, where we think we can do it better, know it better, preach it better. How in the world do I avoid that? How do I avoid that now? How do I avoid that in the future?
I don't know the answers. Tonight I'm wrestling with these questions, sliding down a different slippery slope of fear and confusion of how and where I fit in the church.
And yet, I'm comforted by the one thing that remains: the slippery slope of grace.
Jesus Christ is madly in love with his bride, his body, the church. And he's madly in love with the broken people who make up that body. He lived and bled and died and rose again so we can throw off all that binds us, all the brokenness and be found in that grace. Despite the wreckage that seems to abound - that seems to overtake the beauty of it all -we must not forget that HIS grace is enough and will remain enough as we continue to seek him, follow him and serve him. As we move ahead and meander through this valley of "bad press" my prayer is that we grant grace to one another, grant grace to the body, grant grace even as we rebuke and correct, and work to unity under the only name that saves.
The reality is the world needs the body of Christ - no matter how broken she appears - to show them there is hope at the foot of the cross. The world is in desperate need of knowledge that there is grace and mercy and a perfect love that binds the wounds of the broken-hearted, that promises no more sorrow and tears. We have work to do, Bride. We have a people in need of care and compassion and a message of hope to share. Let's get on with the mission and serve the one who selflessly did the same for us.