When Numbers Are Not Enough

Posted on May 6, 2013 | 19 comments

This is a hugely tough post to write.

In my area, there has been a rash of high profile pastors succumbing to affairs. Heard about another one this weekend. My guess, not knowing them, would be that at some point they stood tall and declared to someone close to them “I’m not going to be that guy.”

I get it because I was that guy.

At the time, I didn’t understand the relationship between following Christ and adopting Him as my identity. I was simply following Jesus out of my own strength, all the while doing what I could to prop up my false self. I was asking Jesus to be my accessory.

So I write this post hoping that one of those pastors who has become that guy will see and read. I don’t want to save them. I don’t want to get blog hits from them. I don’t want fodder for gossip.

I want to be vulnerable with them. Help them address their brokenness and maybe provide some guidance on breaking free of their role for Christ and developing an identity in Christ.

If you are such a pastor, contact me, let’s talk and start the journey together. If you know of such a pastor, anywhere, forward this to them. I want to offer myself to them without strings or fee.

Satan attacks, that is true and he is relentless. But we make the opening wider when our identity is in the wrong place. Putting on the full armor of God means clothing our self with Christ – having an identity rooted in Him.

For the pastor, well meaning as he or she may be, it becomes very easy to answer the questions of identity outside of Christ (see Why Do We Adopt an Identity). After all, the role is spiritual because they are working for God, right?

What do I do?

What ministries does my church offer? How many services do we have? How often do I preach? How many leaders am I developing? Do I attend everything? Does my family serve enough? Are we growing numerically? Should I write? Do I spend enough time with the kids?

What do I have?

How many people attend weekly? What is the size of my building? How many campuses do we have? How big is the offering? Do people know who we are?

What do people think of me?

Did they like my last sermon? Are people responding to my calls for action? Does my marriage look ok? Are my kids behaving? Is my staff loyal? Are other churches doing a better job? Are the people around me really my friends or are they just using me?

Propping an identity – a sense of worth and significance – on those questions will never be enough, because the answer will change from week to week.

From outside, other churches and their pastors will look to be doing it better, increasing the feelings of inadequacy and need for success. Insecurity drives the pastor with this foundation.

With such an identity, vulnerability and weakness represent failure and must remain hidden.

With such an identity, the church becomes a business and success depends on what and how much you are producing.

And our spouse becomes another prop for our own identity. Rather than relating in marriage, rather than self-less love, the marital relationship becomes about worship. The pastor wants value reflected to them by their spouse as they expect to get it from their congregation. And they want it easy, after all, much energy has been spent at the church.

Even if it works for a time, the returns diminish quickly and the pastor with misplaced identity must work harder to get less and less payoff.

All of this leaves the pastor open for someone to come and build them up. Give them the charge they need. To reflect the worth to them that they have been longing for.

Probably a someone who is, for their own identity, needing to be noticed by their pastor.

Here is the good news – we serve a God who restores. A Savior who stands at the door and knocks, waiting for us to throw off the old, false self, and step into our new self. A God who does not determine our value and righteousness by what we produce, but through His Son.

The road back it tough. Developing an identity in Christ requires confronting the lies of your heart. You have to deal with the new lens people view you through without losing your self. But it is possible. Jesus will not leave nor forsake you in the process.

Cloth your self with Christ and stop feeding the false self.

Do you know someone, pastor or not, who needs to read this post?

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  1. Thanks for your vulnerability here. NO one is beyond temptation. Clothing ourselves with Christ is the greatest advice. Only in Him can we find our ultimate satisfaction. Easier said than done, but it’s the goal.

    • Thanks, Lisa, for stopping by!

      • Really, REALLY glad you shared with us at #TellHisStory. I shared your story on Twitter. Thanks for all you’re doing. It matters… It really matters.

        • Thanks for coming over! Hope you come back.

  2. Your words here today, Scott, remind me of the story of Justin and Trisha Davis at Refine Us Ministries. I think both of them had become victim to the need for others to prop up their sagging self-esteem and identity while in the ministry. It’s the perfect set-up for Satan to come in and “steal, kill and destroy” a marriage.

    I’m grateful for your humble offering to pour yourself into other pastor’s who’ve gone astray or are tempted to. I pray that your efforts are multiplied under God’s mighty hand. Thanks so much for all you do here and for linking this up with Wedded Wed. If I know of a pastor in this situation, I’ll be sure to refer them to you!

    • Thanks for reading. While I would not have chosen this path, the spiritual journey that began after my breaking point has been amazing. God has been present and has also provided opportunities for good. That is the economy of God, right? Making good from our garbage.

  3. Such honesty here. We know that all have sinned and fall short… yet somehow, it’s more shocking when it’s someone in a church leadership role- we tend to forget they are a part of that “all.”

    • It is so easy, as a church leader, to convince your self that your role represents your spiritual life. All need to find their identity in Christ, not relationship, role, status, or anything else. Thanks for reading, hope you come back soon.

  4. Hey Scott,
    Courage is usually learned by temptations and adversity. You know how jack up I am. But I admire strength to be a real person who truly does care.

  5. Wow. Thank you for such awesome honesty. My marriage has been through an affair and of course we still struggle. I know that it takes huge strength for men to even talk about their weaknesses and sin. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you for stopping by. Vulnerability has been a huge opportunity for ministry, had to learn that the hard way.

  6. Thank you for your honesty. You are right…the minute we don’t believe we are capable of sinning is the moment we step full on into a trap. Oh, how I pray that God will work humility in me to keep me from falling into that trap.

  7. This sickens me, to hear this, but your honesty and your willingness to help are refreshing. No strings attached. Yes. Thank you for linking this with Scribing the Journey.

  8. Such a heartfelt and honest post! Sometimes Christians put their pastors on a pedestal and forget that they are flawed, just as we are and need our prayers to lead us well. Thank you for the reminder!

  9. No judgement here. I haven’t met a single person yet who wasn’t a sinner in need of a Savior. It is the learning that happens within our failings that brings us to our knees before the One who can set us on the narrow path. You are a blessing for reaching out in your vulnerability that you might help another who has stumbled. Keep doing what you do. Thank you for linking this post up with me at Walking Redeemed!

  10. I’m grateful for brave folks like you who are willing to let God use their story to help others. Keep sharing, friend, though I know it’s hard. You are doing good work.

    • Thanks for the kind words, and for stopping by.

  11. Yesterday I was talking to my sister about this new reality show (I think it’s called Pastors of L.A.) or something like that and we were just so saddened by it all. The line between pastor and celebrity seems to be getting blurred and where we go from here, who knows.

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