Imagine a man, a good man, a kind man. A man with a purpose, a man who sees his mission to bless the lives of those around him. An individual with character and depth who spends his time serving his neighbours, providing for his family and being a good husband. Then one day this man comes home early from work to find a brand new super luxury Lotus in his drive way.
The man enters his house and to his shock finds his wife in the arms of another man. But not just any man, a man dressed in the sharpest of suits, a man of obvious wealth and means, an impossibly handsome man, perfectly tanned and built like greek statue. Inevitably there is the screaming, the crying, the hurt and the pain. There is the counselling and the reconciliation. Our friend being a good man, stands by his wife.
But there is a splinter in his mind. Every time he closes his eyes he sees the stupendously attractive lothario who seduced his wife. He starts to look at himself in the mirror and see his flaws, how his body is not well built, how his jaw is not chiseled, how his skin is pale and patchy. He thinks of his reliable yet boring sedan.
This begins to eat away at our friend, he fears that his wife could leave him at any moment for the impossibly handsome and obviously richer man. So he starts to work out, he starts to research get rich schemes, he begins to visit tanning salons. But he cannot lose the weight, his body does not respond. So he begins to crash diet, he considers taking steroids. He finds himself gambling for hours on end hoping for a huge win.
His neighbours wonder what happened to the man who brought so much life and community to their street, his children wonder why he no longer has anytime for them. Our hero is no longer a hero, he no longer is spoken of as a man of character, he no longer has a purpose or a mission. He is no longer a good and kind man. He is now an anxious wreck.
I have come to the conclusion that many leaders and pastors out there are like this man. The vast majority are committed to mission, to seeing people outside of the church come into a life changing relationship with Christ and to see their communities transformed, the poor served and justice done. But there is a problem. No longer do many have congregations who will aid them in this mission, instead they look out into the mass of faces that they see on sunday and are confronted instead with highly critical and opinionated consumers. People who find themselves torn between faith and the glitzy power of the Western Dream. The post-war generation who has been born into a post-Beatles post -Disney world, where the concept of commitment and service has been replaced by the demands of entitlement and entertainment.
These pastors feel that they are one error, one wrong word, one wrong decision away from losing their flock to the culture, or to the cooler, hipper church down the road. They know that they cannot compete with MTV, or with churches with multi-million dollars budgets. So in a panic, gripped by fear, they attend conferences, pick up books all of which promise that their church can be exceptional, earth shattering, and inspirational. They develop a case of Ecclesia Nervosa. For a while they are hopeful and excited, but then reality smashes into them at the board meeting, during the pastoral visits or the thursday night bible study. And so many, fall apart on the inside, addictions develop, marriages and families fall apart, some just pick up and leave the ministry all together.
As I think about all of this, as I recall the heart to heart conversations that I have with leaders and pastors who have been overcome by anxiety and expectation. I cannot but think of the silence of that haunting moment on Golgotha; a silence punctuated by the sobbing of Mary. On the cross dying is the greatest leader earth has ever seen, he hangs bloodied and shorn of his closest confidants and disciples. He is a leader with virtually no followers left, yet stunningly, yet counter culturally, he is a leader who has fulfilled the ultimate mission.