My wife and I were recently talking about a couple who once attended a Church where I was the pastor. This couple loved us and supported us through some good and bad times. They appeared to grow in their faith and even assumed some leadership roles. Now, they no longer attend any Church, spend lots of time drinking and seem to be so far from God.
One observation that we made during this conversation was that they seemed to by more attached to us as Church leaders than to Jesus. When we left, their faith disappeared as we drove out-of-town. As we finished our conversation, I grabbed my phone and typed the title to this blog into my notebook app.
It is a complicated issue. I stand in front of the Church each week and speak for the Lord from his word. If I do my job well and the Holy Spirit uses my efforts you will be challenged, encouraged and grow as a believer. The result is that you will be glad I spoke those words, and you will begin to thank God for me. (I am humbled by even this thought). This is all good so far.
The problem comes when we take these thoughts and begin to misapply them.
1. I can only learn through this one preacher
Sure some voices touch us deeper than others, but anyone who preaches from the Bible has something they can teach us. I firmly believe that all preachers can teach us if we really want to learn.
2. The growth God brought through my preacher is because of him
The preacher did not change your life. God changed your life, he just used a preacher to speak the words of faith.
3. Everything my pastor says is wonderful
No preacher is perfect in their life, words, and thoughts. None!! Continue to use your head and search the Bible for yourself.
4. It is no longer a good church without that preacher
Sure, the Church you attend will be different with a new preacher, but as long as it worships Jesus, it is still a Church. If you feel this way, you may have been too attached to the guy in the front and not the people setting around you.
5. My faith is dead without hearing that preacher every week.
I have never heard anyone say this out loud, but I have sure seen it in their actions. The preacher leaves, and they quit their Church and finally their faith. Were you really trusting Jesus or just the guy who was leading the Church? That is a huge difference. This one often comes out with a moral failure. If your preacher committed some grievous sin and you lose your faith, then your faith was built on the preacher and not Jesus.
Here is the bottom line: one day this Church will have a different preacher. I have no immediate intentions of leaving, but what if I did? Even if I don’t leave now then one day, I will retire (hopefully), or I will drop dead. One way or another this Church will one day have another preacher. Would that change the way you feel about Jesus?
I hope and pray that each one of you likes your preacher and he is helping you to grow. I especially hope for that if I am your preacher. I also hope you see a clear line between liking your preacher and loving Jesus. Your future in the faith may depend on this vital issue.