From Gilead: A Novel:
I get much more respect than I deserve. This seems harmless enough in most cases. People want to respect the pastor and I'm not going to interfere with that. But I've developed a reputation for wisdom by ordering more books than I ever had time to read, and reading more books, by far, than I learned anything useful from, except, of course, that some very tedious gentlemen have written books......Often enough when someone saw the light burning in my study long into the night, it only meant I had fallen asleep in my chair. My reputation is largely the creature of the kindly imaginings of my flock, whom I choose not to disillusion, in part because the truth had the kind of pathos in it that would bring on sympathy in its least bearable forms.
The first-person narrative of a
small-town pastor strikes at the heart of a struggle for all people, especially
those in vocational ministry - creating a false impression of godliness.
I am sure you know what I am talking about. You sense you have
created an aura around you, sometimes not on purpose, but nevertheless it is
there. How can you check your heart in this matter?
This is really a difficult thing
to diagnose. Do you know Christ or know
of Christ? Do you love the Bible or love reading/talking about the Bible?
Do you only buy good books or do you soak in them? Do you pray or just read about prayer? Do you study for a sermon only or for personal nourishment? Do you
meet with a lot of younger people in the name of discipleship or a few whom you
can really invest in? Is your ministry
more busyness than faithfulness? I am
sure there are so many questions you could ask that you could get bogged down.
The point - we can create a
reputation for holiness by keeping Christ an arms length away. If you are a talented writer or speaker, it is even more dangerous, as these gifts can cover a multitude of sin. We can
talk about "tasting and seeing that the Lord is good," but there really is no relishing Christ. In reality, we become a caricature of what
we should be.
Darren Carlson is the Founder and President of Training Leaders International. As President, Darren oversees the general direction of the ministry and serves as an advocate for pastors with little access to formal training and thoughtful cross-cultural theological engagement. You can connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.