“Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God.” 2 Cor 2:17
As a teenager, I once went to a Christian summer camp. I was new in the faith, but felt a leaning towards ministry and watched as the speaker shared his faith. A few days into the camp, the keynote speaker started to share about a devastating experience, where a middle aged man had come over to his front porch and “blown his brains out there.” I honestly cannot recall the point of his message—perhaps the pain of life—but I remember the graphic detail. Looking back, I wonder why did he feel compelled to share this story to a room full of teenagers?
Reading pastors’ blogs, sermons, and books, it feels like there is a competitive game of let me tell you about my sin-filled community. One guy speaking at a very large conference last year mentioned that one man in his church is the owner of multiple strip clubs in the state, other pastors feel compelled to be photographed with disgraced politicians, and others try to relate to people by saying from the pulpit, “let me tell you about this person I was talking with…”
I will be honest, this is a plea for pastors, because it is a reminder for me. God has put this on my heart…as I have had the deep privilege to walk into the darkness of people’s lives. As the facade of south charlotte begins to crumble through Waypoint, we are seeing and hearing the reality of the pain of life. But where do we take that rubble?
I was asked recently, what do you do with all the stories and mess you hear about people’s lives? The challenge for pastors is that it does not seem we have a release valve for all this information.
It is tempting to blog and to say, “ohhh, that will make a good story in my book.” But like the pastor at the conference, we just are looking for validation. For subtly and insidiously, we are trying to profit (our reputation, our congregation size, our competency) off of our flock’s lives.
The reason I think pastors gossip in pastoral circles (let me tell you about this pew sitter…), or overshare at the Christian summer camp, or write it in yet another book with real life examples of Billy and Janie, is because pastors are failing to do our jobs.
How can we relieve the pressures of these people’s stories and pain?
Do our job: Take it to God in prayer on their behalf.
There are stories, I know I am going to have died never telling a soul, but that is okay because I am still—even 20 years later—taking their story to God in prayer.
So I’m gonna stop blogging right here and go pray for those folks over the years whose stories are filling my mind, my heart and my eyes with tears this afternoon.