While most of my blog posts are for Christians in ministry, this one is especially so . . . and I believe God has put it on my heart to share it. Thus I’m not going to ignore the still small voice, even though it would be more convenient to do so.
I’ve been following the Lord for over 30 years, and I’ve made an observation that I hear few people talk about today.
It can be summed up by this sentence: Scratch a Christian and you’ll find out what’s underneath.
Gifted communicators are a dime a dozen.
But when a Christian “leader” is scratched and they react in the flesh, then their “leadership” isn’t worth a toot on a tin whistle.
By contrast, Christian leaders who have been sufficiently broken before God wherein they are unoffendable . . . Christian leaders who respond gently when criticized . . . Christian leaders who react with grace if someone corrects them . . . Christians who don’t return evil for evil, even when persecuted or mistreated . . . are rarer than chicken molars.
By contrast, Christian “leaders” who will defend themselves at the drop of a hat and attack those who cross them (intentionally or unwittingly) are countless.
Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about.
I was speaking at a conference once with a group of other speakers. When the conference was over, some of us who ministered had lunch together.
One of the speakers, a well-known pastor, was upset. So he began to share with us a letter he received from one of his congregants.
He rehearsed the letter to us. It was written by a woman who had brought a gentle word of correction to him. She had been trying to reach this pastor about something important to her and she was puzzled why he didn’t respond to her for a long period of time, despite her many attempts to get him to respond.
Instead of owning the problem, the pastor threw his chest out and told us how wrong this woman was for expecting him to respond to her when she wanted.
He essentially went ballistic on this woman. He wrote a letter to her where he defended himself. His letter was laced with snide comments as part of his defense. He was, in effect, “putting her in her place.”
This only proved one thing. Although this man could speak well in front of an audience, he knew nothing of the cross of Jesus Christ.
He knew nothing of brokenness.
He knew nothing about losing.
His reaction was pure flesh.
What was equally sad is that none of his buddies saw this for what it was and none of them called him on it. Instead, they just affirmed his fleshly reaction.
Let me tell you something. With all the talk about “discipleship” and “mission” today, if the cross isn’t front and center in the lives of those who teach on these things . . . I don’t mean the salvific part of the cross, but the “bearing” and “dying” part of it . . . then such people don’t know the first thing about discipleship.
The reality of your discipleship gets exposed when you are scratched.
Someone who is truly walking in the Lord, not in pious rhetoric but in reality, can be scratched and they won’t get defensive and fire back.
They know how to absorb hits, punches, and exhibit the Spirit of the Lamb in the face of criticism and even persecution.
If this well-known pastor got in the flesh because a sister in Christ expressed her dismay that he didn’t respond to her, what would he do if he was truly being attacked unjustly and slandered by someone who had malicious motives?
“If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?”
~ Jeremiah 12:5
I don’t think I have to answer that question for you.
I’m not able to say that this was the only time I’ve seen this sort of thing.
I’ve watched famous Christians respond similarly (defensively and in the flesh), and I think to myself, “How can this person lead God’s people while showing no signs of the cross in their lives?”
So you, dear Christian leader — actual or aspiring — how do you react when someone scratches you?
Don’t make the mistake of silencing your conscience on this point and justify yourself. We all make mistakes and we all blow it from time to time.
But if reacting in the flesh is the impulse you go with and there’s no instinct in you that tells you this reaction is fleshly, then something is desperately wrong with your heart.
I don’t care how many followers you have, how large your influence is, and what big names you can drop. This question gets down to the profoundly naked reality of what you’re made of.
Your reaction to such things will reveal more about your spiritual stature than all the stemwinding sermons you’ve delivered or the books you’ve signed or the “great” people you’ve shaken hands with.
Consider it. It’s a wrinkle.
See also Don’t Believe Everything You Hear or Read (tragically, some people who profess to be Christians tell outright lies, so always go straight to the person being talked about to see if what you heard is true or not.)