February 16th - Teachers
My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. James 3:1-2 (NKJV)
Recently, I have run into quite a large number of God’s sheep who have been on a long sojourn looking for a “new” church. When I build up enough relationship to ask them the difficult question of what motivated them to look for a new place to worship God I generally hear stories of how they were somehow disenfranchised and disillusioned by their previous church experience. Very often the finger is pointed at a pastor. Serving as a pastor myself, the first thought flashing through my gray matter is a question: “How many people have been driven away through the years, because of my poor behavior, lack of wisdom, or because of something I said?” “OK,” I have been the pastor of record and watched people leave for greener pastures. Did I offend? Did I sin against them? Was I the reason?
James tells us that being a teacher or a spiritual leader in the Church is not a position to be taken lightly! As a teacher I should expect a stricter judgment…from God. “Yikes!!!” I need to ask myself some serious questions: “Am I really called by God to be a spiritual leader?” “What is my responsibility to the people God places under my care?” “Should I have pursued another career?”
Very often the offense that blows someone out the back-door deals with things spoken. My mouth has the potential to be a real source of offense and emotional pain. Sometimes I am simply jesting. (I thought I was funny) Other-times, I’m just being defensive and reacting to a criticism or an unkind word; but, speaking the truth without love is simply fighting fire with fire. If the goal is to burn down the work of God
this is a brilliant strategy; however, if building the Kingdom of God is of greater value to me than my hurt feelings, then my tongue must submit to God.
As I honestly look into God’s mirror I already know with certainty that I am flawed. Knowing that I shall receive a stricter judgment, I must pay attention to my words, both in and out of the pulpit. I need to make sure that my walk matches my talk. “So, help me God! Amen!”
Author's Note: I do consider teaching in the church to be a great honor and challenge. I have two major concerns: 1) That I am doctrinally sound. 2) That I don't preach or advocate actions or behavior that I am unwilling to model in my own life. Do I fall short of the mark? "Yes," but it doesn't change the goal. I also, greatly appreciate those that have walked with me for years and had the grace to love me and forgive my shortcomings. My friends are remarkable! RJD