“They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’” (Mark 9:33-35 NIV)
Lately there has been a lot in the news and on social media about what have been dubbed “celebrity pastors.” There is one in Charlotte, NC who has been the focus of several local news organizations because of the 7000+ square foot house he is building. He told his congregation, “it’s not that big of a house.” There is another in Washington State who was accused by the New York Times of hiring a public relations firm to boost sales of his books and having his books ghost-written without attribution. He denied any wrongdoing, but did confess to his congregation of losing sight of his priorities as a pastor.
One of the three temptations Jesus overcame in the desert was to be famous and have undisputed power over the world (Matthew 4:8-10). So it shouldn’t be surprising that the twelve disciples were and modern-day pastors are tempted in the same way—to desire to be viewed as great. Many aspire to lead mega-churches, to have book deals, and to be regulars on the conference speaking circuit. And they will be rewarded with adoring admirers and, often, great wealth. But as with all temptations, it is a trap.
As Jesus told His disciples, trying to be first, trying to be the greatest, is the surest way to find yourself last and the least in the one Kingdom that really matters. And those who have freely accepted the call to be pastors should be the ones demonstrating this truth. And you can find them if you know where to look, but not necessarily on TV screens, book jackets, or on conference stages.
There are pastors in the underground church in China who walk from village to village ministering to small congregations of committed believers for little money. Pastors in India face persecution on a near daily basis as they seek to evangelize and disciple in a Hindu-dominated culture. In South Africa, there are faithful pastors who labor in obscurity reaching out to men working in the gold and platinum mines. And in our own country, there are pastors on Native American reservations, in small towns, in poor neighborhoods in big cities who faithfully and effectively minister in the name of Jesus. You will likely never hear of them in this world because fame and greatness are not what they seek. They seek only to be faithful in serving. But make no mistake, they will be greatly rewarded when it really counts.
Today, in an age where celebrity worship has infiltrated the Church, be on your guard. The pastor (or any Christian leader) who seeks to be known and adored has forgotten his first Love (Revelation 2:4), and has fallen for the same temptation the devil served up to Jesus. For in order to be first in the Kingdom that really matters, you must live in this world as a servant of the only One who is truly great.
© Jim Musser 2014