I would never leave my wife – because I love her and because no one else would ever have me. When I was a teen, I came to believe that my middle name was “homely.” But there was one moment, in my teenage drama that still shines in my memory.
There was a beauty about. We’ll call her Bonnie. My friend Barry was attracted to her. But because of his fragile ego, he appointed me as his go-between to speak on his behalf.
So, I found her and began to talk with her. “Oh no boyfriend huh?” I relayed the intel to Barry, and he was pleased. He sent me back for more.
I asked about her hobbies and family and school and of course I told her all about Barry. He was so delighted with my report that he sent me back with more questions.
And on it went. Several conversations later, it was clear that Bonnie was smitten. Not with Barry – but with homely old me.
She had fallen for the messenger.
Does that ever happen at church?
It does! Paul and Barnabas were preaching in the town of Lystra. There they healed a man who had never walked a day in his life.
The pagan populace was astounded so they said, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” They began to call Barnabas Zeus and Paul Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. The priest of the temple of Zeus, located just outside the city, brought bulls and garlands to the city gates; he and the crowds wanted to offer sacrifices to them.” – Acts 14:11-13
The Lystrians were misguided. They fell for the messenger rather than the Lord of the message.
And isn’t that we sometimes do with Christian leaders?
Pastors, teachers, evangelists are all part of God’s good provision for us. But we can become more attached to them than we are the Lord.
Have you ever heard comments like these? “I skip church now because I listen to the celebrity preacher on the internet.” “I don’t read my Bible much cause I listen to that woman’s podcast.” “This new pastor – isn’t like the old one. I’m out of here.”
Or what about this, “My pastor can do no wrong.” Really? It’s this kind of assumption that makes it possible for a megachurch pastor to be a sexual predator or an embezzler and yet have the board and congregation beg to keep him in the pulpit. This happens a lot.
Or maybe the opposite takes place. The pastor errs and the faith of his congregants is eroded. They pitch out Jesus with the preacher. Bad things happen when we confuse the messenger with the Lord of the message.
So, Paul responded to the folks of Lystra, “Men, why are you doing these things? We too are men, with human natures just like you! “– Acts 14:15a
Our leaders are flesh and blood just as we are. They need accountability not worship.
Then Paul said, “We are proclaiming the good news to you, so that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God.” Acts 14:15b Paul argued that he was only a messenger with a mission.
In the same way, the task of those who lead us is to direct our hearts to God and not to themselves. Don’t give your heart to the messenger and beware of any messenger who may try to take it.
It was my honor to serve as a pastor. When I finally left that one church after 32 years of service, I left the hearts of my congregation behind. I loved them and most of them loved me. But their hearts were not mine to keep. They belonged to Jesus. They still do.
Listen to the messenger but give your heart to Jesus.
A PRAYER: Lord, I thank you for the many faithful folks who lead your flock, may they always lead them to You.
This has been Jim Johnson and pickleheavenpress.com
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Scripture references are from the NET Bible ®