This is about a high school student who was known among the smartest in his class. With the aid of an exceptional scholarship, he went to college seminary for the dream of being the senior pastor of a large church. So he did just that…
He graduated as a top student in his class — even achieving a doctorate within the field. And it was by graduation that he was known among the locals as an up-and-coming pastor. Immediately after graduation, an opportunity arose to be the senior pastor of a megachurch. From the first Sunday service, the congregants were in shock and awe. No one had ever spoken like him before. As a young pastor, life was as good as it could be. His dream had come true. Everything was going well.
But over time, his sermons began to change. His message shifted. He began to preach from an area of unauthenticity. He preached about stuff he never believed. It was a type of sermon that encouraged compromising their faith. At this moment, his life began to spiral down. He began to lose everything — but not from a financial standpoint. It was something worse. It was a loss that other preachers would describe as the ‘soul’ of his preaching. His sermons no longer stood out. The passion had now grown stale. He lost a sense of purpose and identity... It was a part of himself that made him who he was — and was now gone. The church congregants identified the staleness of these messages, so they began to leave. The so-called “loyal congregants” who remained would have their faith shaken. And the senior pastor — our protagonist — no longer saw the value of his beloved congregants. They now only served as a blur — a group of people that he never met. He remained senior pastor but lost the soul of who he once was. The strong voice the city had fallen in love with had now weakened. The sermons were now empty. His wisdom was now wasted. His teaching only served as noise.
“We spend more time debating stupid theological points that mean nothing to nobody — than we do actually being the hands and feet of Christ.”
I was given the honor to collaborate with a fellow minister from Texas named Shawn Guenther. He made a video with me that encourages us as Christians to put aside our denominational differences for the sake of helping our own communities. You can watch that video at the end of this blog. The differences between our denominations can often distract the dialogue of our primary mission — to love others. Some have even gotten to the point of using lengthy vocabulary and fancy jargon to argue meaningless theological topics. It was as if we value our boastfulness above relieving the pain of others. Frankly, this is a sin. It’s a despicable game to play.
“The purpose of all of that education — the purpose of all that discipleship — is to go help the world.”
As a disclaimer, I’m not discouraging healthy debate. There are serious faith questions that need answering. By all means, use whatever diction you need to get the job done. That’s what matters. Read books. Grow in knowledge. Follow the instructions of the book of Proverbs. We live in a day and age where the world wide web is our library. We even can buy a book from the other side of the nation and ship it to our front door within two days. It’s a staggering feat that no other past generation could ever imagine. May we use this to our advantage…
In short, you don’t need a doctorate to believe in something. You don’t need a doctorate to change the world. And it’s not hard to preach from the soul when you believe what you say. Our society limits our innovative thinking with the attitude of “If you are not in our group, then you have nothing to say.” But God’s people can do great things. We can do great things. It’s not about names, labels, or stereotypes. It’s a foundational belief that need realization.
He stood alone in an empty megachurch and pondered what went wrong. The only sound present was that of his echo. The only visible person among the lights was that of himself on a stage. How many people had he led astray? How many of them suffered at the cost of his vanity? Even in unlikely places and unlikely times, God is still present. He then realized this moment of desiring repentance is the moment to be in God’s embrace. He was once lost but is now found. He was once dead but is now alive.
May we all realize that. God never leaves us.