By Jaime Nava –
I want to be a megachurch pastor. I want to be the guy who comes up with the big vision. I want people to be inspired by me. I want to be the guy who brings people to church in droves. I want to be the guy who doesn’t offend anyone. I want to be fiercely independent. I want to be a game changer. I want to be able to live off the sales of my books instead of church tithes. I want people to take pictures with me like a celebrity. I want people to see my face in projectors across the world at the same time. I want to shoot hoops with reporters so I can also look like a regular guy. I want to be edgy. I want to push the boundaries of doctrine. I want people to see themselves in the text. I want to come up with something new and creative that Christians have never seen before. I want to get the rockin’ praise band and maybe hop in and play with them from time to time because I can (and it would look so cool). I just wanna praise Father-God. I want to use the translation that fits what I want to say. I don’t want to have to explain context. I want to tell people that God is going to give them everything they want this year. I want to tell people that God has chosen our nation and we need to follow God again. I want to be worth millions of dollars. I want to spend my time being creative. I don’t want to spend my time calling people to find out where they have been. I don’t want to visit run-down care facilities that smell like old urine. I want the megachurch to be filled with millennials. I want to be a household name. I want to be a megachurch pastor.
So why don’t I try to become a megachurch pastor? I don’t try because the Holy Spirit knows better. Instead of my vision we have the Word. I don’t inspire, that’s the Holy Spirit’s work. The church is increased by the Holy Spirit, not me. If people are offended by hearing the Word, it’s because they, like me, are sinners. In the church, independence is an aberration. Instead of trying to increase the size of the church by speaking the language of the world, scripture has its own unique language of the cross. The cross proclaims strength while weak (2 Cor. 12:10). The cross proclaims that totally depraved human beings, all human beings, cannot choose Jesus, cannot come to Jesus, cannot find Jesus (John 15:16; 1 Cor. 1:18-31). The cross declares that every word of scripture is a testimony to Jesus (John 5:39). The cross preaches that the poor in spirit are blessed. The cross offends (1 Cor. 1:23).
God does not want pastors who will make His church grow. Do we think that He can’t do that for Himself? God doesn’t want pastors who will bring out every gimmick to get people in the door. God doesn’t want pastors who will hold back, manipulate, or splice His Word, no matter how noble the intentions seem. God wants men who will proclaim the cross, who will proclaim that you are lost, who will proclaim that you are at God’s mercy, who will proclaim that you never chose to follow God, who will proclaim that what was foolish to the world is the power of God, who will preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified for the forgiveness of sins as the focus of every sermon.
As for me, sin is deeply entrenched in me. I selfishly want so many things. Sadly, in my flesh, I want to make it look like I’m doing it for God. I want people to hear how smart I am and how long my prayers are. I am the Pharisee I so desperately point to with disdain. I am a sinner and it sucks to meet you because you’re a sinner too.
The Word of the cross is not about the wisdom of this world. It’s not about spiritual CEOs or vision statements (i.e. business models). Jesus invites the muck of the earth. Jesus wants the junkies. He wants the red light district. He wants the greedy. He wants the young. He wants the old. Jesus wants the burdens of society who are stuck on social security, who live in urine-stained rooms, who are true examples of humility and faith in Christ. Jesus wants the single mother of a few whose kids aren’t well disciplined. Jesus wants the boyfriend who practically forced his girlfriend to get an abortion. Jesus wants sinners. This is the message of the cross. We are destroyed by the Law that reveals an abominable selfie. We are rebuilt in the body of Christ, in His image. We then live holy lives that are protected by pure teaching and external sacraments. We are kept in the Body by the Holy Spirit who brought us in. This is how disciples are made. This is why Jesus came.
Being the pastor of a small congregation means being there among sinners as one of them. It’s messed up. It’s hard. It’s frustrating. It’s enough to drive to depression or alcoholism. It doesn’t look like what some megachurches even now have on Netflix. Jesus never expected the road to be broad. He never expected it to be easy, either. He uses a sinner like me to do His will for other sinners. He uses a sinner like me to speak to sinners. He uses a sinner like me to echo His Word for sinners that are given life by that very Word. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus and for some crazy reason He sends a sinner like me in His place. All I can do is take that sinful nature of mine, the one who wants to be a megachurch pastor, I hold it kicking and screaming under the waters of baptism. I go see my pastor and confess my sins. Each time I have, he always declares me forgiven. All I can do is kneel before God Almighty at the rail and taste what my sinful nature thinks is useless, the very body and blood of Jesus Christ.
So when I consider being a megachurch pastor, I remember this; the church is not about me. It’s about Jesus Christ and Him crucified for sinners. It might not seem like much to the world but it’s everything for the church.