By Bob Hiller –
Don’t go to church for the pastor. It won’t end well. He is not a celebrity. He is not a spiritual guru with special insight into the workings of heaven. He is not a magical priest who alone has the power to save. He’s no one to put your faith in. He’s a sinful dude with a message he has to deliver. To be sure, that message is from God. And it is the most important message you will ever hear. That message is worth showing up for. But the guy who delivers it? As much as you might like him, as funny and handsome as he might be, he’s just not the one you should go to see.
Remember a few years back when LeBron James took his talents from Cleveland to Miami so he could play with his buddies and win a couple championships? The fans of Cleveland had all their hopes and dreams for basketball glory tied to LeBron. But there was more. When he left, not only were the people of Cleveland upset because they lost their best player, they were upset because the move hurt their economy. See, people went to see LeBron, not the Cleveland Cavaliers. So that, when LeBron was there, local restaurants were packed out, vendors made more money, more people attending games meant more jobs for people out of work. With LeBron, business was booming. Without LeBron, the team and the city suffered. Far too much was riding on one player. He failed to deliver a championship.
Similar dangers arise when you go to a church for the pastor. That pastor, as much as you may be his biggest fan, is a sinful guy. He is bound to fall off of any pedestal on which he is placed. What happens if he leaves that particular pulpit for one reason or another? Simply because you don’t like the next guy’s sermons as much, does that mean you don’t need to hear Jesus from him? Or, what happens if, all of a sudden, the pastor down the street is getting more buzz? Are you going to abandon your church family to go hear someone more engaging? See, the pastor is not the point. When he becomes the center and focus, whether because he places himself there, or because you place him there, he is bound to let you down. And, just like when LeBron left Cleveland, the collateral damage will be significant.
The pastor is not to be the center of attention, not even on Sunday morning. I like to tell my church that the pastor is part of the furniture up front. In many churches, he even wears an alb and stole to hide his person and so you know he’s up there to do a very specific task. Like everything else on and around the altar, He is simply there to deliver the gifts of God. He is an instrument, used by God to promise His Son to you. His role is no more important than the role of the bread and wine on the altar. His voice is nothing more than the means by which God wants to give you Jesus. Where the bread and wine feed Jesus into your mouth, the pastor proclaims Jesus into your ears. That’s what he’s supposed to do. He’s the delivery boy.
Now this isn’t to say you shouldn’t love your pastor nor that your pastor shouldn’t love you. Maintaining the faithful preaching of Christ is simple, but not easy. From hundreds of different directions, your pastor is pulled and tempted to do something besides handing over “the goods.” He needs you to pray for him and to pray that he will keep giving you Jesus. He needs you to support and pray for his family. And you need him there to be with you when you are suffering, dying, and in need of repentance and forgiveness. He has made a vow to give you God’s Word in all such circumstances and more. Just don’t let him become the reason you go to church. That’s too much pressure on him, even if, in his pride, he wants it.
If you go just to see him, he may be tempted to perform for you. He may be tempted to cater to your needs. He may be tempted to become a draw. He may be tempted to enter into some self-gratifying competition with the guy down the street who is more entertaining. What this all means is that he may be tempted to replace Jesus as the center of attention with his own person. Sure, he may use clever Jesus-promoting gimmicks to get himself there. But, he’d only be using Jesus, not preaching Him, not handing Him over to you. Your preacher already is tempted to be the center of attention. Don’t let that get to his head. Don’t go there for him. Make sure he knows you are there for Jesus!
No, don’t go to church for your pastor. Go for Jesus. And pray for your pastor, that He delivers Jesus to you. After all, Jesus truly is the only One worth hearing.