When I was growing up there was one thing you could count on every year….like clock work…100% guaranteed. The Sunday night that The Sound of Music or the Wizard of Oz came on television mom was in charge! No sports, no Sunday night church (most of you will not grasp how big a deal that was)…nothing was going to get in the way of this family event. There were snacks, protests of “how many times do we have to watch this.”There may even have been a little sarcastic, less than flattering singing at different times…yes, I know how to solve a problem like Maria. Mom did not approve of the singing…which of course made it all the more fun. Looking back those were sacred, special times. If I see either one of those shows will be on television these days I call mom, just to make sure she knows…so Dad does not miss another opportunity to catch any new plot twists.
One of my favorite scenes in the Wizard of Oz is when the curtain is pulled back on “Oz the Great and Terrible” and he is left cowering, shouting into a microphone, “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”
I am going to share some things today that may be a little like pulling that curtain back on the Great Oz. Sometimes when we peek behind the curtain we learn things…I believe it is always good to know truth. Jesus thought so to. In John 8 he was speaking to some of his followers and said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” So here goes…I have been a pastor for many years. I have traveled in pastor type circles, listened to many conference talks, and watched women and men with a heart to serve God move for a long time. I have loved the people God has allowed me to meet and learn from. What has become clear to me is that many (not all) struggle with the same illness that afflicts me. They suffer under this burden of being “Super Pastor”. Someone who can do everything…and do everything well. I do not know when we first began to let this illness take root in our churches or what started it but it is destroying our congregations.
My sense is that it has something with a very human need to be liked and to get approval from others…so we perform. We perform more visits, more entertaining sermons, spend more hours in the office, take ownership for pieces of church life which quite honestly are not ours to own. A church is a community. It is a group of people coming together to grow in their relationship with God and support each other in that effort.
I could talk for pages about how our American culture has created this myth of the Super Pastor. The sad reality is that we end up with people following pastors instead of Jesus. One of the biggest failings in the world of the Super Pastor is people are robbed of the opportunity to use their God given gifts and abilities to serve the community. If Super Pastor feels the need to do everything…well, all we have to do is sit and watch and judge their performance. It becomes a vicious cycle. Judge me poorly…I must perform harder, faster, better to get a better review…and on and on we go.
Tuesday night I met with our leadership team at First Baptist and we talked about life during this next season. It was a great meeting. We developed plans, people spoke out about how we (the church family) can/will take care of different parts and pieces of church life as I journey through Cancer treatment. I left that meeting encouraged and on my way home thought, “This is the beginning of the end of Super Pastor Dan Nicewonger!” Amen, Hallelujah, Praise God! It only took a few Cancer cells to make it happen…funny how God has the power to redeem and transform even the worst of things for good.
I could not sleep Tuesday night. I tossed and turned and thought about the Death of Super Pastor. My mind was drawn to the Apostle Paul. In 2 Corinthians 12 he writes about a “thorn in the flesh”. He never identifies what that thorn was but says, “to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh….to keep me from exalting myself.” Paul continues to say he went before God praying, asking for the thorn to be removed and this is what he heard in reply,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:9-10)
Looking back over the years of ministry it has always been in times of weakness that you see God work and move the clearest. There have been some good times as we have moved out of positions of strength and power. The great times…the times of transformation and renewal all came out of seasons of weakness.
God is Good All the Time, All the Time God is Good!
If you do not have a church home and happen to live in the Kennett Square area let me encourage you to stop by and visit First Baptist sometime. These are exciting times for our church…God is doing great things in our midst and we would love to have you come be a part of it. My plan is to be present and participate in worship most Sundays. My oncologist is working to help schedule chemotherapy to make that a reality as much as possible. We have a great teaching team who will be helping cover preaching when I am unable. We would love to have you join us as we journey in search of an ever deepening, growing spirituality. Worship is Sunday at 11am.