Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Devil Wears Prada

The church in America is susceptible to different illnesses and diseases.  Near the top of the list is an infection that strikes the heart of her leadership.  God calls men to lead His church and He gives these men as gifts to the church.  These men are called pastors and must be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might.  Since the church is God's witness in the world, it makes sense that our enemy the Devil will attack it by attacking God's shepherds.  The scriptures tell us to honor them, pray for them, love them and submit to their leadership.  All too many people feel the need to humble their pastors and criticize them, expose their every fault, and in general, make their lives and ministry a burden.  This kind of behavior weakens the church in her mission and is of no advantage.  This common malady is encouraged by worldly men and women who seek power and control.  Hebrews 13:17 says: "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you." 

There are additional internal diseases that strike at the heart of leadership.  It seems to me that lately many pastors have forgotten that we fight a threefold battle with the world, our flesh and the Devil. It is our fleshly desire that often takes a greater toll and inflicts the greatest damage to the Kingdom of God.  In many cases, success has led us to adapt leadership styles that mirror the corporate world more than the model of Jesus.  In the film The Devil Wears Prada, the viewer is served a view of the ugly underbelly of the cutthroat, mean-spirited, and overbearing world of the fashion industry.  In that world, it seems that heavy handed, abusive leadership is common.

The model for leadership in God's kingdom is Jesus Christ, who came not to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom.The pastor of the New Testament church is to be strong in the Lord. He is to be respected, but he must build safeguards against his own evil nature.  Money, sex and fame are all powerful temptations.  They require leaders who are fully armed for the battle against their abuse.  Our model of leadership is not on the big screen, but in the Good Book.  It is Jesus who came to both serve and lead at the same time.  His leadership is marked not by the latest fashion but by a servant's towel. 

There are other glimpses of glorious Christlike leaders in scripture.  David led mighty and courageous men into battle.  On one occasion, three of those men so honored David that they risked their lives to get their leader what they overheard him wishing for in a passing comment.  They brought him a drink from a spring in his hometown.  Men died and lives were risked to accomplish this task. This was an epic test, not so much of these men, but of David's character as a leader.  Would he drink it and graciously say, "Thanks guys!"  or would he look at the water and say, "What, no ice?"  No, David held it as if it were too holy to touch and poured it out as a drink offering to the Lord.

In the past few weeks, I have been heartsick at the news of several prominent pastors who have been caught in a snare revealing an abuse of power and trust.  Friends may justify this behavior, some will even excuse it. One thing is certain. We are in an all-out spiritual war and the souls of people are at stake.  Pray for your pastor, for God's grace and His protection.  If you are a pastor, seek the Lord and renew your focus on our biblical requirements.  First Timothy 3:2 states, "An overseer, then, must be above reproach."  Walk humbly before God and men.  And remember, the best perks of success in ministry are those given by the Lord when He says, "Well done!"

The Devil may very well wear Prada, but the pastor must wear the servant's towel.

Ed Litton
Painting by Ford Madox Brown 1852-56

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