There once was a man, his name John, sent by God to point out the way to the Life-Light. He came to show everyone where to look, who to believe in. John was not himself the Light; he was there to show the way to the Light. — John 1:6-8, The Message
In my profession there is a temptation that is strong. Really strong. That temptation is to see myself as “The Light.” It’s wild to think about how easily we become deluded by our own sense of greatness. If us pastors are honest, we know that there are more than a few of us that struggle with this delusion.
There are have been many notable religious leaders who have fallen from faith. I would venture to guess almost all of them share two things in common. One, deep down they believe that they are indeed the light. Two, they had isolated themselves from any kind of accountability and community.
Perhaps I am making too much of this. But, the longer I do this pastor thing and read the stories of those who fall and lose their way the more I think that these two things are true. The natural question is, what comes first the sense of grandeur or the isolation? I am guessing it is a chicken and egg situation. In many seminaries budding pastors are taught that you cannot be close friends with your congregants and Elders. This of course leads to isolation. Pastors also have a clear sense of calling and many take this sense of calling as being of divine origin. Unfortunately, this is something that bleeds over into every aspect of their leadership. So in their minds, if you challenge them then you are challenging God.
This kind of thinking has lead to much spiritual abuse and harm in many local churches. It’s heartbreaking to think about how many have been deeply wounded by pastors who have come to the conclusion that they are The Light as opposed to simply pointing people to The Light.
Pastors, we have to do better.
We need to learn from John the Baptist.
We need to remember that our calling is to be people who, “point out the way to the Life-Light.” If we can remember that we are pointing out the way to the Life-Light then we will remember the proper ordering of things. We are not The Light. We are guides. If we are guides then we too are on the way. We have not arrived, we are simply people who have a map and a flashlight.