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The Pastor’s Greatest Temptation

What do you think is the pastor's greatest temptation? I am not going to talk on the common battles that are well known to many – gold [money], glory [pride] and girl [lust]. I would like to share with you about something crucial which many pastors do not even think about it as a temptation.

One of the reasons, I believe, why the church today is not maturing is due to the pastor's focus on this while neglecting the essential. I think, almost every pastor, who is honest with himself, agrees that his focus is primarily on this and that this is indeed his greatest temptation. I have seldom come across a pastor who is free from this enticement.

What could this be?

Sunday Service
In my years of Christian life and ministry, I have observed that the pastor's greatest temptation is Sunday service. His focus is primarily on getting people together, possibly in large numbers, on Sunday. His main passion is to fill the place with people and feel good to see every member on the chairs.

There is nothing as disappointing for pastors as to see the missing members on empty chairs. Thus he chases people during the week not to miss the Sunday service.

The pressure is even more when a guest speaker comes to speak. When I go as a guest speaker to different churches and if there are no good numbers, I see how pastors feel embarrassed and struggle to justify why it is so. I have to take some effort to let them feel at ease.

Why does a pastor chase people to bring them all together? Is it for the glory of God and for the edification of all God’s people? I wish this would be the reason but it seems this is not the attitude of many pastors. I am afraid whether there is a kind of pomposity, a puffed up feeling, to stand before the crowd and feel good about the numbers.

I don't completely deny a pastor's love for people but I fear whether the temptation for numbers has taken precedence over his heart for them. The sight of great numbers of people can truly feed our hidden egos. We love numbers, want to feel good at the sight of numbers and even boast about the numbers.

Didn't David feel great about the numbers in 2Chronicles 21 and invoked God's judgment? One of the reasons the Lord may not hear our prayers for church growth is this—our attitude may not be to save people and fill the kingdom of heaven but to bring people and fill our church hall with folks and feel good about the numbers.

How complacent a pastor can feel to see his church hall being packed with people! But is good numbers on Sunday service a sign of success?

Building Lives in the Lord
I never heard of a couple being complemented for having a successful family just because of giving birth to a dozen children. Our common sense tells—the sign of a successful family is not in how many children we bear but in how we bring them up in the Lord. Likewise, a pastor's success is not in how many people he can gather on Sunday service but how he brings them up in the Lord. His reward is not in bringing people to the church but in drawing people closer to the Lord.

When a pastor sees a great number of people before him, instead of feeling good, he should prostrate before God and cry out to Him, "Lord, here I see so many before me. How can I bring them in you? I have a great responsibility upon me. I am incompetent to rear them. Give me your grace and wisdom to lead them towards maturity." As the numbers increase, he should fear and tremble at the great responsibility of equipping them to walk worthy in the ways of the Lord.

Remember, unlike many pastors today, Paul's passion was not to present every person regularly on Sunday service but to “present everyone perfect [mature] in Christ” (Col. 1:28). I wonder how many pastors come out of the pulpit and take personal concern, finding out and motivating believers to have a disciplined and devoted walk with the Lord in their daily life.

Monday to Saturday
Yesterday, i.e. on Sunday, I had an opportunity to personally listen and learn from brother Zac Poonen who visited my city to speak. He is about seventy two years old, doing the Lord's work for more than forty years. He is one of my esteemed Indian bible teachers in our day. In his teaching, he said something like this [about his ministry] which very much impressed my heart:

Our focus on people is not for Sunday. Our focus on people is for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and then at last Sunday. We want to see people living for the glory of God from Monday to Saturday. Sunday is not that important to us.

If pastors have such a focus and passion, the spiritual condition of the churches today would be quite different and better.

I plead with the shepherds of the church, not to stay focused on just the Sunday service—having good numbers, good worship, good sermon, good offering—but to stay committed and prayerfully focused on equipping people to have a good personal walk with the Lord 24/7. [1]

1. I am not saying that we should not pray and desire to have a lively Sunday fellowship. It is good [provided if our attitude is to build lives in the Lord]. But it is not the only important thing as it is to many pastors today. The primary concern of every pastor must be for the believers’ personal walk with the Lord, not simply for a large gathering.



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  1. Excellent article. This makes very clear the need of the hour in the body of Christ. Quantity is taking precedence over quality in churches today. Members of the body are being pressurized to bring new people and fill the church. In some churches, spirituality of the believer is measured based on how many folks he/she can bring to church. Church leaders are feeling satisfied and comforted looking at the crowds and thinking God has been using them mightily on Sunday mornings not realizing the true state of the sheep where in most of them are not even born-again. There are very few church leaders like Bro. Zac who humbles themselves and trembles before God when the numbers increase. On the contrary, the leader takes delight in the chairs being filled. May our Lord raise shepherds after his own heart who truly desire to present the members perfect in Christ before the Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says. Amen!

  2. timely word for pastors. God bless you.


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