Is There Such A Thing As Christian Pornography?

February 21, 2011

I admit the title of this post is extreme. Let’s get that out of the way right now.

I think there is such a thing as Christian pornography.

I could probably have thought of a better term for what I am thinking, but I suspect that many pastors will relate to what I’m saying. I would appreciate your feedback, but let’s make it honest, not just “you could’ve thought of a better term”. I’ve already admitted that.

In my opinion (not saying it’s yours, or that it has to be yours), and in my personal and pastoral experience, many conferences, especially our obsession for them, border on being “Christian pornography”. For years, I went to conferences to learn what others were doing that I could do better. To see how other churches were reaching their communities in ways that ours wasn’t and “should be”.

Somewhere in the journey, something gradually changed. I started going to conferences to see what others were producing that I wasn’t, or we weren’t. I noticed things that were done to their facilities that weren’t done at mine. I allowed a subtle envy to creep into my heart about what others had that I didn’t.

And somewhere, it became Christian pornography.

An obscene thing was happening in my heart for the “things of others” over the “things of God”.

A fellow pastor would call and report to me what he saw and experienced at a conference he just came home from. As he spoke about the venue and the materials and the programs (uh ….. I mean, ministries) and on and on, I could feel my heart rate increase, and I noticed I was starting to mildly hyperventilate.

In crept the thoughts: where is my “success”? What do I have to show off? When do I get a chance to show everyone what we can do and how we do it?

Christian pornography.

Obscene thoughts about what is and isn’t “success” in ministry. Crude mind pictures about “what would Jesus build” and what colors and shapes it would be. Thinking about how to make that happen instead of praying about what God wants to see happen. Trying to word things just right so that it’s worded more sharply than the last church status update someone read (or that I read) on Facebook.

Please understand. I still go to conferences. I want to be a better leader and shepherd. My heart longs to increase our effectiveness in reaching our community. So I am not saying ministry conferences are bad or wrong.

I am not trying to discourage any pastor or leader from participating in conference life. I’m just saying a number of ministry conferences I’ve attended brought out the truth in me ….. that I am an insecure person that too often carried my insecurities into my leadership.

More and more, I am finding that as I deal with my own insecurities as a person, my effectiveness as a person, pastor and leader increases. I’m going to write more about the issue of insecurity in the near future, so watch for those upcoming posts.

In the mean time, your thoughts?

By the way, if you look hard enough, it won’t take much to find comprehensive lists of “must attend” church conferences out there. But, here are two that are NOT on those lists, but really should be:

Emotionally Healthy Leadership Conference

Epic Fail Pastor’s Conference

Check them out, and if you can make either one, or even both, they’ll be really worth it!

What Seminary Never Taught Us

February 18, 2011

If you are not a subscriber to “The Pastor’s Weekly Briefing” delivered from the Focus On The Family Pastoral Ministries Department, I would encourage you to get signed up here.

Each edition features a letter from HB London, who heads the Department. This week, he wrote something I thought would be very poignant to consider for any Pastor who desires to be a “Pastor For Life”. I include it here for your consideration and meditation.

Anything you would add or expand on? If so, please converse with a comment below.

What Seminary Never Taught Me

Yesterday, I had the privilege of speaking in the chapel service at Dallas Theological Seminary. I had been there before. It is a fine institution. Their President, Dr. Mark Bailey, is a dedicated and competent leader. Later, I would be honored to meet at lunch with a group of students preparing for pastoral ministry.

One of the initiatives of our outreach to the clergy at Focus on the Family is a commitment to the future leaders of the church who are presently in preparation at Seminaries and Bible Colleges around the country. We have learned so much from these talented men and women. They will be facing challenges in their assignments that I did not face. I pray they are ready for those challenges and committed for the long haul. The truth is, many begin the pastoral ministry journey, but a lot of them never finish.

As I reflect on my visit to DTS, I could not help but think about all of the things that my Seminary training did not prepare me for. For instance:

  1. They did not teach me how to love. That came through experience.
  2. I did not really understand how complicated the lives of people really were. Some of them were too broken to mend.
  3. I was surprised at how judgmental and cruel Christian people could be. Graduate school did not warn me, or at least if they did I didn’t listen.
  4. I probably needed more specific training in problem solving, and crisis management.
  5. In my day there was not much attention being given to financial management. Even though my first assignment was small, I was still a 23 year old CEO. Scary.
  6. I do not recall much attention being given to family matters. In fact, I remember some well-meaning leader saying to me, “You just go out and serve the church. God will take care of your family.” It didn’t happen that way.
  7. There is no way you can prepare for loneliness. But the importance of friendship with colleagues should have been reinforced.
  8. Another problem I would have to deal with, and had to learn on the fly, was that the church was God’s church … not mine. I was an under-shepherd.
  9. I had to learn how to be myself and build on my own strength. Seminary had made me into a kind of cookie-cutter presenter.
  10. Pastoring was not for the faint of heart. Probably, if they had told me everything I would never have completed my training. I am so glad they didn’t, and I am so glad I did. What advice would you give to the institution that invested in you?

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We never stop learning, do we? Be blessed and be a blessing. HBL

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