Thanks to Wes Walters for sharing this encouragement and personal story with us at The Worship Community.
A letter to all types pastors and leaders about Ephesians 4:12 and our egos.
As a pastor you are driven by an unquenchable thirst for God’s glory in the area you live, by seeing lost people come to know Jesus, and you are driven by a love for your church body that God has put you in charge of. But what about those moments when you find yourself being driven by the compliment you might possibly receive or the thrill of attention? Even further, what about when you begin searching and/or implementing procedures that would ensure these things, sometimes even unconscionably?
It’s always best to go to the scriptures to help us deal with these types of issues. As pastors, it starts with continually remaining vigilant about having the scriptures pertaining to our calling in front of us. By that I mean making the remembrance of the calling a part of your daily routine and/or schedule.
For instance, having them on your desk, displayed in your meeting rooms, on your phone or ipad, in your house on the wall, the fridge, etc. The most effective of these ways that I’ve experienced keeping this attention-seeking behavior at bay firsthand is to have a protocol for it staff/leadership times. For each gathering, initiative, or event you do, there is a 3-question filter:
- How does this carry out the Gospel?
- How does this carry out the vision of the church?
- How does this fulfill the Bible’s description of our calling as pastors and shepherds?
When these are in place, it leaves no room for egos.
There are many scriptures that Paul points out to ministers about the details of what and why pertaining to our calling. I have 2 favorites. The first one that sticks out to me that addresses this issue in particular is Ephesians 4:11-16. Specifically, verse 12 mandates that we be outward focused when it says “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” (ESV)
A heart that is heaven-bent on equipping the saints, so that we may have unity (v.13) and so that we grow up (v.15), is one that cannot focus on self. When we are funneling every decision through the gospel and, as pastors, also through whether or not it is Eph 4:12, then we cannot be focused on our own glory and self-seeking plans. To put it plainly, it’s serving two masters and abusing the word of God.
Which sets up my next favorite passage about this, 2 Corinthians 4:2, which says: “But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” To use the word of God and/or our position/calling for anything other than to glorify God is most plainly, to be a liar and to call God a liar. It’s saying publicly “God has called me to preach and lead and point people to Him, but I am actually trying to use the pulpit and microphone to point people to me.”
Now earlier, in the opening paragraph, I said, “sometimes even unconscionably.” I know that in the day-to-day of ministry we can get so bogged down and busy that we forget the ‘why’ of what we’re doing. So what happens is that we’re running ourselves so hard that we just want someone to notice that were working hard or we want them to see that its good and we’ll do small things like add in a cool line or quote that isn’t really necessary but makes us look cool. Or we’ll add in a song or poem or something that we wrote that doesn’t even fit or pertain to anything, but we just want that feeling of creating and a chance for someone to compliment us. These things that we add in absolutely must be only because they
bolster the gospel and most importantly because we are praying and hearing from God that they be included. Sometimes that means it’s from us, sometimes not. That’s not important when were supposed to be about promoting someone else, God. If you want to be humbled and learn this in a thorough and theologically sound way, go plant a church. We need more church planters who are about God’s renowned and not about being rock stars. It’s a hard and lonely place to fall when you’re about yourself in front of people all the time.
I’ll end with this story- When I was called to the church plant I’m at now, I was right in the middle of starting a songwriting career in Nashville. I had just recorded my first mainstream solo CD and was ready to start playing out. However, God clearly called us away so we submitted. When I arrived at this new plant I was feeling so inspired by one of our pastor’s sermons that I began to write songs for us to sing to go along with them. I did this for 2 reasons, 1. There weren’t any songs out at the time that really fit with the themes and ideas. 2. Everything was new and starting fresh and needed some life.
I had no plans for the songs, just wanted to use them in the gathering. But when I saw what an impact they had, I
decided it’d be good to get them recorded so that people could continue to worship with them throughout the week. So I called up my old producer, went down to Nashville and rocked out 6 tracks (we had no musicians at the time). Then as it was being finished up we had had some musicians join the church so we dropped 3 more on the end in living room round style. Here’s where the mental shift happened for me. When it was about to be pressed I asked the designer to add my name on the title and my info on the back.
A seemingly innocent thing, and not even wrong in most contexts, because I did write and sing all the songs. But what happened, (I can see it now but couldn’t then) was that subconsciously I was bitter in my spirit about leaving what I was working on when I got called out of Nashville. So, I saw in the back of my mind a way to continue that effort but maybe it would just look like a worship artist thing. So I began to shift and push in that direction. We sold a bunch and all the money went to church planting efforts, not me, which is great. However, I slowly noticed that I was thinking about it so much that I had fallen off of mission and the reason why we moved here in the first place.
So all that is to say that even though I believe in God’s sovereignty and that he is still using the CD in an amazing way, I alienated several friends during the process and fellow worship pastors. I confirmed an attitude that some assumed was coming with me from Nashville, and I also tried to steal some of the light and glory from God rather than just letting it all be used without promoting me. I regret to this day having my name plastered on so many of these, but I trust that God will move beyond my selfishness and use the scripture and content of the CD. One last note: I am not against pastors doing CDs and books and stuff with their names. I just feel that in my context of church planting up here, for me, it detracts from the gospel and our vision. In other situations it works because of the context and because the people are humble in it and pointing people to Christ, not like I was. I now have a secular, mainstream band and I am very missionally intentional with it in the community even though it has my name on it.
So I plead with you as pastors to be good listeners first. Pray, pray, pray. Listen, listen, listen. Keep the scriptures of your calling and the gospel before you 24-7. If you want fame and recognition, the world provides ways to do that. (Just look at youtube and open mic nights) But please, please do not use God’s bride to do it. In the end, that kind of glory is vain because it is fleeting and fading with everything else in the world. Pointing people to Christ and shining a spotlight on Him is something that is eternal. It’s time again to re-evaluate.
Wes Walters is a Jesus-lover, husband, father, singer, songwriter, worship leader, pastor, and writer. For more information about Restoration Church visit www.restorationbuffalo.com, and for more information about Wes’s music visit www.weswaltersmusic.com.