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The Best Pastor in the World

Arms raised.photo © 2007 ahmed IBN-LAHOUCINE | more info (via: Wylio)

My husband gasped.

“Joy. You won’t believe what I just read.”

I stop writing and look at him. He never talks like that.

“What?”

“I was just checking out this church’s website. The head pastor’s bio starts with ‘___ is the best pastor in the world.‘”

I’m speechless, mouth gaping. I’m never speechless.

“That’s in his web bio?”

“Yup.”

(To be fair, it looks like the bio was written by someone else…)

It isn’t the first time I’ve heard language like this. I’ve heard pastors call their church members to make theirs “the best church in the world” as well.

I have so many questions about this.

First and most important, have these “men of God” not read Mark 9?

Mark 9:33-35 “And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

What makes a pastor or a church “the best”? Serving. Being last.

Therefore, you cannot be the best and at the same time say that you are the best.

Second, did Jesus call on us to be the best church or the best pastor in the world?

No. Jesus said that God’s commands to us can be summed up in this:

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. (Deuteronomy 6:4-6, New International Version, ©2011)

And this:

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27, New International Version, ©2011)

Third, what about the churches and pastors who love God who are, by default NOT the best if you are?

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Corinthians 12:21-26, New International Version, ©2011)

This passage in 1 Corinthians teaches that we all work together for God’s glory and to strengthen one another where each is weak. There is no best or better in God’s kingdom.

It is clear from Scripture that the language of competition, of one-upmanship, of pride, has no place in the church.

So what should we do if we hear that sort of talk in our church? What do we do if our pastor talks this way?

***

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Comments

  1. Well said! I completely agree. I used to belong to a church where the pastor was the central figure, had a national radio show and our church was fast approaching 6,500 members. Then, suddenly, the weekend before Christmas 2009, he resigned abruptly citing “moral failure.”

    It devastated EVERYONE including me. I came home that night and after putting my son to bed (I hadn’t told him yet), I threw up. I NEVER react to bad news like that. I didn’t react to my husband’s death like that. It literally felt like I had been kicked in the stomach.

    Long story short, less than a year later, he resurfaces with a new church literally less than 10 miles from us and with nearly the same name. He had a restoration committee of pastors that included no one from the church he resigned from. When he was recomissioned at a local church — not ours — he filled the 5k seat sanctuary. People said things like, “Now that’s MY pastor.” We lost at least 1/3 of our members to him.

    When a girlfriend and I visited we couldn’t believe our eyes and ears. It was a show, not a worship service. God wasn’t there. The message sounded more like a confession and for the first time, I saw his humanity. It was not pretty and yet 1/3 of the membership now call it their church home.

    I’m so glad you recognized this serious problem. We only are to boast in the Lord, not ourselves. God bless you for speaking out on this.

    Well done, good and faithful servant!
    Emiliana Martin recently posted..The joy of motherhood- an infinite seriesMy Profile

  2. How awkward. The Pastor worship/ personality cult issues with Evangelicalism is one of the things that pushes me towards more liturgical churches.
    Young Mom recently posted..Courtship is not the Answer- My Courtship Story- Part 8My Profile

  3. I study medieval theology, so I spend a lot of time with saints. A question, or test, I have gleaned from it and now apply as a maxim when looking at archetypes of people in my own life is this: “A saint doesn’t get to know he or she is a saint.”

    I think that sweeps across the board in a lot of ways.

  4. I did the same mouth-agape syndrome some months back when a pastor on facebook called his congregation the best church in the world.

    He’s since moved on to a bigger (salary) and even besterer one. :/
    Jessica recently posted..Why this site is filling up with Messes and PlanksMy Profile

  5. Just a random thought: the verses you cite apply nicely to the blogging world:
    -Love your neighbour
    -All parts working together

    :) Leanne
    Leanne Shirtliffe (Ironic Mom) recently posted..Teaching- Kids and BeautyMy Profile

  6. Gentle reminders of the truth. Thank you.

  7. When I was in Bible college, a fellow classmate of mine shared this little nugget: “Being a pastor is absolutely the most important and high calling a person can have.” That immediately struck me as untrue (and a bit arrogant, honestly). My face must have clearly expressed what was in my head, because the teacher immediately asked if I disagreed. My response then is pretty much what it is now: Obeying God, and seeking to glorify Him is the highest calling–not being a good Pastor or even the best Pastor.

    I completely agree with your post. I think the verse you posted is wonderful. We all need to serve with one another, seeing one another as absolutely essential to the body of Christ. No one is “better” or more important than the other. We are vessels that have been made whole by the Potter. We are our “best” when we allow Him to use us in the way He sees fit.

  8. My name is Becky, and I’m a pastor. I’m ashamed to admit this due to the appalling behavior of said pastor who claimed (or allowed it to be claimed) that he was/is the best pastor in the world. The Church is not about us as Pastors, or our ‘ministry’. The Church is about Christ. Everything should be focused on the Gospel.

    When we separate ourselves from the people of Christ we are not fulfilling our obligation. When we raise ourselves up we stop people from experiencing the light of Christ and distract them from the Church’s true purpose. Everything we do is to the glory of God. Not one of us is better than the other. We all have a calling. We all have a purpose. We all need to serve.

    This makes me sad. It shouldn’t be a competition. It shouldn’t be about status or recognition. It should be about Jesus. It’s got to be about Jesus.
    Becky @ From Ministry to Motherhood recently posted..Cinnamon Maple Pork TenderloinMy Profile

  9. So well said!!!

    I tell my husband all the time, the church I want to be apart of or the pastor I want to hear, is probably someone we’ve never heard of, serving faithfully in a place we’d never go.

    Always, always, love reading your blog.

    Much love.

  10. the Scripture you mentioned was most apropos. a comment re the superiority of a pastor or church on their website sounds like the antithesis of Christ’s whole mission!
    in phil. 2:4ff. it reminds us “…who being in very nature God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but made himself nothing, taking the from of a servant…”.
    kathy’s comment is very true! over the years, we have met many faithful servants of God in ministry in churches large and small. the godly ones aren’t in a competition…they are too busy serving God and the people He has called them to serve…in a good way, not the “i’m too busy” kind of way.

  11. OK, let me defend a little bit. I’ve heard pastors I know who are incredibly humble servants of God call their church body the “best in the world.” It was a way of expressing how much they loved and appreciated those in their congregation and not really that they felt no one else in the world could be “better” than them. While I am completely sure some pastors & churches are all about status and being “better” (because I’ve seen them and been in them) there’s also a point where it’s just hyperbole on the part of a pastor or worship leader.
    Jason recently posted..Day 148- When the demons comeMy Profile

    • Good points, Jason. However, putting a statement like that into your bio on a public webpage is rather arrogant, don’t you think? I can only hope that the man isn’t aware that it says that, although that would indicate other problems. Most of the pastors in this area are hyper-vigilant about everything related to their church.

  12. This makes me sad as well. My husband is a pastor with a genuine servant’s heart and a passionate love for God’s Word and people.
    I am rather biased, and of course I might think he’s the best pastor in the world because, when your married to a man who actually lives out his faith behind closed doors and not just to impress people, objectivity goes out the window a little:D

    However, if he ever put something like that in his bio or started bragging on his church being best, my respect for him would go down a couple hundred notches.

    We serve in a little church that is in the shadow of a mega-church across the street that built their building after us, but when others in our congregation start feeling a little inferior because of size, I tell them that God has a purpose for both of our churches. The true success of any ministry is how well we love, not how many numbers we have.
    Michelle recently posted..Delicate BloomsMy Profile

    • “The true success of any ministry is how well we love, not how many numbers we have.” < — AMEN to this. May God continue to bless you and your little church in the shadow. :)

  13. Joy, I can’t believe you drove past the church I pastor, and didn’t stop in to say, “Hi”!! Just kidding. Sorry. Too soon?
    Bill Sergott recently posted..Where Have All the Good Discussions GoneMy Profile

  14. Jesus' follower says:

    I know WHO is the BEST pastor in the world…

    So, do you want to know?

    My answer is “Well, I know him personally… It’s Jesus himself.” :D