The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. 2 Timothy 4:18
A text message came in from a pastor friend. I’ve known him for decades. He is the kind of man for whom the adjective “saintly” was invented. He pastored a thriving church for many years. Then someone on staff stabbed him in the back and rallied others to get him thrown out. The objections to his ministry had no substance. “The issues” were not the real issues. As Moishe Rosen, founder of Jews for Jesus, said to me once, “Some try to pull down a prominent man, not because they themselves wish to take his place, but because doing so gives them a feeling of power.”
My friend had met with someone from his former church, wishing to reconcile. But the person blew him off. All that the meeting accomplished was to re-open an old wound.
So here is what I want to say to my friend:
You’re not crazy. This has been happening to God’s men since Cain and Abel. It is one way you identify with Jesus himself.
What was your crime, within that religious subculture called your church? Your crime was that you were not out for yourself but totally out for the Lord. You were, for that reason, and completely unbeknownst to you, an embarrassment, a reproach and a threat to the strongholds of unresolved sin deep within the hearts of some around you. They had to get rid of you, lest Jesus get too close. And they had to make it your fault, to justify themselves. After all, their self-image of innocence was the whole point. Without even realizing it, they had made “their church” into a mechanism for evading God while also confessing God, diminishing God’s claims on them while also reassuring themselves that they were good people. The cross had not set them free to be honest with themselves. They were secretly laboring under the burdens of self-salvation, since Jesus just wasn’t that real to them. But you were dealing in completely different categories, assumptions and values. The Lord was so wonderfully real to you in his grace and glory, that you longed for his complete rule in every respect. So, it was like oil and water. Unless there had been a spiritual breakthrough and deep repentance, conflict was inevitable. But the conflict did not discredit you; it validated you. It just wasn’t the validation you wanted! All you wanted was their blessing, for the greater glory of Jesus. But the rejection you suffered there is the reason 1 John 3:12 is in the Bible — to tell you that you’re not crazy: “And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s were righteous.” There it is. That was your crime, pastor. You were a godly man, wholehearted for the Lord. Your ministry was righteous. In your church, that was a fatal step.
So you lost your ministry there. But you didn’t lose your ministry altogether. What feels like loss is, in fact, re-investment. You were a profound man before, and now you are even more profound. For the rest of your life, when someone comes to you who has just taken a torpedo amidships and they’re going down, you will understand, as few men can. You are now equipped as never before to comfort sufferers. In your weakness and desolation, you are formidable. What can anyone do to you now? You’ve gone deep into the heart of Jesus, and you’ve found him to be an utterly faithful Friend. For the rest of your life, that glorious awareness of your Friend above is going to be pouring out of you onto devastated people. And your ministry will have more impact than ever before.
It’s a privilege to know you and walk with you.