by Pastor Brandon Bailey (Teleios)
Historical and contemporary teachings on pastoral leadership distractions tend to border on issues of morality and as such the following term “money, power, and sex” has become a 21st century adage as it relates to the pastor. This is not wrong in any way but very limiting because in an ever changing culture, distractions evolve. The 21st century pastor is no longer limited to only issues of morality but now have to fend off numerous distractions. These distractions, though friendly and not harmful in appearance, can change the outlook and dynamics of the ministry altogether. The intention of these subtle distractions in ministry is to create a spiritual drift where the individual is so far away from what he/she set out to do and accomplish at the inception of the journey.
The word academia simply means the accumulation of knowledge. The early church received its framework and foundations by an academic, The Apostle Paul. The Apostle Paul was an avid scholar of renowned teacher & philosopher Gamaliel. Gamaliel was considered a Professor in the law and also a master tactician in ancient Greek philosophy. When you consider his (Apostle Paul’s) letter to church in Rome, you read a deeply theological piece blended with terms like justification that was relevant to Roman legal practices. His argument with scholars & philosophers on Mars Hill in Acts 17 is another reference to his intellectual depth. This same Apostle Paul went through a spiritual reformation where in his own words he says:
Phillipains 3:8 “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ”
He was not rejecting academics; he was simply highlighting the order of priorities. The 21st century pastor has an unhealthy obsession with academics and we are at risk of producing a convoluted leader. The distraction that the world is throwing at the church is “intellectualism”. We are growing in vocabulary and terminology but not growing in expression and experience. Apostle Paul was simply saying if academics change your life-good, but if not “it is as garbage”. Intellectualism is not a replacement for spirituality. The two should work together and not against one another. The Apostle Paul mastered the art of balancing academics with spirituality. Do not allow your academic ambition to rob you of your spiritual make up. Learning must add value to your call & ultimate mission, if not it is simply a distraction.
I am a firm believer that the church of Jesus Christ should influence politics at some level in any nation. Sadly politics have shifted from wanting to effect change to creating comforts and benefits for politicians. The pastor who is struggling financially and desires some level of comfort has no gripe in entering the political arena for personal gains and comforts. Spiritual leaders are no longer engaging political platforms with a kingdom agenda they engaging it with a personal agenda. We are no longer influencing politics, we simply belong to politics. Politics is the Achilles heel of the established and emerging pastor because it offers a way out. I have witnessed God raise up solid spiritual leaders who possess the capacity to change entire nations, unfortunately they get swallowed by the very thing they had to change.
The church is made up of various individuals who carry different anointing to the church. I believe it is critical for me as a spiritual leader to work with other spiritual leaders in the community/city where I am planted. With that said, I don’t have a desire to work with everyone. The emerging pastor is spoilt with choice when it comes to selecting a network he will align with. What most don’t realize is that you can be so caught up in a network that you completely neglect your call and spiritual assignment. I have seen how in denominations &networks leaders are on the forefront of moving that body and its agenda forward only to discover the unfortunate state of their local churches. It is not compulsory to work with every “good” agenda in your community/city. There are initiatives that will require your involvement and then there are initiatives you should only pray for from a distance. Discern when to get close and when to keep your distance. This way you will not mess up the momentum of your own local church. It is humanly impossible for you to belong to every network, you simply can’t support everyone.
I get numerous invitations from Pastors in our city to attend their conferences. These invitations are obviously sent in good spirits. Clergy always look for ways to foster new relationships and strengthen existing relationships. When I was new in ministry I said yes to almost every invitation because I tried very hard not to offend well-meaning individuals. It dawned upon me that my new routine was becoming high maintenance and that it is simply impossible for me to attend so many conferences/events. In many circles “I won’t be available” is a cardinal sin and we say yes out of guilt and in the process inconvenience ourselves and our families. In this fast paced era time has become a precious commodity and you must make sure that the investment of time in any event will bring you many happy returns. Never permit the event bug to bite you and distract you from the things that require your time
We must accept that as spiritual leaders we can’t do everything, we can’t belong everywhere and we certainly don’t belong to everyone. Everything, everywhere and everyone are major distractions that will make you feel obligated to things, places & people that are not necessarily part of your assignment. To increase the momentum of your personal ministry you will have to REPRIORITIZE
A distraction always comes clothed as good intentions. If you don’t discern you will find yourself slowly drifting into the abyss of missed opportunity