This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a while, but until tonight, I was never able to put it into words. In my upcoming book, I talk about the unrealistic expectations that are placed upon a pastor and the stress it causes him. Many of the unrealistic expectations come from within the pastor. He thinks he is supposed to be superhuman. He thinks he is supposed to be a glorified man, almost free of sin. That is absolutely unreasonable.
I love John MacArthur. I started listening to his sermons when I was 14. He shaped my theology at a very early age. I remember the first time I heard John Piper. I thought, “That guy is amazing. How can someone be that holy?” When I heard him at Together for the Gospel, I wanted to be like him.
I promise, I tried. I wanted to be like my heroes of the faith. I heard not only them, but other giants of the faith calling me to a life of holiness and greatness. It seemed unreachable. I was a wretch. My sin was great and they seemed like giants compared to me. The distance between me and them was terrific.
Then, two years ago, I fell morally from the ministry. I was assured of the distance.
I was talking to my wife tonight about these great men and I came up with a theory about my heroes of the faith. I think it helps.
There are thousands of pastors who strive to be like John MacArthur, John Piper, Albert Mohler and R.C. Sproul, to name a few. However, they see in their lives a million things that are wrong, sinful and keep them from being like those men. Daily, these thousands of pastors beat themselves up over their sins and hate themselves over their wrongs. They place high expectations on themselves, wanting to be like their heroes. Don’t deny you’ve felt like this. Wanting to be like a certain hero of the faith. This is not an attack on our heroes, this is an affirmation of the thousands of pastors who are very ordinary.
I spent years in the pastorate wondering why I wasn’t like my heroes in the faith. I wondered why my life didn’t model theirs. I thought if I acted like them and preached like them that I would eventually be like them. But I now know that was folly.
Ever hear of the bell curve? It’s a formula that lets us know that most of us are extremely ordinary, some are very unordinary, and some are superordinary. The bell curve, as you see illustrated, is used to let us know about the intelligence quotient in our society. The vast majority of us are of average intelligence. Very, very few are genius.
I’d like to think that people like MacArthur and Piper are geniuses of our time. That’s not to infer that we shouldn’t strive for sanctification. However, they are a rare breed. You know it’s true. Feel free to open up a volume of Jonathan Edwards and know that in his day, he was set apart in his time as well.
My fear is that thousands of minsters are setting their barometers upon what MacArthur and Piper are doing. We are placing unrealistic expectations upon ourselves based upon five minute video clips of our favorite pastors, when we should be looking at what God has for our lives instead.
God has a specific plan for the very ordinary among us. Believe me, there are thousands of ordinary pastors among us who can make a tremendous difference. We won’t ever have a television audience, CD ministry, or ever publish a book. But God has seen fit to place us where he has us.
God hasn’t called thousands of men to be like John Piper or John MacArthur. He’s called us to be who we are. Special and unique, although we may seem ordinary to the rest of the world. Who did Christ call to follow Him? Fishermen. Tax collectors. Zealots.
I praise God for the ministries of great men who have risen up and caught our fascinations. But that will not be the calling of most of us. Most of us will be toiling in the small to medium sized churches, loving people, preaching week after week with no great admiration. And that is fine. If we are to be a Sunday School teacher, a minister, a counselor or a pastor, we should model our calling after Christ.
Our peace comes knowing that we are following what Christ has called us to do. Be ordinary. Be yourself. Be who Christ called you to be. And that should be good enough for any of us.