I have been honored to have served as a pastor for over 23 years. What a privilege it has been for me to serve others and to walk alongside them as they grow in faith and have helped me to grow in mine! It seems that this week the news has been replete with stories of misdeeds and ridiculous undertakings on the part of supposed ministers of the Gospel. As one who has devoted my life to serving in ministry, let me offer a few words of reflection on how to differentiate true ministers from charlatans.
We may not be called to judge others, but we can be fruit inspectors. Jesus said that His followers should let their lights so shine among others that they might "see [their] god works and glorify the Father in Heaven." Jesus said of Himself, the Good Shepherd, that he came not to be served but to serve and to give His life. He calls those who lead in the faith community to the same standard of living.
Wayward ministers must be confronted. Truth is at stake. Lives are at risk. Self-centered, money loving preachers are not just a menace, they are a danger to the spiritual well-being of throngs of people seeking the good. We can't let these jokers slide, as they transpose good with evil. They must be relentlessly challenged. Too many faithful people have died to allow them to corrupt the reputation of the church. Their false Gospel must be diminished. The truth of the real Gospel must be defended!
As I consider my own call to ministry in light of an abundance of false teachers - some of whom began on the "straight and narrow" - I ask you, my brothers, sisters and friends, to hold me accountable. If my lifestyle departs from the standard of my Lord or the utterances of my messages, don't let me continue on without confrontation. Talk to me. Challenge me. If I refuse to listen, a crisp left hook or a fresh 2x4 might come in handy, but by no means leave me in my error. The only thing worse than not preaching at all is preaching a message of hypocrisy and calloused neglect. May the Lord preserve the faithful and shut down the wicked! Even so, "come, Lord Jesus!"