Contempt is defined as the feeling with which a person regards anything considered mean, vile, or worthless. We have all felt this scorn from others. Whether it was from the cool kids in Junior High or from the smart kids in the chess club, we have known disdain first hand.
We mitigate inadequacies with comparison.
Years ago I went to Hawaii with my wife and she wanted to go to the beach, but I didn’t, partly because I am a landlubber, but mostly because I didn’t want to be seen in public in a pair of speedos. But then I walked to the balcony window of our hotel and looked at the people walking on the beach. Some were gorgeous with great bodies. But most were average and many were overweight and flabby. I went back to the mirror in the bathroom, took another look at myself, and decided that while I was not “cut”, I was not as bad as many that seemed to be enjoying the sand and sunshine. I slathered coconut oil lotion all over my forty acre body and went out for a big dose of vitamin D.
It is silly when it happens on a beach. It is sinful when it happens in the ministry.
I blush with embarrassment that borders on shame when I remember my attitude as a younger pastor towards older pastors in their fifties who were serving small churches that “weren’t doing anything.” I remember thinking privately, “Why don’t they do something about their churches? Why aren’t they concerned with growth? Don’t they love Jesus? Don’t they want to win others to Christ? Why have they given up? They are just coasting to retirement. Maybe they should go ahead and retire and let a young guy occupy their pulpit so that the Church could grow? They are washed up has-beens.”
I was nice to them but there was no way I would have wanted to be mentored by them. Because they weren’t successful in the way I defined success, therefore they had nothing to say that I wanted to hear. They were just pastors…pastoring. They were not growing, dynamic, standing-room-only, multiple-services, baptisms-every-week- pastors. They weren’t on the cutting edge of anything. They were not on anyone’s list of “people you should know.” They weren’t “up and comers;” they were “down and outers.” They weren’t being asked to speak at conferences. No one was asking them for an interview. They were slow, steady, but sedentary pastors.
I wish I could apologize and make amends to those men, but many of them are no longer living. They have gone on to mansions in heaven. But I am ashamed of myself. I have something I would like to say to them:
I am sorry. You are the true heroes of the faith. You are the ballast in the boat. You had gravitas all along and I was seduced into thinking that flash, glitz, and fame was the true measure of validation as a pastor. That multiple services and being in demand as a speaker proved my value.
I was a Faustian prophet of innovation and edgy methods. You were a prophet of measured maturity and steadfast love for the bride of Christ. I was a flirter and a power-seeker. You, however, gave away your life to Christ’s bride in daily ways that will go down in eternal history as beautiful old love.
You stayed true to your first love. And as a reward when I get to heaven, I will have to come over to your house in order to get a better view of the Throne.
Now, in my Denny’s discount years I have come to value being present where I am and to allow my Church to be my new standard of ecclesiastical beauty. My singular desire is to love her, serve her, dance with her and grow old with her. And when we cross from this life into the next, we will marvel at One who loves nobodies into somebodies.
(Jesus said,) … All you did was use me to make yourselves important. Matt. 7:23a (MSG)