Ministry Porn

The deception is powerful. It sucks you into a world where what is real is of no consequence and what is imagined is of ultimate power and pleasure. Why bother with the hardships of the real thing when the fantasy can be as easy and rewarding as you want it to be? Your reality is mundane but your fantasy is where all the action is. And that’s the great deception. When you take the bait and believe in the fantasy, nothing is real for you anymore. In a painful twist of irony, your pursuit of more joy and fulfillment that led you away from reality into a world of fantasy has failed you.

These are the ways of ministry porn. Instead of an image on a screen or in a magazine the fantasy world of ministry porn involves leading the biggest church in town, baptizing more people than anybody else and being asked to speak at some conference. Ministry porn is the denial of the reality in which God has placed you and replacing it with the fantasy of being a little more influential, powerful, popular and gifted. The deception is that achieving these things will give you fulfillment and perhaps even make God like you more.

I’m addicted to ministry porn.

I grew up in the church hearing about pastors going to the grocery store to buy milk who ended up sharing the gospel with the checkout lady, her manager and the CEO of the store. They all got saved.

On a side note, when I go to the store to buy milk I use self-checkout and it always breaks. User error. No one ever gets saved.

I know pastors that are having a hard time keeping up with God’s numerical blessings on their church. What started as 10 people meeting in somebody’s basement three years ago has become a very large, God-honoring church that is making an impact in the community and around the world.

I listened to great pastors who seem to never strike out on Sunday mornings. Every sermon podcast is a homerun and the tens of thousands of other people downloading those sermons seem to feel the same way.

If I’m completely honest with myself, that’s where I want to be. If only I had the kind of personality that could leave a lasting impact on people after just a few minutes in the grocery store. If only I was a better leader that knew how to draw larger crowds. If only I was a more talented and gifted expositor and speaker. And so goes the plunge into fantasyland.

Maybe I should convince myself that smaller is better and criticize every church that’s bigger and every leader that’s more gifted. Better yet, maybe I could just do nothing, call it a lack of selfish ambition and act like slow or no results are signs of holiness. But to do these things is to deny God’s unique blessing on each person, church and ministry as he chooses. It is replacing one fantasy world for another.

Instead, the answer for me has been to rely on God’s grace to jerk me back into reality. Here’s how it’s happened.

Of all the human beings on the planet today, the man that I look up to the most is Turk Holt. Turk was my youth pastor before I was even a youth. He taught me how to have personal daily devotions, he taught me how to develop a sermon and by example he is still showing me what it looks like to love Jesus and your family.

Turk is real. That’s not to say that the big name Christian leaders are not real. It’s just to say that I tend to idealize their situations. Because I don’t know them, I never think about the fact that they too have to pay bills, deal with disgruntled church members and manage a busy schedule. I just think about how cool it would be to have their position and influence.

Turk is real because I know him. I know what it was like to drive around in his Ford Taurus that smelled like Cool Ranch Doritos. I know that through his severe back pains, he still loves Jesus and his family. I know that he never came up in any conversations in my seminary classes and he doesn’t speak at a whole lot of conferences. But Turk loves Jesus and he loves Jesus’ church and seeing that helps bring me back to reality.

And so I’m left with a few questions to ask myself. What if, like Turk, I never get published? What if, like Turk, I never speak at a huge conference? What if the church I pastor never sets any record for baptisms? What if the lady at the store rejects my gospel presentation and tells me that I’m no longer allowed to use the self-checkout machine? What if I simply love and lead my wife and kids, pastor Jesus’ church and never hear the world or even the church tell me “Good job, Jay”?

Thanks for the example, Turk. In word and in deed you have shown me that praise and approval of other people doesn’t really matter a whole lot. You have shown me that it’s quite all right to be forgotten (or maybe never even known) by this world and to one day leave it and hear the only affirmation that really matters.

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” Matthew 25:23