For the third time in a little over a year, a Christian pastor/author that was on my bookshelf and podcast list has been removed from their church. Men who have encouraged me, discipled me, and helped motivate me (from afar) to love and good works (Heb.10:24) are no longer actively involved in vocational ministry. I was told once that only 1 out of 10 pastors retire from ministry; that most pastors end up sinning out, burning out, or failing out. Knowing this did not make the news that the leadership at Newspring Church had asked their founding and lead pastor, Perry Noble, to resign.
It’s been a week, but I have yet to wake up and not see a post about it on my Facebook newsfeed concerning what can be learned from the situation. Many of them are probably correct. When one of the largest churches in North America fires their pastor, we should learn something. I have. Through this difficult situation, God has reminded me that disappointments have been and forever will be something Satan uses to destroy and something God allows to make us complete, lacking nothing (James 1:2-4).
If you are a follower of Jesus and have not yet experienced disappointment, it’s on its way. Eventually, a pastor.. a mentor..a parent..a friend..someone who has encouraged you to follow Christ will do something that will make your heart ache. Why? Because we are broken people living in a broken world. Paul in his letter to Ephesus says that we are by birth children of wrath who are inclined to sin (Ephesians 2:1-4). A theme throughout the Old Testament is that humanity does not progress to be better people, but rather better sinners. This includes all of us. None are exempt. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), but by the glorious grace of God, we can be forgiven.
I will be the first to say that being inclined to inevitable disappointment is discouraging. But understanding that God is greater than all my situations brings hope in the midst of disappointing times. God NEVER wastes a hurt and uses all disappointment for His ultimately glory and for our ultimate good. However, let’s be clear. Satan wants to use all disappointing situations to destroy you. He wants you to question God’s goodness, your salvation, and especially your qualifications for making disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).
Following the Newspring announcement, I’m confident that Satan attempted to use it to lead thousands of people who placed their faith and trust in Jesus through Perry’s ministry to doubt, questioning, and despair. However, I am confident that what the enemy meant for evil God will use for good.. as it was for Joseph (Great story for all facing disappointments. Wow, his life was crazy! Genesis 50).
Many of us know the incorrect ways to respond to disappointment. They are our go to’s! (Anger, bitterness, depression, etc.) But how SHOULD we respond?
1. We Should Pray
It seems elementary, but in the book of James, the half-brother of Jesus, reminds us that we need to be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19-27). James understood the necessity of returning to the basics. For Christians, it does not get any more basic than prayer or communicating with our heavenly father. Christians are called to be people of prayer and we should pray, not as a last resort, but as a first response.
Consider this, if the person who disappoints you truly loves Jesus, there will be a time eventually, if not immediately, where the disappointer will be more disappointed in himself than you are with him. Pray for them and those affected. They need it and God in His sovereignty has proclaimed prayer the means by which we move the hands which move the world.
2. We Should Examine Our Hearts
Jesus reminds us that when we see others in sin, it should cause us to look within. Matthew 7:3:
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
Jesus is not saying, “Hey, ignore their sin because you aren’t perfect either!” (I think I’ve heard that interpretation once or twice.) Of course, Christ wants us to call out to fallen brothers and sisters trapped in sin. What Jesus is instructing is – in the process of seeing others caught in sin, it should lead us to personal examination.
God calls for obedience in all areas of our lives, not merely the areas that come easily. Let the failures of others lead you to examining your own life to see where you may be falling short of the mark. And please remember! The mark is not our family, friends, or our neighbors..it’s always Jesus. He is our standard.
Is there sin in your life that is currently unconfessed? I pray that God will lead you to faithful men and women of Christ that will enable safe outlets for confession that leads to freedom in Christ.
3. We Should Preach the Gospel to Ourselves
In seminary, my wife and I attended the Summit Church. The pastor, Jd Greear, had a way of articulating the Word of God in a way that just stuck with me (Check out his book here). One of his usual encouragements was for Christians to “preach the gospel to ourselves.” He was passionate for people to understand that Christ’s message of hope, love, and forgiveness was not just for “other people” but applies to all who trust and believe.
Have you considered lately that you are loved by the God of the universe? He knew what you would be on your best and worst days and STILL sent his only Son to rescue you. No ‘disappointment’ will change that. You are loved.
In moments of disappointment, in ourselves or in others, followers of Christ must remember that there is only one Savior and he has many communicable and incommunicable (revealed/unrevealed) attributes, but disappointing is not one. Trust Him. He is faithful.
I pray this helps you grow in your love for Christ, His Church, and His Mission!
So true and well-articulated, Brandon! The bigger they are, the harder they fall. And that’s precisely WHY Satan targets those on the front lines of ministry, knowing that many may fall prey to disillusionment on top of the disappointment, and possibly, as you mentioned, even deeper into despair, bitterness, and even turning away from God (since their faith was misplaced). Love for you to be a guest blogger on “Inspiring Hope”. Take a look at http://www.blog.beckywrightsongs.com to get an idea and let me know.