I was reminded recently of my humanity. As much as I wish it weren’t the case, I make mistakes (gasp!). In a recent sermon I mixed up a verse reference. It wasn’t a big deal, but it does happen from time to time. Usually a kind parishioner (and/or my beloved wife) will point out the error. Such noble Bereans are a blessing to any church!
However, when this happens I always cringe. My default setting for self criticism kicks in: “What confidence can people put in a pastor who makes mistakes?” This leads to self help solutions: “I need clearer notes, larger fonts, fewer cross references. Then I won’t make any mistakes…”
This entire line of thinking is flawed. It is built on a false assumption: churches need flawless pastors. They don’t. There are none. Churches need a flawless savior, and by God’s grace that’s exactly what we have in Jesus. God has been pleased to use claypot messengers to point people to Jesus. Paul’s thought from 2 Corinthians 4:7 applies here,
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
Any power in the ministry of the gospel comes from God, and not from a pastor or preacher. Our frailty helps us by reminding us of this core truth.
So I am humbled. Not so much by making a mistake in a sermon, but by assuming that God needs me to deliver perfect sermons. This reminds me of a recent message I preached (hopefully to myself!)- we are at our best when we trust God the most. My congregation doesn’t need me, they need Jesus. Again, this reminds me of 2 Corinthians 4:5,
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.
Unfortunately, we are all too familiar with the large scale failures of pastors- abandoning their marriages, stealing church funds, etc. Those result in massive, messy conflicts. But what about the small scale failures- misspoken words and minor misinterpretations? These don’t disqualify any man from ministry, but they do reveal that rather than being a savior, every pastor needs a savior.
I certainly won’t get it right every time. But being perfect isn’t what my congregation needs from me. They need me to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, and myself as their servant for Jesus’ sake- a servant who, like each of us, desperately needs a savior.