These are some famous poisons and the victims done in by them.
Their effects were swift, and effective. The poison did its job; the people died.
Just as sure as these historical figures were contaminated to death, modern pastors are being poisoned. Hopefully the Deacon Board is not involved! Yet subtly and painfully, the toxins are working to destroy the hearts and lives of countless ministers of the Gospel.
We may assume a pastor’s poison to be sexual or involving money or some other type of moral corruption. But the venoms I am concerned with today are perhaps more subtle, yet more common. They do not destroy the organs like the chemical poisons do; rather, they destroy the spirits, hearts and souls of their victims.
Let’s discuss 3 very common enemies (poisons) of today’s ministers.
While not as newsworthy as an illicit affair, cynicism has destroyed more than it’s fair share of pastors.
Cynical is defined as: distrusting or disparaging the motives of others; showing contempt for accepted standards of honesty or morality by one’s actions, especially by actions that exploit the scruples of others. Bitterly or sneeringly distrustful, contemptuous, or pessimistic.
If you’ve met a few ministers, odds are you’ve seen this on display. A cynical attitude is impossible to hide. It usually shows up when others are optimistically discussing a concept, a new idea, or a vision for the future. Cynics have lost the ability to trust. So they reject optimism as impossible or unlikely.
The reason so many pastors become cynics is simple: they have endured too much disappointment.
Closely related to cynicism is skepticism. A skeptic is “a person who maintains a doubting attitude, as toward values, plans, statements, or the character of others.” They question the authenticity and validity of things that others believe to be accurate and trustworthy.
It is easy for a pastor to become a skeptic. They may still hold to the integrity of the Scriptures (although some do not) but the behaviors of the people around them have caused these Pastors to learn to doubt. Mistrust is a rallying cry for many in today’s culture. There is no benefit of the doubt; people are guilty until proven innocent.
It is sad to see good leaders project such a negative and poisonous attitude. But it is common.
Following closely behind cynicism and skepticism is:
Sarcasm – “a harsh or bitter derision or irony.” Sarcasm is made visible with a sneer, with a cutting remark or with a verbal taunt. Sarcastic leaders are dangerous in that they often openly share their sarcasm. I have heard more than one preacher reveal his sarcastic heart while preaching the Word of God. It is not a pretty sight.
Though these poisons are different, they share the same source – pain.
Leading is painful. Leaders get hurt. It is impossible to avoid the pain that is associated with leading. So the solution is not to hide from pain.
In my opinion, there are 2 approaches to protecting ourselves against the poison of pastors:
Prevention and antidote.
Pastor friends, please protect yourself, not from the pain of leading, but from the hardening of your heart that comes as a result of the pain. You already know Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Keep your heart safe. Keep it tender. Keep it vulnerable. But keep it free from poison. If you fail to keep the poison out of your heart, you ministry, life and future will be contaminated.
But the truth is, many of us are in need of the life-saving antidote. We’ve already been poisoned and we are feeling the effects. We’re now searching for remedies. We need an antitoxin to nullify the effects of skepticism, cynicism and sarcasm.
The antidote for these poisons is the Holy Spirit. He can make all things new. He can heal our brokenness. Only the Holy Spirit can reverse the effects of these soul toxins.
Leaders, if we do not address these issues, the outcome will not be good. Not only will we destroy ourselves but others will also suffer.
- Cynical leaders lead bitter followers.
- Skeptical leaders produce faithless followers.
- Sarcastic leaders develop hopeless followers.
We can and must do better. If you need help, reach out. You’re not alone.
Prayer: Father, make our hearts tender before you. Heal our brokenness. Forgive us for becoming hardhearted. Remove the poison from our systems. Teach us to love and trust and serve once again. And protect us from future attacks of these dreaded poisons. In Christ’s name, Amen.
(all definitions from dictionary.com)