Killing the Messenger


I met with a friend the other day for lunch. He's a good man with plenty of God-given vision for the Kingdom, but he's discouraged.

My friend is discouraged for many of the same reasons I discuss in posts here at Cerulean Sanctum. He sees the problems in the American Church today, but rather than dwelling on them, he works toward solutions. He loves the Church and wants only the best for Her, yet he's had a rough time finding a place that will appreciate his talents. Instead, he's found a lot of the business world in the Church, where people in leadership positions, when confronted with problems, would rather let innocent underlings die by the sword than to be responsible men and fall on it themselves.

As I listened to my friend, it struck me how alike we are in what we see and understand. It's like we were thinking the exact same thoughts at the exact same time. I found myself nodding my head the second he opened his mouth to talk about an issue because I knew precisely what he was going to say; I would have said it that same way, too.

The difference between the two of us is that my friend is still actively pursuing a life in the ministry. I, on the other hand, tired of the gamesmanship, the unwillingness to look beyond the ordinary, and the perpetual confrontations with people lacking vision, got out.

I don't say that with any malice toward any one person or any single church. The cumulative barrage is what hurts over time, particularly for those people who by God's design are the square pegs in the round holes.

Not too long ago, I interviewed for a pastoral position at a respected church. The pastor was clearly a man who pushed the envelope and was wholly unsatisfied with the status quo. I didn't agree with every move he made, but you could tell he was on the right iconoclastic path. Sadly, during my first interview, I realized his board did not share the same vision.

When asked how I defined "spiritual growth", I made the mis-step of defining my view by opening with what it was so obviously not: keisters in seats. On this, the pastor and I wholeheartedly agreed. Someone forgot to clue the board in, though. The laser death beams that drilled about two dozen holes in me revealed the truth. To the board, it was ALL about packing 'em in.

Same planet, different worlds.

I really don't know how those folks get in positions of power in our American churches, but somehow they do. You can stamp folks like that out of a mold, put a certain regional dialect on their lips, and plop them in church leadership roles around the country—sometimes I think that's how they're made, devilishly manufactured in secret government cloning tubs in a lab outside Poughkeepsie.

For those godly people who have a better vision, the small-minded are everywhere. More often than not, they're standing in the way, doing everything they can to secure their own kingdom at the expense of the bigger Kingdom.

But what to do?

My friend and I were on the same path at one time, but broken and battered, I got off. Am I happy with that decision? Not really. It leads to the inevitable question of what might have been. But then I see my friend, a man wholly sold out to God, and I see the utter discouragement on his face and I wonder. More than anything I pray that some church that hasn't been infiltrated by small kingdom people will recognize the goldmine, will see the prophet, and turn him loose to do the thing that God so desires to do through him.

You can't peer into the holy depths of a Jeremiah and know every emotion of his every day. Who understood him except God? Who consoled him except his Creator? To not seek the approval of men is to exact a cost that too few of us are willing to pay. Certainly small-minded, small kingdom people can't understand that cost.

More than anything else, I pray that God would blow those small kingdomites off their perch, like a carpenter blows sawdust off his work. I've seen too many godly people shot down in flames, not because they were wrong, but because they were so excruciatingly right about problems and the solutions needed to fix them that no one could tolerate their correctness.

Opposition from the world is to be expected. But opposition from the Church? That's a sting no anesthetic will soothe.

Today, I'm sad for my friend. I wonder why so many good people suffer at the hands of the very people they seek to serve.

Hmm. Sounds achingly familiar, doesn't it?

{Image: The Stoning of Stephen by Pietro da Cortona}

29 thoughts on “Killing the Messenger

  1. Oh yeah…. *sigh*. The fun and excitement is just starting tho, Dan. More and more of God’s prophets are being commissioned… to stand and be the mouth that has been quieted for soooo long. The shaking has already begun.

    • Ronni,

      I wish I could believe that about God’s prophets, Ronni. Most real prophets labor in obscurity. My experience, then, is that anyone who self-identifies as a prophet isn’t one. That would exclude 99.999% of the “prophets” running around today.

  2. DPT

    For years—almost twenty actually—I submitted as David did to the “Sauls” of the kingdom because that’s what I thought I should do. No longer. I got out five years ago and I’m never going back. The people I encountered over the years wanted God’s presence and power in the midst, but only on their own terms. That is neither the church nor the kingdom Jesus is building, and I do not intend to linger in a pile of wood, hay and stubble when it’s set alight.

    If it sounds like there’s an edge to my voice, there is. Enemies in the church? Re-read the Psalms and the narratives that provide the background and you’ll find there’s nothing new under the sun.

    • DPT,

      Yes, but…

      I don’t think there’s an OT parallel to the Church. The Church is a wholly new entity. It SHOULD be different. Like it says, no one will have to to say to others, “Know the Lord,” because people will know Him because He lives in them.

      Yes, Paul encountered growing-pain-like problems, but should we not have moved beyond that a long time ago? Call me idealistic, but how is it that SO MANY bad leaders are in place, while I know so many good people not in ministry because bad leaders stabbed them in the back at some point in time?

      That’s what I don’t get, especially in light of the sovereignty of God.

  3. I’m with you on this one, Dan. I noticed that someone in the recent homeschool discussion seemed pretty harsh against home churches, and I’m not entirely sure where you stand on that particular issue (you gave a rather universal agreement to her post, without indicating that you disagreed with any of it, so I’m thinking maybe you agree with her). However, I will say that one of the reasons my wife and I began pursuing a more “simple church” concept (meeting house to house with fellow believers) was for the reason you have stated in this post.

    Well-written, and right on the mark, in my humble opinion.

    steve 🙂

    • Steve, I’m not entirely sold on the house church idea, actually.

      I’m part of a small group that has taken on a house church sheen and there’s a lot of holes in our model, mostly due to the fact that we’re not large enough to have a broad-based approach to ministry. What we do is good, but highly limited.


      A couple things I’ve written on this topic are here and here.

  4. Is your friend coming to Pittsburgh any time soon? We have been churchless for years, unable to find a godly leader who is steeped in the Word. Well, maybe that’s not fair. We aren’t comfortable with charismatic worship. Today, in a Bible study, we talked about church splits. “What is the basic foundation in which to unite?” The pat answer you always get is Jesus as Savior. I disagreed and said the authority of God’s Word at which point the leader gave an example of scripture she believed we cannot rely as TRUTH. But this is what is ailing the church…the picking apart of the Bible into palatable morsels.

    Is this what you and your friend believe? I feel very much alone, discouraged because the Church, as you say, is the source of despair!

  5. Excelent post.

    One slightly off topic comment. I think the board members at that church need to remember who’s leading. Our board operates not as leaders of the church, but more like deacons, althought they are not appointed as such. I mean ‘deacon’ as in ‘servant’ and they serve over a specific area – namely financial responsibility, administration and legal protection. It is their role to protect the church fiscally and legally, not to provide spiritual direction and leadership.

    Ultimately, and legally, they have the role of hiring and firing, but they don’t expand that to determining policy, goals or direction. That is the role of the ministry staff, deacons and (if we had one) the eldership.

    It’s a little ironic that they were lead by a minister that was mostly in line with your way of thinking, but saw your way of thinking as different from theirs and not right for their church.

    (BTW – Thanks for the linkage in the blogroll!)

    • Chad

      Another question is where did “the board” as church authority come from? I know that churches that incorporate are required to have one, which sets up a state-created authority within the church.

      • I don’t know a lot about it, but I think it’s a part of getting tax exempt status. This allows the members to be able to give more to support the work of the church. It’s a legal requirement and the board members must answer to the state if there are questions on how the ‘corporation’ operated. However, there is no God given, scripture mandated role for a church board – ore even dictate to have a board. The church could operate without it, but at a financial disadvantage. My point was that this board has taken it’s legal authority too far into church leadership authority.

  6. Dire Dan: ” Sounds achingly familiar, doesn’t it?”

    Yeah, it does. It seems like I’ve read several dozen variations of this same theme on Cerulean Sanctum: to wit, “everything about the church is completely rotten; we are so powerless to change things because the power structures that be are too stupid to realize what’s happening; and woe is us.” Maybe it’s time to move on, Dan. Maybe you better move out of Ohio; it’s sounding more and more like the most depressing spot in all of America. I’m glad I don’t live there.

    Seriously, it sounds like a change of scenery might do you some good.

    • Oengus,

      My friend doesn’t live in Ohio. It’s not simply an Ohio problem.

      Not everything about the Church in America is “completely rotten.” If that were the case, then there’d be no point to any of this and I should just stop blogging. I think we can do better in a lot of areas and how we place people in leadership positions is one of those areas we need to improve. We’ve got to stop falling for trends, too. We’ve got to get the business practices out and start putting people in positions of authority based solely on God’s leading.

      It’s not about degrees or status or earthly power or nepotism or any of those other things. None of that matters as a qualification for ministry. Nor can we be afraid of people who think bigger thoughts than we do. Those are the people we need leading today. Why are so many people in so many churches afraid of those people?

      What would you say to my friend?

    • Hon I’m about 40 miles from Dan. It’s not an Ohio problem. It’s a church problem. Dan, unfortunately has gotten burnt out serving, and serving, and serving… and I ask my own pastors as often as possible if I can take anything off their shoulders… and pray they don’t get burnt out… because of this… plus… Dan has a specific viewpoint because it is part of his calling… to call out things in the church… it’s a hard road to walk, and at times can seem depressing… but its what He is called to do… so let him lament… and pray.

  7. Helen

    Oengus Moonbones—its everywhere. I have been blessed with a wonderful church, but only after years of searching and a bit of time on what I call my “church sabbatical,” where I just didn’t go anywhere.

  8. Helen

    Dan, it was the .001% of the prophets that kept me from losing my mind from fear after 9/11 and continues to do do. A lot of phonies out there but the ones that aren’t are true gifts to the rest of us.

  9. Dire Dan: “What would you say to my friend?”

    First of all, lose the “vision thing”. If he’s looking for a place that “will appreciate his talents”, he’ll never find it, and just continue being frustrated. Start out small instead. Maybe don’t start in the “ministry” at all. Get a job in the “business world” and be willing to fall on a few swords for a while. Then God might decide to advance him to something else for a time. As St. Augustine once pointed out, in so many words, “life here on earth sucks”, so he needs to get over it; and to do so, it helps to remember our treasures are located elsewhere. Again, start out small. For some reason, God really likes small things, and colors.

  10. Pingback: Swap Blog » Blog Archive » Killing the messenger
  11. Of course God likes small things, and I’m into colors so yeah. But ya know, the OT prophets weren’t a happy bunch! I would tell your friend I’d pray for a ministry for him, even if it starts “small” with one or two families. I know a bunch of people in spiritually dead locations, struggling with the churches. Someone just last night said she understood that we are not in a church! This is happening more as Christians are waking up to the problems. I was not afraid to confront the leadership, but it went nowhere. I get the “talking points” type of answers…”Pray for unity” and “Christ is our uniting foundation”. BZZZZZ. Wrong answers.

  12. “You can stamp folks like that out of a mold, put a certain regional dialect on their lips, and plop them in church leadership roles around the country…”

    Yep, I’m pretty sure that’s how they’re made, too. I don’t blame you from walking away from ministry as a profession. You are still in ministry, though, by sharing God with us on this blog, and the way you touch the lives of people around you.

  13. Schizo_phrenic

    Degeneration is an eventuality of life, be it the church or the country, more so in the church because it has enemies in the heavenly realms, and because fallen men and women are in its leadership, yet i think the scripture is clear that they are appointed of god, so i am not sure how correct resisting them is, yet some are called to correct and to teach the truth, like Dan.
    We cannot walk away from a heavenly institution because it is corrupted my man, afterall we too are the parts of the body of christ and so it falls on us to keep other parts clean does’nt it?
    The Lord will buid his church, neither the gates of heaven nor the chuch board can stop that, prasie god. and as the remnant, let us not give hope and think we are all alone like elisha did , god had his remnant, be it one percent and or less, its his church, his bride he will provide.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *