Religious Seduction

Several years ago I was talking to a friend about ministry. He was a seminary graduate with a Masters of Divinity degree. He had been out of the pastorate for several years and desirous of returning to ‘full time ministry’. As we talked I became increasingly aware of his focus on preaching and his desire to return to teaching. Then out of the blue these words jumped into my mind: “seduced by the pulpit”. I spoke those words to him and we talked about the seduction of preaching and how it sometimes was at odds with caring for for the flock. James 3:1 says this:
Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
It is interesting that the role of teacher is addressed and not other ministry gifts. There is something about public speaking that is seducing. As I am sitting here thinking about this I am not sure that I want to go where I need to go ... here goes anyway.

For about 15 years I spoke regularly at a very large charismatic church ... I spoke in an extemporaneous ‘prophetic’ fashion ... more times than not I would leave the platform hearing wild applause and cheering ... looking back it was a very surreal experience. When I left that church in 1995 I went through years of what I would call public speaking withdrawal. So much of my identity and my life was wrapped up in speaking publicly on Sunday morning (and other times). The notoriety and the power of public ministry was intoxicating ... it was like a drug ... and I was an addict.

In Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible he says this about James 3:1 ...
“Be not many of you teachers.” The evil referred to is that where many desired to be teachers ... the evil reprehended is that of seeking the office of public instructor ... It would seem that this was a prevailing fault among those to whom the apostle wrote. This desire was common among the Jewish people, who coveted the name and the office of “Rabbi,” ... This fondness for the office of teachers they naturally carried with them into the Christian church when they were converted, and it is this which the apostle here rebukes."
In light of this I find myself challenged every day to watch over my heart ... to place in check my desire to be known ... to be in a place where I can be used in ministry without being addicted to the intoxication of it. I preached on Tuesday at the city jail to about 15 men ... I found it to be somewhat underwhelming ... a good experience of sharing my heart ... felt like I was serving. Jesus said it best:
"If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all." -Mk 9:35
Lord Jesus help us to be servants in whatever we do ... give us hearts to be 'the very last'.


  1. Wonderful post. Every preacher, pastor, and priest ought to read it. Notice how I kept the small-caps on the three?

  2. Bob,
    This is so insightful. I appreciate your heart, and am being sincere when I say that the small notes of encouragement you've left on my blog during my season of heartbreak have been more strengthening than anything I've heard from a pulpit. Sometimes being a real shepherd is a quiet job, but the results will stand the test of time. Keep building with gold. I'm cheering you on.

  3. Wow KB, this is good. Look at the comments above me! You are touching lives. You've done the same on my blog and I thank you. God is using you.

  4. A perspective I admit that I have never heard before. It does help me to understand some of the challenges that my pastoring friends may encounter. Thank you for sharing it.

  5. Nice post Bob...This one resonated. I, thankfully, at this point in my life do not preach on a regular basis. I think for the very reasons you gave this is a good thing for me. (I like it too much) Ulitmately, I just want to be Andrew (the bringer). Bring people to Christ and let Him do the rest.

    I think a change needs to be done. Those who enjoy preaching and those who like listening to it both are addicted. As you say, it may not be the healthiest thing for us. More discussion between shepard and sheep need to take place. Just a thought.

  6. this same church was filled with hypocrisy and judgement. the teachings were of truth, however there was a double standard. nobody ever wanted to believe that or to question the leadership. i often compared some certain years to be similar to the pope in the 1800's and his reign.

    i leared so much through scripture study, but i also saw the most "noble" go and sin worse than i can have imagined. what sort of example does that set for a young man who is trying to discover his walk? i have decided to not be "religious" and replace it with spiritual.

    religous has now been too connected to blind faiths, hypocrisy, and deceit. individual spirituality allows one to be more focused on the lord, his spirit, and his teachings. i have yet to find a church where faith is the number one issue. where companionship is focused more than a paper flyer speaking of a coffee dinner.

  7. Thanks for this. Today a church member gave me feedback that a significant number of members (young and old) would like to see me preaching more often.

    I do see the need for their pastor to preach more (since they do find my sermons very helpful) but it also scares me for the reason you have posted ... so a good reminder for me.


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