Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Messenger or The Model

What did Jesus look like? How about the apostles, what did Paul or James look like? Think for a second, what images come to mind? A light skinned man, perfect teeth and long hair that always looks like he just stepped out of a salon, maybe even six feet tall? Maybe he even speaks with a British accent. Is that the image that your mind conjures up?

I recently spoke with a friend who has been asked to interview with a church for the position of Senior Pastor. He said that when he spoke to one of the men on the interview/search committee he recommended that my friend shave his beard and work on his appearance a little. Let me give you a little background on this. My friend is a good ole country boy who likes to do just about anything outdoors. When he and I get together he is usually dressed in holey pants, flip flops and a ratty t-shirt. He speaks with a definite southern drawl. In public you would never peg him as a pastor.

However, he is an ordained Baptist minister who knows God's word inside and out. He is not afraid to take issue with the church when the traditions of the church don't line up with scripture. He is not your typical Baptist preacher who tows the line when it comes to "the way things are done". He wrestles with how to take on the rules and regulations of the denomination when they do not seem to follow the teachings of Paul when it comes to church governance and leadership. As we talked the other night he asked me what I thought he should do.

I am familiar with the church that has asked him to meet with them about the Senior Pastor position. I was a member for over 20 years before I left two years ago. The church has the reputation of being a country club church, or a white collar congregation. The pastor who is stepping down has been there for over 25 years and is very well connected within the community. In addition he is very image conscious. He has his suits tailored so they fit like a glove, he is not afraid to wear a pink seer sucker suit on a summer Sunday morning or a black velvet double-breasted sport coat in the fall. He is what some people my refer to as very GQ. He too is a godly man who knows and preaches the Bible like few I have ever heard.

As I thought about this I realized just how much emphasis we put on the external appearance. We worry about what we look like, what our pastor looks like, what our youth rooms look like, what our church building looks like and on and on. It made me wonder if I (we) would be interested in attending a church that Jesus or Paul or any other of the apostles pastored. Take a look at some information I found out about a couple of these men.

Isaiah 53: 2 - He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. (Jesus was not tall, and handsome although he was probably dark)

Matthew 26: 47-49 - 47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” 49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. (he seemed to blend in with the crowd since Judas had to walk up to him and in essence say - here he is, this is the guy you are looking for!)

I Corinthians 11: 14-16 - 14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God. (would Paul say this about men with long hair if he saw Christ on the road to Damascus with long hair?)
Thecla 1: 4-7 - And a certain man, by name Onesiphorus, hearing that Paul had come to Iconium, went out to meet him with his children Silas and Zeno, and his wife Lectra, in order that he might entertain him:  for Titus had informed him what Paul was like in appearance:  for he had not seen him in the flesh, but only in the spirit.  And he went along the road to Lystra, and stood waiting for him, and he kept looking at the passers-by according to the description of Titus.  And he saw Paul coming, a man small in size, balk-headed, crooked thighs [note: bow-legged], well-built, with eyebrows meeting, rather long-nosed, full of grace.  For sometimes he seemed like a man, and sometimes he had the countenance of an angel. (some scholars believe that Paul was bow-legged due to his being severly beaten over and over)
[Note] Thecla is not a canonized book of the Bible and I am not using this for doctrine, just a possible physical description of Paul
I Corinthians 2: 1-5 - When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

2 Corinthians 10:10 For some say, "His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing."
Paul was not even a good speaker according to these passages. He was unattractive and a bad public speaker and yet God used him in a mighty way.

My point is that I think God knit these men together in the womb (Psalm 139:13) in such a way that people would not be attracted to them for their looks or there eloquence but rather for their message. Too many times we compare ourselves to the high profile pastors and say "I don't look like he or she does." or "I'm too short and fat to be effective in the body" or "I am a terrible communicator when I am talking to a group of people." We can come up with excuse after excuse or we can realize that it is not us at work but the Holy Spirit at work through us. God is not looking for the Brad Pitt's and Angelina Jolie's of the Christian faith, he is looking for anyone who is willing to step up and do what he has called us to do.

As I mentioned above, Paul was unattractive, short, physically disabled and a bad speaker. What are you looking for in a pastor? Looks, charisma, a sense of humor, a magnetic personality? Can you back that up with scripture? What about your excuse for not stepping up and doing what God called you to do? My guess is that God would say "I'm sorry but that's not a valid excuse."

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