Temptations and Leadership

This week I'm preparing my Sunday sermon on Jesus' temptations in Matthew 4.  As I began this, I had originally thought I'd be talking about the same old, same old idea about temptation... how each and every one of us face temptations every day... but I don't think that's what is speaking to my heart on this topic, especially as a Christian leader.

It's not hard to find example after example of Christian leader who has given into temptation.  No one is exempt from moral or ethical temptations... and a simple Google search brings up WAY too many cases of men and women who have stumbled that way.  But that's not the temptation I'm worried about (even though I take many precautions to do my very best in this area!)  What's fascinating to me as I study the temptation of Jesus more and more... is the temptations are not clear cut examples of moral or ethical temptations... the devil is hitting Jesus with promises of God.  He's hitting him with Bible verses but twisting them around to not mean what God intended.

Sometimes the greatest temptation is to do something that we consider to be good... even very good... but it isn't godly.  It isn't how God would have us do things.

In my research on this I learned of a book called In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen.  Now, I didn't read the book, the commentary I'm reading makes reference to it so I have no clue how accurate this is... but Nouwen raises great points on Christian leadership and temptation.  And if I was honest with myself and with God I could easily say that I have been tempted on all three of his points.

The first is the temptation to be relevant.  I am a HUGE believer that the church needs to be relevant to our culture.  I am a HUGE believer that the Bible is relevant to our day to day lives in the world.  It saddens me greatly when I see churches refusing to change their style or music or liturgy and close their doors because they refused to make any attempts to connect with the culture around them.  To be relevant, I believe is very important for pastors and churches, however, we can easily go down a path where we pursue relevance for the sake of relevance... and go against some of the clear teachings of the Bible.  It may look good... it may connect with people... but it may not be what God would have for His church.

I love new things.  I love trying something new in the church... but I can never give in to the temptation of just jumping on board the latest trend or relevant idea without taking it back to the Bible.

His second is the temptation to be spectacular, to win the applause and popularity.  I know for a FACT that anyone can very easily, week after week after week, hear a much better sermon online then I am able to prepare and deliver.  We live in the day of the super preacher.  Online sermons and mega churches with fantastic resources make great Bible teaching available everywhere and anytime.  The temptation is to try and be popular like they are.

When we began to play around more and more with technology in our church I had a take a long and serious look at my motives.  Was I given into temptation to be popular?  Did I simply want to be like these other pastors with a ton of Facebook friends and Twitter posts that get quoted all the time?  I don't believe I did... but I do have to continually check myself on this.  Of course I want people to like me.  Who doesn't want that?  But we leaders have to make sure we're not running a popularity contest and are doing what is best for the glory of God and the building up of other people, not ourselves.

And his final point is the temptation to be powerful.  Whether that is politics, economic, spiritual or even military might... the temptation is to use that power to enforce your views and your ideas of the kingdom of heaven on earth.  Like Uncle Ben told Peter Parker before he became Spider-Man, "With great power comes great responsibility."  The temptation to be a person of spiritual influence can eventually come back and bite you in the butt if your heart is in the wrong place.

So these three points are really speaking to me this afternoon... they probably won't make it into the finished sermon... but there are definitely going to be something I'm going to be praying more and more about.

Jesus gives us the ultimate example of Christian leadership.  And I want to be more and more like him.


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