By Chuck Lawless
Dr. Rainer recently wrote on “Nine Common Tensions Pastors Face.” Today, I add ten tensions to that list – tensions often separated by a fine line:
- Vision vs. ego. I want church leaders to long for God to use them to do something significant for His glory. I want them praying for God to mark history through them so the nations might know His name. There’s a fine line, though, between “God, use me mightily” and “God, make sure the press knows how much You’ve used me.”
- Full effort vs. self-dependence. Frankly, we don’t need any more lazy ministers of the gospel. We need leaders who give their absolute best – learning well, planning fully, working diligently, assessing honestly, taking their paycheck without shame. There’s a fine line, though, between giving full effort and depending on self rather than on God.
- Faith vs. recklessness. Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). By faith, the heroes of Hebrews 11 did some phenomenal things – including dying for the sake of the gospel. There’s a fine line, though, between living by faith and making reckless choices that we claim as faith steps.
- God-centered pragmatism vs. man-centered pragmatism. It’s right to ask the questions, “Is God using our church to make disciples – and if not, why not? Might we need to change something to do God’s work more effectively?” There’s a fine line, though, between asking these questions and making changes that lose a Godward focus.
- Disciplemaking church vs. classroom. Few people would deny that several generations of church leaders have failed in discipleship. We’ve taught too little doctrine and expected too little accountability. There’s a fine line, though, between addressing this problem biblically and turning the church into a classroom where information transfer is assumed to be enough.
- Burden vs. discouragement. I long to see church leaders who are broken over their communities. We need leaders who grieve the unreached living in their ministry area and around the world – leaders who cannot help but weep over the lost. There’s a fine line, though, between bearing that Great Commission weight and getting discouraged and defeated if few people respond.
- Corporately evangelizing vs. not personally evangelizing. Here, I’m thinking primarily of preaching pastors. Gospel-centered preaching should always point to the cross and call hearers to respond in faith and repentance. There’s a fine line, though, between evangelizing through this means and granting oneself permission to ignore personal evangelism.
- Contextualization vs. compromise. Contextualization may be as simple as speaking the gospel in the language of the hearers or as complicated as understanding the worldview of an unreached people group – and is, in my opinion, a necessary task in sharing the gospel. There’s a fine line, though, between legitimate contextualization and compromise to reach more people.
- Building God’s kingdom vs. building our own kingdom. Building God’s kingdom includes reaching non-believers, equipping believers, and addressing social issues. “Success” might even bring legitimate opportunities for more godly influence in His kingdom. There’s a fine line, though, between using our gifts fully for God’s kingdom and thinking God’s kingdom needs us.
- Global focus vs. “Jerusalem neglect.” I am deeply grateful for churches that engage the nations, pray for unreached people groups, and send their own to the ends of the earth on short-term or long-term commitments. There’s a fine line, though, between prioritizing the nations and ignoring the local community (and vice-versa, for that matter).
Here’s the point: we need to live on the fine line that separates these tensions. For example, the enemy would not want us on the line of vision vs. ego; he would want us to have no vision at all or be arrogant about our vision. He would want us to be lazy or self-dependent, faithless or reckless, unconcerned or discouraged. We counter his calls to the extremes by living on the line – and trusting God to empower us and guard us there.
What other tensions come to mind for you?