Are Christian "Killing" Their Pastors with Flattery?

By CCD contributor: Liu Yanyue, July 04, 2017 02:07 AM

The ordination

And The Shofar Blew -- Book Cover

Editor's Note:  A "shofar" is a traditional Hebrew horn, commonly used by the Isrealites in the Old Testament.

Francine Rivers' book, And the Shofar Blew, is derived from real-life stories of a pastor in the United States.

The pastor was initially deemed as "perfect" by everyone in church: extremely passionate, knowledgeable, bold, and capable in performing ministry duties. An impressive track record was made as he led the church through waves of revival, gradually scaling up a small church to a mega church. However, if the book was to stop there, such an absolutely successful and perfect church leader portrayed by the book would have given rise to several severe implications as below.

The church indeed seemed to be flourishing in its physical scale and was regarded as perfect from the outside. In fact, human sinfulness was boiling deep within, leading to severe church politics and internal conflicts. Personal ambitions, judgmental spirits , conformance to the world, and the diminishing of truth all been mixed together to push church members down the path of idolatry. Moreover, the pastor's extremely packed ministry schedule also caused him to neglect his personal devotion time and family responsibilities. Eventually, he was pulled to adultery.

When the scandal broke out, this leader, who was once admired by the congregation, ended up being despised by his sheep. 

Fortunately, the turning point occurred when he actually rose up from the pit in faith.

Indeed,  the influence of prosperity gospel and a lack of supervision in church leaders are responsible for the leader's fall. However, are church members equally responsible?

Perhaps the Chinese phrase "Kill with Praise" or "Peng Sha" could explain the matter well. The famous literature scholar Lu Xun once mentions his idea in his book "Excessive Scolding and Excessive Praise." The Chinese dictionary defines it as "causing somebody to fail due to excessive praise."

Don't take me wrong. I don't mean that we should never give words of encouragement to our church leaders for their contribution and hard work. Surely the Bible teaches us to pay respect to those who labour diligently for the church.

Thus, how should we strike the balance between "Excessive Scolding and Excessive Praise"?

Naturally, people tend to be drawn to pastors who have personal charisma and strong leadership capabilities. However, if we focus too excessively on the leaders' soft skills instead of their faith in God our eyes can be easily blinded to fall into human worship or idolatry of our desired leaders, which would eventually harm the leaders with excessive praise themselves.

Moreover, our excessive praise of church leaders would also gradually lift leaders up to a highly tempting position. The more praise fed to leaders, the less likely they would be willing to receive negative feedback in the future.  Thus, more will start to see church as their own possession or entitlement, instead of their place of service or God's mission field.

In China, it's pretty common to find charismatic pastors who fall into the same trap. A well-spoken, knowledgeable and popular pastor (preferably with an overseas background) tends to be deemed as a good pastor. As long as leaders are engrossed in others' praise, one will easily puff up or get stuck in temptations for long.

The phenomenon of "killing with praise" also reflects some Christians' superficial expectation of their leaders. Based on the shallow standard of impressive eloquence, outward ambition and "leadership look" to define a capable church leader, Jesus himself might be denied at their doors.

One commentary on the book And the Shofar Blew says that "This book reveals variously hidden crisis behind a pastor's success including the false theology of prosperity gospel. One may misuse his spiritual vision as façade for one's personal ambition. Moreover, commonly found social issues e.g. sexual temptations, family issues etc. could easily reveal loopholes in one's spiritual life. This book also describes in details an arduous journey of the pastor, from his first call to his unexpected fall. For church leaders, this book could be a rare treasure for them to tap on in their practical life."

- Translated by Maggie Li

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