by Tim Pippus
(Part 2 of 2)
The first in this series made the point that much can be said about navigating our hero-oriented world. Here, I offer a simple, scriptural practice that will protect us and our churches from rewriting the all-too-common story.
In Philippians 4:17, Paul confesses that he is glad that the Philippian church materially helped him while he was in prison. Why? Because he desired spiritual gain for them, not because he was looking for care for himself. You might ask, “What does this have to do with the messiah complex?” This: by accepting care from the Philippi- ans, Paul is living and teaching a theology of the body, and resisting a theology of he- roes.
Paul’s simple decision to accept help from the Philippians gives his community a chance to do meaningful Kingdom work. Jesus said that anyone who gives a cup of cold water in His name will not lose their reward, so allowing a community to give that cup of water is good pastoral leadership. It is a small act of resistance to the messiah complex.
And even more, Paul is living out of a theology of the body, recognizing that each part has a role. By accepting help from the Philippians, Paul demonstrates that he is just one part of a body in need of the other parts.
The western church desperately needs the opportunity to discover that their leaders are just one part of the body of Christ. This process is often resisted by leaders who enjoy, even desire, deification; and it is resisted by congregations looking for superstar leaders. It is a necessary discipline for you and I, for your church and mine. In receiving care, we follow the John the Baptist pattern of becoming less so that Jesus - often in the guise of another follower - can become greater. Then congregations and leaders alike will begin to discover they are all ordinary soldiers.
The church needs more and better leaders. We also need better caregivers, donors, servants, teachers, ushers, coffee-makers, and the like.
We just don’t need another Messiah.
My challenge to leaders is simple: let others care for you. You may not be starving in prison, but you might be working too hard in your attempt to be all things to all people. Step back and let someone else step in. Maybe you need to admit that counselling isn’t your gift. Maybe you need to step out of a few primary roles and let others step in. Maybe you need to create space for other people to tell the stories of how God is blessing, challenging, and changing them instead of telling another story about your- self. Maybe you need to just be honest when someone asks you how you are doing, to accept their compassion, their hug, or their offer to watch your kids for the weekend. In most churches, there is room for leaders to be brought a little lower in the eyes of others and for each member to step up and play the role in God’s kingdom that they were born for.
Deliberately subvert the hero-lust that infects your congregation. Remind them (and yourself) that our Messiah has come and you are not Him. Help your people see you’re no super-hero. Your real role is much better than that: you are, like each person in the church, another necessary part of the body, another ordinary soldier.
Tim Pippus serves at Hope of Life Christian Fellowship in South Calgary and is a graduate of the Master of Arts in Leadership and Ministry at Ambrose Seminary.