As a minister it is easy for me to critique another person by their depth of knowledge, the logic they use, and the way they present an argument. It sounds a little prideful to say that, but don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean that I have everything mastered, myself. It’s just part of my every day life to study, teach, and speak in front of people so I look closer at those things. A basketball player will watch another basketball player with a more critical, discerning eye than the regular fan, and a welder will gauge another welder’s work more closely than I would. So while most people who attend church are listening to what the pastor has to say, when a pastor actually gets to attend another church, it’s easy for us to sit there measuring not only what is said, but how it is said. I’m sure most pastors try to be gracious and understanding, but like everyone else, it’s not always quick and easy to “turn off” the job.
That’s a big reason why it always means more to get a compliment from someone who works in the same field. Not only do they know what they are talking about, but they can judge closer, too. The best compliment I ever received for doing radio play by play for basketball, came from another radio announcer. And the best compliments I’ve received for preaching, came from another preacher. It just means more coming from them.
The thing is, however, sometimes in the midst of feeling… ummm… qualified to criticize…
God steps in and humbles you.
If you haven’t read the discipleship training book T4T, you really should. (It’s reasonably priced on the Kindle, but expensive as a paperback for some reason. Regardless, it’s still worth a LOT more than the goofy $18 paperback price…) Among the gems you find is the observation that (and I’m paraphrasing here)…
Spiritual growth is not only measured by how much you know, but also by how much you obey.
So even if I might have my doctrine fine-tuned better than someone else, or might be able to deliver a sermon with more creativity and force, or put together a better organized system of outreach…
…Hey, a guy can dream…
Even if I could do all of that better than someone else, what does it matter if I’m not obeying Christ?
We sometimes judge each other by our doctrine, or some measure of performance. We have baptism figured out, or we understand Bible prophecy better, or we have a better grasp of the New Covenant in Jesus. Maybe our church is better at praise and worship, or our greeting ministry is ten times better than some other group. But what if instead of measuring each other by doctrine, or some outward appearance, we measured each other by our obedience to Christ in our lives? You know, the actual “fruit’ test where we look for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control etc…?
Sounds obvious? It’s not.
Over the past month I’ve had encounters with people who were extremely opinionated over some point of doctrine and were interested in arguing with me over it. Well, it’s probably more accurate to say they wanted to educate me because it was hard for me to say more than a sentence or two before I would be interrupted and they continued on with their points.
While I wouldn’t want to judge their specific motivations, I think it’s fair to say that from time to time all of us want to out-argue someone else, or prove our belief is right, because of a selfish desire to feed our ego. There are also a few people, you probably call them know-it-alls, who always want to be the smartest person in the room. Or on Facebook.
I was thinking these very thoughts, judging them a bit for not letting ME speak enough, and judging their views because they disagreed with ME. I’ll even admit I thought: hey, our church is way bigger than yours! But that’s when God hit me with the question…
Who is obeying me in their life?
And that ladies and gentlemen, is an entirely different question than who has their doctrine correct on the New Testament or how many people attend on Sunday. It’s also an entirely more important question.
Some Scripture is vaguely coming to mind here, hmmm… something about not being hearers of the word only, but being doers…. Jesus said something about building a house on sand if you don’t do what he says… knowing a tree by it’s fruit…it’s not what goes into a man but what comes out… but hey… that’s just the Bible.
Anyway, for one of those persons especially, I had to admit they seemed to be faithful to God in how they lived. In fact, I admired their faithfulness.
So while I might still think I’m right on the doctrine part…
They win this time. 🙂