A few years ago I was sitting in a pastor workshop and Larry Osborne was teaching. Larry, by the way, is the living embodiment of pragmatic wisdom, but I digress.
So Larry was teaching some lessons from 40 years of pastoring and he said, “Pastors: stop trying to live like a pastor. Just model a life of a mature believer for your people.”
I knew exactly what he meant.
I was trained in a ministry approach that could be summarized, “be the holiest guy in the room.” While we were in college we actually had a visiting pastor tell us that if we were in old clothes, changing oil on our car and needed to run to the auto store for more oil, that we should stop, shower, put on a suit and tie before we go to the store because it was important to always look like a pastor in public.
Sure, that visiting pastor is a caricature of the problem, but he’s a good example of the temptation to look holy for your people. This approach causes pastors to either become weird or unapproachable to the rest of the world. It also leads a pastor into temptation to appear different than they really are. Such an approach doesn’t lend toward these kinds of complements. Such an approach doesn’t help everyday people see what a life lived for Christ can look like.
In contrast, Larry is suggesting that we lead not by looking holy, but by simply living for Christ on display for others to see.
Being hungry and hungering after Christ more than trying to become holy, which is Christ’s work in us.
The thinking is, if we’re truly hungry and we’re a display of how Christ fills us, it will cause others’ stomachs to rumble.
I think this is what Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 4:16, when he told the church to “imitate me” and then again in chapter 11, “follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.” Honestly, I was never comfortable with Paul saying this until I realized that what he is saying here is, “I will live a concrete example of a person hungry after Christ.”
What makes Paul really cool is how he then went on to display his hunger: weakness, sin, slavery, hardship. He put on full display his own shortcomings and therefore his life was the living embodiment of the Power of Christ, Grace of Christ, Tenderness of Christ. Hearing Paul talk about it makes me hungry. It also gives me a model by which to lead.
Hungriest not holiest.