The plains city of Churchopolis rested peacefully in the heart of the Midwest.
Every Sunday at 6 pm, the residents gather in the numerous local churches for evening worship. Each congregation shares a meal, then moves into their sanctuary to sing, pray, and hear a message from the Bible. Afterward, at 8 pm, each congregation dismissed. Like clockwork, congregants filled various local restaurants for pie and ice cream.
On this particular June evening, as the congregations transitioned from fellowship hall to sanctuary, they heard the city tornado sirens. At the same time, mobile phones sounded a severe weather alert. Congregants opened weather apps and turned on radios and televisions.
I read your last report with great interest and not a little pride. Your great-uncle Screwtape will be delighted to hear of your success. (He will, no doubt, claim responsibility for your accomplishments—though these, we know, should be credited to my account.)
A decade ago, when your patient entered “the ministry,” I feared the worst for your assignment. His charisma (as they call it), rapid growth in spirituality, and skill in both teaching the Book almost guaranteed him a large following and much success in that wretched outpost of the Enemy—the church.
You did well to encourage it and to “assist” him in these endeavors. Once a human has started down this route, it is almost impossible to reverse. There is no going back. Instead, we adjust the trajectory ever so slightly and increase the momentum. This way, by the time he has gone off course, it is impossible to slow down or stop. The damage is certain. The destruction is extreme. Continue reading “The Gospel-Centered Abuser”
Today I have a piece up at Fathom Mag on my experience of pastoral burnout. Here’s the intro:
I knelt on the floor of my study all night, my forehead pressed into the carpet, my fists pressed against my temples. I pulled my hair and wept until I fell asleep, exhausted. Waking in a fetal position, I remembered where I was and what I faced and begged, “Lord, please . . . please . . . please . . . send someone else.”
I pressed my face into the floor and sobbed, no longer able to pray with words. Tears and snot and saliva soaked my beard and the carpet. Alone in the darkness, I didn’t care.
A faint light shone through the blinds but the rising sun did not bring hope. I wiped my face and tasted blood. Weeping face down through the night, the capillaries in my nose had broken and bled into the cream carpet. Time was up. I had to shower. I had to dress. I had to go to church. I had to preach.
In the early morning light, I knelt with rags and carpet cleaner and scrubbed the spot until it changed from crimson to white. The words of the prophet repeated in my head, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.”
Although that was the last time I bled into the carpet, it was not the last time I met Sunday morning with a breakdown. I didn’t want to preach. I didn’t want to pastor. I didn’t want to live.
My ten-year-old daughter recently returned from her first overseas church trip. She spent the week in a new culture, trying new foods, and serving the children of friends. Before she left, I gave her a bracelet that reads “Be Brave.” We talked the week before about brave women in the Bible, such as Miriam, Deborah, and Priscilla. We read their stories and learned about how God put them in positions to serve others, gifting them with the courage, strength, and wisdom for the task at hand.
Since she returned last week, our family schedule has prevented me from getting to spend extended time with her and hear about her trip. I decided a daddy-daughter outing was in order.
So, on Monday afternoon, we set out to see Captain Marvel, the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), notable for being Marvel Studios’ first superhero film with a female lead.
Naturally, I wondered what message the film would send my daughter about what it means to be a woman. Would Captain Marvel be Elle Woods from Legally Blonde, only with a cape and superpowers? Would Carol Danvers be a snarling feminist, out to erase and flatten all distinctions between men and women? Or would my daughter see a woman who stewards her gifts, strength, and opportunities to help others, to do good, and to inspire those around her?
In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I am no expert in the MCU or superhero movies by any stretch of the imagination. I entered this film almost entirely ignorant of the Captain Marvel character and her backstory. So, what did I find?