I’m currently getting slayed by the book, Renovation of the Church: What Happens When a Seeker Church Discovers Spiritual Formation (Kent Carlson & Mike Lueken).

Having spent 29 years working in two different seeker-oriented, mega-churches, these inspiring authors swing the pendulum a different direction and direct a strong challenge to those of us who create weekly programs in order to satisfy consumer-Christians.

Here’s a uncomplicated summary of their thesis:

The consumer Christian says, “What do you have for me in a church? I’m looking for this, this and this

[insert whatever fits—youth program, my preferred style of preaching, music, etc…].” This “shopping” attitude/mentality is in direct opposition to Jesus’ words, “Deny yourself and follow me.” Seeker churches use methods to attract people that are the exact opposite of what it takes to be a disciple—self denial. By the very nature of creating a church to appeal to their needs, we miss the point of being a disciple. There’s a lot more, but that’s the gist.

Now, as I’m currently helping a buddy plant a church, I’m reading/thinking about everything with new eyes… eyes wide open.

About half way thru their book they write about the ambition of the Christian leader being the driving force behind consumer churches. It’s a doozy of a chapter and one that requires a lot of soul searching and reflection! Here are some snippets:

“…it doesn’t take much reflection to observe that ambition is often fueled by the insatiable desire to be recognized as important.”

“… it’s easy to take potshots at successful pastors. They are easy targets who get shot at a lot. But the issue of personal ambition is only more obvious with them, not more real or more sinful. Those of us who look longingly and with envy at our successful colleagues are equally, if not more, guilty of ambition. The desire to be better than others, the odious nature of comparison and the lack of contentment with our actual state is the problem formationally. The whole personal ambition thing is a very messy area.”

“…for some reason Christian leaders are more candid about sexual lust than ambition. Yet it doesn’t take a supernatural gift of discernment to know that ambition is there in embarrassing abundance.”

Holding up the mirror and reflecting on the dark recesses of the soul is never a fun journey. It is indeed [as the authors’ note] messy.

It’s also ugly.

Ministry ambition is so painfully easy to spot! It flows out of the insecure heart that desperately wants to “be someone” to be “recognized” to be “achieve a level of status.” The desire SCREAMS “I’m deeply insecure and want to be noticed.”

So, why don’t we talk about this more in ministry-circles? Why is it easier to admit to lust than ambition? I don’t have the answers… I have some thoughts that are appearing in my journal that still need more time to percolate in my heart and make their way to my journal pages.

Question: What do you think? Why is it easier for ministry leaders to admit to lust than ambition? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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