Forced Celebration and Servitude
There is a culture in the modern day church that concerns me gravely. The Father is not pleased with our prideful leadership and narcissism. Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost sight of servant hood and humility. For many, church has become a social club governed by control, manipulation and man-made hierarchy.
The trend being adopted by many stems from the misunderstanding that leaders in the local church “deserve” to be honored and celebrated according to their own rules and expectations. Where did this come from? The phenomena is almost cultic. Just within the last few weeks, I’ve observed the following:
Pastoral Anniversary Services (include “pre-anniversary” and “post-anniversary” events)
Pastoral Life Event Celebrations (birth of a baby, graduation, new home purchase, etc.)
Pastoral Marriage Celebrations
Let me start by saying that none of these celebrations are sinful in and of themselves. I truly don’t see anything wrong with celebrating an anniversary, per se, though I do find it a bit grandiose to celebrate “pre” and “post” days as well. Nevertheless, that’s merely my opinion.
The spiritual challenge is introduced when others are coerced, forced or manipulated into participating and “honoring” their leaders out of obligation, rather than a free will. Even God honors our free will. More often than not, I’ve observed leaders and church boards dictating that an occasion will be celebrated. How does one not see the pride in that? Are we really so blind that we see nothing wrong with “staging” a worship service to celebrate one’s own birthday or anniversary? To top it off, many will require that members of the church give monetary gifts of a specified amount. There are many dangers introduced with such practices.
Strange worship. God’s people should come together to worship the Father, not to celebrate a man and “throw” some worship into the process. Making worship a secondary or tertiary goal in His own house proves that such a house is in fact, not His, but the house of said leader.
Artificial acts of love. When people are commanded to give or show support toward an individual, the heart is disengaged. This teaches a false sense of love and respect. What of those who truly want to show love and honor, yet don’t have the means? Have we considered those who express love and appreciation in different ways? And what a person doesn’t want to celebrate at all? After all, none of this is biblically required. It’s important to note that these practices also blind the honoree. They will have no idea who truly cares for them, versus those who are simply obeying instruction. As a result, any trust that may be built sits upon a false foundation of deception, dressed up as honor.
Disparity. If the greatest among us are to be servants (Matthew 23:11), why are the church leaders the only ones having all these services. What about the church mother, the deacon, the newest member, the children, etc.? After all, the true Church of Jesus Christ, Messiah, includes more than the senior leaders in a local church. Are they not worthy of the same, or more honor, than whoever considers himself to be the “greatest” or “lead” servant?
Disobedience. The bottom line is that God simply doesn’t agree with the spirit behind such acts. Proverbs 27:2 (CJB) clearly states, “Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth, a stranger and not your own lips.” The implication here is that it’s just not our jobs to “toot our own horns.” God hates pride. As servants, the need to be celebrated should be the furthest thing from our minds. We are catalysts for worship of the Father, and Him alone.
My prayer for the church is that we, as leaders, would learn that others will acknowledge the love and power they observe. Even more, when men see our good works, they will glorify the Father. THAT is our goal (Matthew 5:16). Demanding that people refer to us by a title, treat us a certain way, or celebrate our personal milestones simply doesn’t reflect the character of Christ… period. If we are truly worthy of honor, we should trust that God will move someone's heart to follow suit.