Our Dirty Little Secret

If I'm going to write about issues related to the church I thought it would be important to talk about the church's dirty little secret. The western church harbors and even encourages our leaders to have an ego. Of course we call pastoral ego "ambition," but we need to confess it for what it really is. When this "ambition" is connected to the standard western metrics of success (bodies, buildings and bucks) - watch out! You end up with a lot of church life being driven by ego. Thankfully I'm not alone in this observation. It's refreshing to see how the Holy Spirit is prompting other pastors to tell the truth about what's gone wrong in the North American church. One of the books that has encouraged me recently is Renovation of the Church by Kent Carlson and Mike Luke.  In chapter 6 Kent Carlson opens the chapter with this imaginative insight:"On my most optimistic days I find myself imagining opening up the latest issue of Leadership Journal and finding a panel discussion on the challenge of dealing with personal ambition. Five pastors of large, nationally known, outwardly successful churches are asked questions about their struggles with ambition. Their candor is a breath of fresh air. The dirty little demon of personal ambition is pulled out of the closet and laid naked in the table before everyone and exposed for the soul-destroying force that it is.The pastors in this imagined article confess how much personal ambition has driven them and their ministries, and they give examples of some of the unattractive inner struggles they have with it. Issues of competition, jealously, hunger for being known, thirst of personal significance, name-dropping, number-fudging, insecurities, gossip, being threatened by the success of others, a constant low-grade fever of dissatisfaction and looking for the next ministry buzz are discussed without any equivocation or rationalization. As we read we can sense a gentle and redemptive humility in the panel's room. Tears begin to fall. There is repentance. They recognize that personal ambition has seriously harmed them, and they are disturbed by it. There is a collective realization that unbridled ambition is driven by the thirst to be 'successful,' which moves them away from the biblical call to faithfulness. There are moments of tender, truth-inspired, silence as each pastor becomes increasingly aware that this has to change.Going a little further with this thought experiment, I could imagine the huge impact a discussion like this would have on the evangelical leadership of our country. To have this dirty little secret of personal ambition exposed would foster a discussion of what is perhaps the most prevalent but least talked about pastoral sins. But 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."(emphasis added)A little later Kent adds this thought, "My observation is that over the last thirty or forty years our pastoral ethic has shifted from one of faithfulness to one of productivity and success." OUCH! As a pastor I have to admit that all of what Kent writes has been true in my pastoral life. Are there any other pastors reading this post who can admit it's true? Is the western church ready to find a new (perhaps it just old and has been lost) definition of success? Please share your comments.