No pupil is greater than his teacher; no slave is greater than his master. So a pupil should be satisfied to become like his teacher, and a slave like his master.
If the head of the family is called Beelzebul, the members of the family will be called even worse names. So do not be afraid of people.
[Jesus’ 12 disciples are sent out on a mission trip with these instructions. For background see Days 83-84.]
In the first scripture he tells his disciples that they should not strive to be better than anyone else. He doesn’t want any of his followers to think they are either more or less important than others. He wants them to be humble (See Day 9) but he also wants to empower them (See Day 16). He wants them to be balanced.
The second scripture refers to an incident described in Matthew 9:34 – “But the Pharisees said, “It is the chief of the demons who gives him the power to drive out demons.” The Pharisees were referring to Beelzebul, another name for the “chief of demons.” [Note: The scriptural counterpart in the Book of Mark (which was written earlier) is clearer: Some teachers of the Law who had come from Jerusalem were saying, “He has Beelzebul in him! It is the chief of the demons who gives him the power to drive them out.” (Mark 3:22). It’s interesting. I can’t imagine why Matthew changed it; he probably wasn’t comfortable with calling Jesus the devil, but the revision kind of messes up this scripture. If it ain’t broken don’t fix it Matthew!]
So, in the second scripture, Jesus is reminding his disciples that when you do great things people feel threatened by you. It causes trouble, so that’s even more reason not to want to be better than others. Jesus is telling them that if they aspire to be greater than their teacher, all that will be accomplished is that they will be called even worse names than the devil. It’s hard to imagine anything much worse than that, but there it is.
As I reflect on this scripture I think about all of the competitive pastors and ministries I’ve encountered over the years, always worrying about how to make their churches bigger and better or how to get more recognition for their personal performance or theological views. One thing about each individual Christian sect is that world domination is really their hidden agenda, so the poor pastors often get sucked into this kind of thinking. The interesting thing is that a competitive pastor can never be a great pastor because he’s thinking about himself instead of the people he is supposed to be leading and serving. A great pastor is focused on the care and feeding of his sheep. The ones he already has, not all of the sheep in the world.
So maybe we should give pastors some other competitive venue so we could get all of that nonsense out of the church and on network television where it belongs. Maybe we could have a new reality show competition:
The GREATEST AMERICAN PASTOR
Here’s the premise – 12 pastors are selected from thousands of applicants who line up to compete for prizes including $500,000 (tax free of course), a 2 week trip to Tahiti, a cover shot on Christian Century Magazine, the opportunity to preach at a televised Sunday service at Joel Osteen’s church, and a guest appearance on Jimmy Kimmel. Every week there would be a different challenge to test them in various areas of pastoral competency, and the pastor with the lowest score for that challenge is sent home. None of the challenges are judged by the pastor’s own congregation because they do not, of course, really appreciate him/her. The ultimate winner is the pastor with the highest combined total points for all of the challenges.
Week 1: Blind Auditions – Pastors give a short inspirational message and celebrity judges evaluate their performance on the basis of their enthusiasm, charisma, and entertainment value. Their voices are electronically disguised so that they do not know the sex, age or appearance of the pastor. Just to keep it fair.
Week 2: Business Acumen – Pastors evaluate a failing church’s financial situation and come up with a revised business plan that could include things like refinancing, new sources of revenue, marketing opportunities, and alternative vendors. They must create a multimedia presentation for the church’s finance committee, who rank the presentations.
Week 3: Evangelism – Pastors take to the streets of New York to try to get people to attend a Sunday morning church service. They hand out their business cards, which are collected at the destination church the following Sunday as the new people they recruited (if any) flock in. Points are awarded based on the number of business cards collected for each contestant.
Week 4: Talent Competition – Most pastors have a special talent or interest that they use in their ministries. For example, my husband juggles, dances, and plays the accordion. In this challenge they compete on stage at Branson, MO, and a random audience ranks their performance using electronic voting.
Week 5: Youth Group Mania – The pastor has the opportunity to devise and execute the most exciting youth group experience in the history of mankind. He is allowed to enlist the aid of any of his friends to help with this task, including bands, light shows, celebrities, and much, much more!! A team of youth judges go to the various experiences and rate them on a “sick” to “lame” scale.
Week 6: Hospital and Nursing Home Visitation – Pastors visit the infirm and are scored by the patients, who participate in interviews where they highlight the pastors’ strengths and weaknesses and describe their overall experience. Special guest Betty White provides humorous commentary.
Week 7: Mediation – Each pastor is sent in to oversee a church board meeting, but it’s really a group of professional actors whose contrived fighting escalates into a raucous melee. Professional negotiators hidden behind one-way glass evaluate and rank each pastor’s performance under pressure.
Week 8: Theological Proficiency – A game show venue similar to Jeopardy with questions related to scripture memorization, church history, and all aspects of various theological paradigms.
Week 9: Family Functionality – In 1 Timothy 3:3-5 the Apostle Paul says that a pastor “must be able to manage his own family well and make his children obey him with all respect. For if a man does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of the church of God?” In this blind challenge hidden cameras are installed in the pastors’ homes. Dr. Phil airs the video footage and interviews the families on his show. He then ultimately ranks them on the basis of their family dynamic and stability.
Week 10: Humility – Each pastor testifies about why he should be selected as the Greatest American Pastor on the basis of his various accomplishments and ministries. The pastor who can do this without sounding boastful gets the best score.
Week 11: Signs and Wonders – Pastors have the opportunity to heal the sick, raise the dead, or perform some other type of miracle. A group of professional illusionists do the judging, just to keep it real.
Week 12: Finale – For the exciting finale the 2 remaining pastors select teams from the 10 ousted competitors who have already been eliminated. Each pastor is given an empty room and a $10,000 budget to create a worship experience, including the décor, music, order of worship, prayers, sermon topic, and a post-worship fellowship experience with refreshments. They are free to recruit their own musicians, technicians, caterers, or other support staff from their personal contacts. Random volunteers attend both services and cast ballots for the one they like best. Then America votes onlne. Finally, the winner is….THE GREATEST AMERICAN PASTOR!!!!
Except that most of America says,” That guy has something wrong with him. No decent pastor would agree to be on a show like that. I think he’s the devil.” There you go.
All right. My bad. Back to reality. Jesus tells his disciples…don’t compete. There is no trophy for being the best pastor. All you get is a bunch of Pharisees who call you the devil. That’s your only reward for being the best.
What does this scripture say to you?