I love that I can be an example of a committed Jesus follower to those in my church. It means so much that different people look to me in this way. It is both humbling and honoring.
You might be in a similar position. People might crave your wisdom, use the same devotionals that you use, or joke about how you have a direct phone line to God Himself.
However, as with most aspects of church leadership, there is a danger attached to this. Just as many swords have a double edge and every coin has two sides, the danger with being someone who is looked up to in the church is that you can become a substitute or replacement for Jesus .
And what makes this the most frustrating is that you never asked to be placed above Jesus!
I like to use a metaphor of a pedestal to illustrate how this is a problem.
Everyone follows something or somebody. Everyone has a lord or master. Whoever or whatever their master is, they place on a pedestal as the #1 guide or voice in their life. Because I’m a Jesus follower, I believe that Jesus should be my only Lord, so he is what goes on my pedestal. The problem arises when anyone or anything else topples Jesus and replaces him on the pedestal.
I recently had a conversation that made me realize some of my students had removed Jesus and put me on their “pedestal” and it rightly made me nervous. I couldn’t help but think, “How many people wrongly have me on the same pedestal these students do?” I really don’t want to know the answer, but I know there are more than there should be. And you know what? Some of the people you lead have you on that very same pedestal, sitting in the place of Jesus.
Here are a few ways to reject the pedestal and put Jesus back on top:
1. Tell them to take you off of the pedestal.
Take the direct approach. Simply tell them that you appreciate their confidence in you as a pastor/mentor, but that your goal is to point them to Jesus and not to yourself. You don’t want the strength of their faith to be dependent on you.
2. Share with them where Jesus is showing up in your weak areas.
In 2 Corinthians 12:8-10, Paul writes of his famous thorn in the flesh that God refused to take away. God’s reason was that His power works best in human weakness. Paul eventually realizes that “when I am weak, then I am strong.”
When you share how God is using you despite your weaknesses, you not only reveal that 1) you actually HAVE and are aware of your weaknesses, but 2) that you also rely on God to work in them.
3. Be open about where the Bible surprises you, frustrates you, and confuses you.
I’m currently on my 4th or 5th time reading through the Bible in it’s entirety and I continue to have fresh thoughts and surprising reactions.
For example, most days I believe Job and Jonah were actual historical figures, but there are rare days when I think they might be fables. I can waffle back and forth between holding to Young Earth or Old Earth Theory. I’m also seeing more comedy in Scripture than I ever have before.
There is wisdom to letting others know that we don’t have everything in the Bible figured out. They need to know we’re students just like they are.
But here’s a non-negotiable: if ever Scripture offends me, I am committed to asking for God to give me wisdom and to change my heart to be like His. If I have a problem or issue with Scripture, the problem is not on God’s end—it’s on mine. We have to come to Scripture with humility .
4. Let them know you have a mentor.
I personally believe having a spiritual mentor is a ministry non-negotiable. I often share wisdom with people I am discipling that comes directly from my mentor. When I do this I sometimes phrase it like “Your ‘grandmentor’ says…” This gets me a laugh but also lets them know I’m receiving care and direction from someone older and wiser than me just like they are.
5. Make Jesus the hero of your victory stories.
There is so much to celebrate as you lead in your unique ministry context, and Jesus uses us to bring about these Kingdom victories for his glory. In times of celebration, messages from the stage, or private conversations, let Jesus be the hero of your ministry by telling those you lead just how Jesus made it happen.