I preach that my church members should be introspective and evaluate their relationship to Christ. I ask them to determine if they are demonstrating the love of Christ in all their actions. I try to tell them how they can do so. I feel that more people are driven from the church because of a lack of love than are won to it by a demonstration of it. Is it possible that in asking, I have forgotten to answer? Is it possible that in telling, I have forgotten to show?
Can I Be Trusted?
What are some of the barometers of myself as an image reflector of Christ? In counseling with parishioners, do I betray their trust in private conversation to the "brethren"? Or is that trust sacred? How many of my members—actually I should say Christ's brethren—come to me for counseling about a personal problem? Oh, yes, a lot of them come and ask me where to find a certain text or how to meet a specific argument. But how many come to me as a Christian friend and ask me how to live?
How many come with a personal difficulty and we pray it through together? Or is it possible that they are afraid to? How do I react when one comes to me and confides that he has been having a real struggle with the bottle or that his marital life is strained? Do I say, "That is too bad, brother. I was considering having you help in my church work, but we'll just have to forget it and leave you to struggle with your problem"? Will he ever find his confidences betrayed to a church board? In private friendships? Or eventually coming back to censure him? Or will he go to a minister of some other denomination for counsel, because he knows that there he will find a friend, who in a Christlike manner will treat his confidence as a sacred trust?
Am I Warning Instead of Winning?
In private conversation, when I am not around, how am I referred to? "Meddler," "dictator," "purger," "judge," "used-car dealer," "shrewd," "businessman," or "the image of Christ"? Do I seek to interfere in the private lives of others, when not invited? Oh, I know, "his blood will be upon me if I do not warn them." Am I neglecting the New Testament commandment and, indeed, the summation of all the commandments, when I am concerned with warning instead of winning?
Do I Fight Back?
When I receive a rebuke from a church member, how do I react? Do I immediately put myself in readiness for fight and try to verbally knock him down by pointing out some fault I know he has? After all, who is he to tell me my faults; I am the preacher and he is the parishioner. Or do I really introspectively examine every criticism to see if there is any truth in it? When I get a scathing letter from someone, how do I react? Do I treat any letter as at least an attempt to communicate with me? Do I just not answer the letter—a reaction that is considered unethical, even in the business world? Or do I really try to evaluate the letter and cull from it the truths, even though they may cause painful growth? Am I willing to examine myself critically and really determine my true attitude, or am I afraid of self-confrontation; afraid that my image of righteousness, which I am supposed to manifest before the people, will be lacking? Or is it too painful for me to face the truth about myself?
Do I Take All the Credit?
When Ingathering is done, and I have raised more funds than anyone in the congregation, do I make sure they know how much I have raised, or do I quietly channel the funds into some member's goal that is not being raised and let him have the credit? I really wonder how much better those people would feel when they discover that their goal had been made by an anonymous donor? At bapstisms, do I take all the credit or allow those who actually had the most to do in effecting the baptism to receive the praise?
Are My Sins Greater?
How do I really feel about myself in relationship to Christ? I have lived a fairly good life, really never went off the deep end into sin; all my sins have been minor ones (not really of sufficient size to make necessary the death of Christ on the cross of Calvary). They are not nearly as bad as some of the sins the laity has committed. Or do I realize that this kind of attitude is like that of the Pharisees, and of the same root attitude—namely pride, self-righteousness—that caused Lucifer to fall and that, hence, my sin is the worst of all? Do I realize that all my goodness is as filthy rags, and that I need Christ as much as, if not more than, any other sinner? Do I realize that all, myself included, have sinned and come short of the glory of God and that by manifesting a superior attitude, I am at that very moment committing a sin? Do I sincerely feel that I need the saving power of Jesus as much as anyone else? In my self-complacent state, do I realize that many of those who have committed more obvious sins also fully recognize the saving power of Christ and that possibly they are more richly blessed and closer to God than I am? Which does Christ love most and who loves Christ the most? He who has been forgiven the most, and knows it.
Am I Delaying Christ's Coming?
I know that the second coming of Christ is not far off, but I also know that there seems to be a strange delay. Who can I blame for this strange delay? I feel that it might be my church members who are too slow to realize the love of Christ. I know that the world is too calloused to accept Him. But I also realize that one man heard that "the world has yet to see what God can do with a man who wholly consecrates himself to Him." That man was Dwight L. Moody. I know that there are many convicts in prison because of a distorted self-image. Is it possible that I am a prisoner of limited spiritual horizons because of my own distorted self-image? Is it possible that I have a faulty image? Is it possible that I am not really reflecting the love of Jesus as I think I am? I know that there will be thousands converted in a day where now there is only one. I know that the most powerful argument in favor of Christianity is not a study on Daniel 2, a lecture on the 2300 days, an eloquent evangelistic sermon, an intelligent presentation of doctrine, but a loving and lovable Christian.
I know how readily the populace mimics those they see before them, like my little boy who quickly adopts any mannerism I encourage. I know that I see in others a reflection of myself. If I smile, they smile; if I am terse, they become terse; if I am cool, they are cool.
Do I Drive Them Away or Love Them In?
Do the people come to church because of me or in spite of me? Do I drive them away from the church or love them into it? Do I feel that it is the congregation's responsibility to stay awake or my responsibility to present material so vital and in such a dynamic way they cannot sleep? Do I feel that they are undisciplined, over grown children when they get restless after the hour hand passes twelve, or do I feel it is my responsibility to consider their physical needs, and close on time? Do I think so highly of myself that I feel the laity cannot be trusted to make the announcements, announce the songs, or give the prayers because they couldn't do it as well as I can? Do I feel that my sermons are so good that the congregation ought not to have them interrupted by any guest speakers?
I really wonder what is holding back the spread of the gospel, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. What could be keeping my congregation from demonstrating the love of Christ? The real betrayer of Christ was the one who did not ask the question. Is it possible, could it really be? "Is it I?"