“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable."
Recently, you criticized an anonymous critic. You called him a narcissistic zero. I found this statement breathtakingly naïve and cruel but hesitated to take you on. Why? Because you were diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor last winter. I, unfortunately, know all too well the pain and devastation of such a diagnosis. One of my daughters was diagnosed with a large malignant brain tumor with an exceedingly poor prognosis at the age of 3. In fact, she was operated on at Dallas Children's Hospital, right near you.
For a number of years we did not know what course the tumor would take and spent many days and nights agonizing over her illness. It is a nightmare to watch your child suffer. Thankfully, she survived this illness and is about to graduate with a BS degree in nursing. Her sweet life was preserved and we are most grateful to God for His mercy to our family.
One of the most difficult assignments for me, as my daughter was growing up, was to treat her as a normal child. Many people make the mistake of overprotecting an ill child and bear the consequences of producing a fearful and dependent child who becomes an insecure and needy adult. So, I would hold my breath and allowed her to be a cheerleader with all of the frequent bumps of the head. We let her spend the night with friends and travel with other families. She is a self- assured young woman today as a result of us allowing her the dignity of being a “normal” child.
I have followed your medical course with great interest and have prayed for your healing. I have listened to your health update videos and have an understanding of how you perceive your disease. On one video you state that you believe that God has healed you and that you are going to live until 70. I pray that this is so.
I, on the other hand, had little such assurance during the early years of my daughter’s illness. I knew that God could heal her but that He doesn’t usually heal those who have such an illness. I have watched many children, who were prayed for, go home to Jesus. I learned to lean on Him and trust Him, no matter the outcome.
Consequently, according to your video updates, you have decided to live life fully. You continue to travel frequently and speak at conferences while at the same time managing a three campus church beset with issues such as a pastor who apparently overdosed on sleeping pills and died; as well as a church leader whose child has been diagnosed with a serious illness.
Frankly, I don’t know how you manage to lead your church staff, spend time with and love your church members, instruct and build up the church leadership and cope with a potentially life threatening illness while having quality family time. I remember my own husband telling me that he thought our train had “stopped” when our daughter got sick and that we needed to slow down and regroup as a family. Your energy seems boundless.
In light of your “full speed ahead” philosophy, I have decided that the greatest compliment that I can pay you is to respond to your pronouncements in an open and honest manner. In other words, I will not treat you as a sick, weak man. However, as only those who have been through potentially terminal illnesses can understand, you, as well as your family, will continue to be in my prayers as I pray for complete healing from this devastating illness..
As I have said, you lead a busy life, speaking at conferences around the world while managing a three-campus church in the North Texas area. Said church was once called First Baptist of Highland Village and is now called the Village Church. You are a member of an elite group of pastors who are involved with the Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel. You count CJ Mahaney and Mac Brunson among your many friends. According to those “in the know” your church is highly successful because you now have 5,000 members. And this, I believe, is a key to the problem that I perceive. More on that shortly.
Recently, “the Dawg” over at FBC Jax Watchdog posted an interesting video that you made. I had a hard time finding it so I have linked to his post. For those who are reading this, Dawg's post is worth a close read after viewing the video.
In this video, you are upset that you received an anonymous email that criticizes a particular action you have chosen to take. You call this person “spiteful”, “pathetic” and a “narcissistic zero”. Harsh words, indeed.
On your blog you said the following:
“As you can see, I am opinionated and that is what this column is based upon – my opinion. I respect other people's opinions and their right to disagree with me. What I don't respect is people who attack something, via telephone messages, e-mail, and letters, and then don't have the nerve to sign their name. I attach a byline to everything I write and I stand behind my work. I welcome criticism and opposing views, but to me someone who doesn't even have the conviction to sign their name to their words shouldn't even bother to put pen to paper.”
Matt, you have chosen to go public with your speaking and thoughts. I hope I am correct in assuming that you want pastors who belong to the Gospel Coalition to change the way they do business since you give them lots of suggestions and exhortation. You are the one who have chosen to go beyond your church to become a public speaker and I am going public with my concerns. This week, our formerly anonymous blog, will be publishing our names and contact information.
You blew a marvelous opportunity to disciple your email writer and ended up looking like just another one of those over-hyped, thin-skinned, ho-hum, authority junkies who take lessons in intimidation from the likes of “just punch them in the nose” Mark Driscoll types.
Here is the problem as I see it. You appear to believe that you have been given some form of special “authority” and that this means you can act like a tough guy when one of your church members gets out of line. I believe that the underlying reason for such attitudes stems from the fact that you are not functioning as a pastor. Instead, you perceive your task is to tell other preachers how to preach. You are on the circuit and it must be gratifying to receive such accolades from around the world.
But, are you truly a pastor? When does the discipleship happen or is it done "on the fly?" You have precious little time to grow in intimacy with those who come to your local church because you are rarely around. Running in to do the Sunday sermon is not the same thing.
Finally, someone in your congregation gets up the guts to write an email to you. He/she is a bit afraid of you, the pastor, because you are not really one of them. You are more like a television star, to be admired, not known. Maybe he or she got to shake your hand once after church. So the person takes a stab at an email.
You could have said the following. “I know that it took some courage for you to ask me this question. Somehow I have given the impression that I am unapproachable and for that I am sorry. I always have enough time to hear from you and I promise that I will listen and consider your request. You are precious to me and I love you. Please let me know when we can get together.” Then, since you say that it is easy to contact you, you could put your phone number and email on the big screen. Sounds nice, doesn’t it.
But, it is glaringly evident that you don’t have enough time for such niceties. You have places to go, talks and interviews to give and applause to hear. YOU DO NOT HAVE TIME TO BE A PASTOR!
So, instead you berate a member of your flock for having the temerity to question you in an impersonal manner. Did you ever think that the email was impersonal because you are impersonal with your flock? Do you really think that a person is a “zero” because he/she chose to email you anonymously? Matt, do you believe that Jesus would have called one of His lowly followers a ZERO? That emailer is a dearly beloved child of God who is struggling to figure out his church and his faith and you are too thin-skinned and too busy to give him the time of day.
Also, you may need to take a psychology course. Just like your good buddy, Mac Brunson, misused the term "sociopath" and demonstrated his ignorance via the newspaper (what a guy!) to the people of Jacksonville, it is obvious that you do not understand the meaning of narcissistic. A narcissist loves to see his name in lights. He is the type of guy who lives to hear the sound of applause and have people extolling the virtues of his name. In fact, he is the type of guy who is quite insulting to other people when his feeling are stomped on. This sort of guy is never anonymous. Perhaps you have met a couple of these in your travels?
Did you ever think that you may have created an atmosphere of intimidation because you don’t have the time to truly love and get to know members of your church? Could your frequent absences be perceived as a lack of concern and caring for those who are your primary ministry? Or are they your primary ministry?
As a formerly anonymous blogger, one of your pathetic zero types, could I give you a lesson in what is going on out here? There is a change in the church in America. We are truly in a post evangelical period. Far too many pastors spend time acting like CEOs rather than shepherds. The money is good out there for the ones who rise to the top and there is a pursuit of fame that is evident to us “little zeroes” out here.
Church success is measured in numbers and income. Pastoral success is quantitated by how many books and CD's get sold and how many conferences and speeches are booked. Meantime the "insignificant" people in the church are dying from creeping mediocracy.
Biblical illiteracy is on the increase, broken families are the new normal and children are leaving the faith in droves. Somehow, the mega church model has not resulted in deeper Christians. Instead it has produced shallow religionists with little idea of true discipleship. At the same time it seems as if the preachers are running faster and faster and getting nowhere fast.
Matt, there is a real possibility that you and the “leadership and authority” crowd have done nothing more that increase your own fame within your own circles. Does it ever bother you that people are asking the likes of John Piper to autograph the ESV Bible? What is that all about anyway?
I suggest that you try to figure out where you should be serving. Perhaps you should spend some time with those who love and care for you in your church. There are some “zeroes” that you need to get to know. Who knows, you may actually enjoy them.