Candle Darkness

After reading my last post, some people wondered why I stayed involved with vocational ministry in a local church context.

The answer to that question is rooted in large part to my belief that Jesus has great plans for the Church.

I believe that Jesus desires for the Church to change the World.

In Matthew 16 Jesus took his followers to the darkest place in their culture to cast his vision for the Church. Caesarea Phillipi carried with it deep historical, spiritual and moral baggage. It was the stronghold for the fertility god cult. That place was characterized by false belief, greed, injustice, immorality, and oppression.

No good religious person would have gone to that dark place.

The Rabbi Jesus went there. He took his followers there to give the founding words of his Church.

In this dark setting Jesus was identified as the Messiah, the fulfillment of God’s promise to rescue us from darkness. He then made two promises about the messiah movement that would follow him.

Jesus Promises to Build His Church in the Midst of Darkness

The setting of the story was crucial:

The Landscape of CP was dominated by a large cliff. This cliff became the backdrop for the fertility god worship.

Ornate niches were carved into the cliff

Idols were placed on the niches to observe the rituals of the cult

This cliff became known as the Rock of the Gods.

Jesus said “On this rock I will build my Church” with the Rock of the Gods dominating their setting.

Perhaps Jesus was saying “EVEN HERE, In the darkest, most broken place, most unclean place, I will start my Movement.”

Jesus was not only willing to go to the dark places, He said it was a perfect place to build his Movement!

Jesus Promises the Victory of His Church over Darkness

Once again the setting was crucial:

The cliff in Caesarea Philippi had a large cave with a large spring flowing out of it.

In the ancient world water was believed to be sent from the gods.

This water came out of a mysterious bottomless cave in a massive cliff.

The cave became known as the entry way to the underworld, or the “gates to Hades.”

Jesus said that “the gates of hell will not prevail against” his Church with the Gates of Hades nearby them.

Jesus stated that his Church would be on the offense against the darkness, and the defensive structures of the darkness would not be able to hold back this movement of light.

Jesus intends for His Church to bring hope, grace, peace, justice, truth and healing to the darkest places of the world!

In the midst of painful experiences and disappointments in the church, this story of a Church that will change the World has kept me engaged in vocational ministry.

At times I actually experience this type of movement.

At times I work for what is promised and hoped for, in spite of what I actually see.



Here are the Top Ten Ways to Ruin Young Pastors. They have also been found effective on other ministry staff!

10. Promise big things in their interviews, and then pull back on those promises once the family is on site.

9. Do not bother mentoring them or investing in their personal or professional development.

8. Ask them to reach new people, but force them to think the same way as the existing staff.

7. Ask them to bring change, but do not allow them to do anything different.

6. Young Pastor’s Concerns = Never Valid. Member’s Concerns about Young Pastor = Always Valid.

5. Give them responsibility, but do not give them the authority to accomplish those things.

4. Give them greater workloads than other pastors, but also less respect.

3. Say one thing in private meetings, another thing in staff or elder meetings, and another thing in Sunday Worship.

2. Reject their ideas, tell them how to do it, and when it does not work … blame them.

1. Allow your personal insecurities to interpret the young pastor’s words and deeds as attempts to mock you or steal your job.

This post was inspired by some of my past experiences (NOT Elmbrook) and the tragic stories of a number of friends who have entered vocational ministry with passion and commitment, only to be beaten down by leadership of their churches. Some of them have left vocational ministry, all of us have considered that exit. While these friends were not perfect in every situation, none of them were slackers, whiners, heretics, immoral or insubordinate.

Surely the Church can do better than this!