Why do pastors fight?

I talked with a friend a few days ago and during our conversation, my friend mentioned that a group of pastors had their annual meeting, and it was filled with controversy and strife. They were fighting, bickering, and maligning each other over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. Not really, but their warfare against each other had to do with things almost as mundane and trivial. They likely would not think so, but I certainly do.

This discussion led me to look a bit deeper into what is an all too common situation in these last days. Why do pastors fight? I cannot help but wonder if this pugilistic mindset might be rooted in having their certainties questioned. Maybe they are struggling with the feeling that they may no longer be relevant in our culture. Maybe they fight in these meetings because they are taking such a beating in the churches they are attempting to serve.

Or maybe, subconsciously they are frustrated that God is not doing what they deep down feel God should be doing. They believe if they just are a bit more dogmatic, if they whistle just a little louder in the dark, then maybe, just maybe God will show up.

The problem is God has never left.

I fully understand. I once believed it was on my shoulders to defend God and America from liberals, backsliders, and the devil (in that order). I, too, felt the need for certainty. I, too, went to a meeting with the attitude of doing battle. I am so sorry Lord.

Theology is important. Doctrine is important. Orthodoxy is important. However, when secular tactics, hurtful words, and a disregard for the reality that every human being is loved and desired by our Lord becomes our method and mindset, we are doing more harm than good for the will of God. I will (really will, not just ministerially speaking) pray for an awakening of humility and faith for all who serve the body of Christ.

Spiritual What?

Growing into the first commandment is a journey toward experiencing all of God loving all of me, and all of me loving all of God. This experience then spills out into the lives of others as we love our neighbors with our loved-by-God self.

Skurja, Catherine. Paradox Lost. Whitaker House. Kindle Edition.

Over the past two decades, I have noticed a severe problem in the Church. I have observed this in three different denominations. What I have noticed is a definite lack of individual spiritual formation especially with adults. It seems that we have hit a state of thinking that listening to a preacher and/or attending a Sunday school class that uses a book that is more of a motivational instrument than a tool of spiritual formation and/or a class in which 80% of the time is visiting and 10% listening to someone else pray and 10% going over the material in the book. There is no attempt (other than an occasional, limited and seldom promoted study of spiritual disciplines) to seriously focus on spiritual formation.

Why is this? I have some theories.

1) In one denomination, many of the “clergy” are 2nd career and they treat the ministry like a secular career. There is much more emphasis put on “how to get a bigger church” than on how can I help people get closer to God.

2) For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (2 Tim. 4:3 NIV) This is what I call the Hobbit syndrome.

3) Seminaries that put a higher value on a critical study of Scripture, a strange desire to conform to the culture, and a willingness to pursue any new, novel theology without regard to past orthodoxy, and almost no attempt to develop skills in spiritual formation in the students.

I am sure there are other reasons, but I believe these are the big three. I pray things can change.

What is in a Name….

A short time ago while in the clutches of desolation, I thought about changing my name back to my pre-adoption name. My adopted name is Montoya. My birth name was Hogue. I was adopted at the age of four, so the Montoya name has been mine for over six decades.

Why did I want to change my name? One of the enemy’s tools used in desolation is the tool of mean memories. Mean memories are those events in our personal history that bring us pain, sorrow, and at times regret. The name Montoya is perceived as a Hispanic surname. I am not Hispanic. When people meet me, see the blue-eyed, once blond now gray-haired person I am, and hear my name is Montoya many ask, “Montoya, what nationality is that?”

Usually, when asked this question, I find the person asking often has a prejudice against Hispanic people. Once, while in Bible college, I was supervising a cleaning crew when I walked up on two new student workers I had not met. I heard one say to another, “The name of our boss is Montoya. I cannot believe I am going to have to work for a wetback.” I introduced myself and both students’ faces turned red.

In the last church, I served (in a small town on the edge of West Texas) the prejudice was so strong that no one in the church came to meet me at the district meet and greet we had. I quickly found out that the prejudice in this church was so strong that they could not stand to have a pastor with a perceived Hispanic surname. This church made my life a living hell for two years. I could give many more instances where I faced hostility due to my last name. These are all mean memories.

I am so thankful for Ignatius fifth rule of discernment: Fifth Rule, in time of desolation never to make a change; but to be firm and constant in the resolutions and determination in which one was the day preceding such desolation, or in the determination in which he was in the preceding consolation.

The enemy is always trying to get us to believe we are shameful, guilty, and worthless. No matter how strong our faith, the enemy can get us to think this way. I know this aspect of desolation all to well. When I came to my senses and realize why I would even consider changing my surname I knew what was happening.

Yes, I have faced difficulties because of my last name. Yes, dealing with prejudice towards one’s person is a painful process. Still, my last name was given to me by a father who tried his best to love me, an adopted son. Also, I have come to appreciate the culture from which this name came. The Hispanic people have a rich heritage. They are some of the most hard-working and compassionate people I have ever met. I have every reason to be proud of my name. I am not about to let the enemy win this battle.

Prejudice is a poison. It is a sickness of the heart and mind, a cancer of the soul. It is perhaps the antithesis of the command our Lord gives us to love our neighbor. I fully understand that as love grows colder, I will likely face this ugly mindset again and again. However, our Lord has given me the power to choose how I deal with such enmity. I choose to claim, my name is David Montoya and I have been claimed by Christ. I know the enemy hates to hear that!