Any pastor will have heard this. It seems designed (by the devil, if not by the person who tells us) to make us insecure. Pastors (you may be surprised to discover, if you are not one), are not always the most secure of people. It can be hard to know if we are really doing what we should – are we preaching the right things, are we being effective leaders, are we compassionate, or challenging, enough in our counselling? And it can be hard to measure success. Should we count the numbers of people in church? How do we measure the spiritual growth of the people?
And then someone pipes up with: “Our previous pastor used to …” And even if they didn’t say so, what you hear is, “Our previous pastor was better than you in this respect.” And your confidence plummets.
So it’s interesting and encouraging to me to read that even Jesus seems to have faced this.
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1)
Am I wrong in hearing an implicit criticism in this? Jesus being unfavourably compared with John in that he has not taught his disciples to pray? Maybe it’s just me, and of course maybe it was just me when the people said to me, “Pastor So-and-So does it like this,” and I heard it as a criticism. Or maybe it’s not just me, and the disciple who criticised Jesus, and the person who criticised me, should have known better and recognised the different ministries of Jesus and John; and me and Pastor So-and-So.
In any case, Jesus clearly decided not to take it personally and was, of course, secure enough in himself, in his ministry and in his relationship with the Father, not to feel threatened. And so we still recite his answer. John’s teaching on prayer to his disciples has not been recorded for posterity, but the Lord’s prayer continues to enrich his church.
Well, I find that interesting.