Thursday, May 16, 2013

Messianic Complex

This morning I watched an interview with Bono by Charlie Rose. They talked about the humanitarian work he is doing in the fight against AIDs and the fight against poverty.  Charlie asked him about his messianic complex, because as he said, "You have to have a bit of a messianic complex in order to do what you do.  You have to believe in yourself. You have to believe it is possible."  Bono joked that any person who finds themselves as the front person of a rock band with the streaming lights and the screaming fans definitely has a messianic complex.

While I do not agree with Charlie's description of what a messianic complex means,  I do think the concept is pretty on target and I appreciate Bono's honesty that finding yourself standing in front of people, as they look to you for something, anything, will give you a messianic complex.

I think it is hard to be in ministry and not struggle with a messianic complex.  In some ways, we are all called to be Christ to those around us.  We struggle with Paul's words to be everything to all people, or at least struggle with how we read it.

Any minister who has had one of the moments where you know you are the "in flesh presence of God" for a family who is grieving a traumatic event, a church who is searching to find meaning in a national tragedy or who has had a part in the beginning of a beautiful marriage knows how reverent and powerful those moments are.

It is hard to move from those powerful moments, from our own version of a stage with lights and screaming fans, back to the day to day operations.  I cannot tell you how many ministers I come across who are worn out from being available any time someone in their church needs them. They are tired from serving in churches with meetings they must be at every night of the week while keeping up with the expectations of visiting the hospitals every day, visiting the shut ins (including the "Sunday shut ins"), preparing meaningful sermons, counseling church members and people in the community, writing the newsletter all while always being in the church office from 9:00 to 5:00 to prove you are earning your salary. And heaven forbid you say that you cannot do it all.  I mean, you've been called to this, haven't you?  And they are the body of Christ. It is hard to tell them no or challenge their way of thinking. Many of us who are called to the church are there because we were loved and nurtured in the church and thus, it is in our nature to want to please them.

Honestly I think it is a great struggle to separate being the hands and feet of Christ to the church you serve and having a messianic complex.  However, I think it is essential boundary building work that church leaders must do. I think it is important for our own personal health, for our families, for future church leaders, but also for our church members. We have to ask, what kind of Christ are we revealing?  Not just in the pulpit or in Bible study but by the way we lead.