Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought. Romans 12:3
My pastor-husband and I had been in full-time ministry for over twenty-five years, when suddenly I found myself not quite as "inspired" about ministry as I had been previously. At first, I blamed it on my age. Then, I thought that I must be experiencing burnout, but as I did some soul-searching, I discovered that I was under the curse of cynicism. Thinking cynics were typically found on the six o'clock news, I was shocked to discover this disease in the crevices of my own soul. After several months of walking through the "cynicism fog," I discovered that I was not the only Christian leader to experience this debilitating malady, but have found the curse of cynicism is epidemic among church leaders. Cynicism is not prejudice. It enjoys giving a fatal bite to babes-in-Christ or the most seasoned saints, but takes special delight in attacking those in leadership.
I wasn’t completely sure I understood exactly what a cynic was as I pulled my dictionary off the shelf, but once I read Webster’s definition I knew I was guilty. A cynic is a person who believes that only selfishness motivates human actions. As I examined my soul, I discovered there were "kissing cousins" of cynicism – unbelief, bitterness, discontentment and keen faultfinding. These thieves were attempting to rob me blind of any joy, peace or purpose, as they rode piggyback into my heart. I knew if I allowed these enemies to set up housekeeping for very much longer, it would neutralize the effectiveness of the ministry God had called me to. These strongholds had the power to cripple me; leaving me groping in the darkness. I realized that I was in a weakened state and if the enemy of my soul would set a trap, when I was so vulnerable, I was capable of plunging off the deep end. In my mind’s eye, other leaders flashed before me. Those who had started out with such sincerity, then years later, their lives and ministries were completely shipwrecked. I knelt before the Lord in deep repentance and asked Him to help me. As I spent time in His Presence, He began to slowly reveal a solution to my problem – I had some backtracking to do.
Pride was the avenue that opened my heart’s door to this cynicism curse and humility was the only antidote. I saw how I loved my opinions more than I loved the flock I was called to serve or the co-laborers I was called to serve with. I knew that I was to love people unconditionally, just like my heavenly Father loved me.
“How?” I whimpered.
Jesus whispered in the depths of my soul, “Start by not feeding on unloving thoughts.” It was a “light bulb” moment for me. I saw that I had to immediately begin slamming the door shut on any negative assumption that tried to contaminate my human spirit. As I began to be more careful in my thought life, I was astonished at the love that seemed to well up in my heart for others.
I began a “three step program” in my active mind. For any thought to be entertained it had to pass these three questions. “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” If my strong opinions couldn’t submit to this biblical principle, they would not be nourished any longer. I was going to make an earnest attempt to line my life according to God’s Word.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8 KJV
In the midst of the battle our telephone rang. It was dear friends of our family that lived states away. They began to pour out their hearts about what was happening in their home church. Immediately, I recognized that cynicism in leadership was having a head-on collision with cynicism in laity. It was a power struggle that was splitting their prosperous church wide open. They had installed a new contemporary pastor to lead their growing flock. At first, it seemed the new minister could do no wrong, but the honeymoon was soon over when his more modern methods clashed with the traditional views of his elders. Lines were drawn. The elders' tongues railed against their new shepherd. "He's got an ego the size of Dallas. We've got his number. We're not giving him an inch more of power. We're going to teach him a lesson."
A similar spirit seized the young pastor's heart. He became obsessed by constantly questioning the ulterior motives of his board of elders; pointing out to all who would listen just how wrong they were. "They aren't supposed to lead the flock, I am. I will not compromise or they will take advantage of me. I know what they are thinking."
This conflict continued to escalate and neither side was able to see that instead of being part of a solution; they were part of the problem. After two years of this wrangling, it ended with a huge church split. The pastor resigned and many left the church.
My husband and I gasped, “This cynicism scenario is at epidemic proportions in churches all across the country.”
When I was under the cynicism spell, I was people conscious, but when I began to become more conscious of Jesus and His love for humanity, He filled my heart with compassion for the souls of men, women, boys and girls. When I loved people as He did, I was able to let go and let God be the judge of their motives. It was a freeing experience for me. I saw that perfection in relationships is impossible this side of Heaven. I realized that I must be realistic in my expectations of those I am called to serve; giving them the benefit of the doubt. Believing the best in others and if they fail, I was to forgive and forbear with them. I realized that Jesus was asking me to turn from poisonous suspicions and offer prayerful support. No longer was I to be proud of my cynical gift of discernment that “saw through people,” but in the love and humility of Christ, I was to “see people through” the struggles of life.
We live in a world of skeptics and cynics, but we serve a God who is for His people and His essence is love. His love is a sure remedy to break the cynicism curse. As leaders we know that pulling together with one heartbeat always precedes winning together. Let's get back to basics; loving God and loving one another. As we criticize less and love more, the cynicism curse will be completely broken and lives will be changed forever.
By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35 NIV
Dixie is a pastor's wife, ghostwriter, mother of four grown children, and grandmother of five "perfect" grandchildren. You can find out more about the ministry she and her husband are involved in at www.floydslighthouse.com. Guardian Angel Publishing has published 10 of Dixie's children's books.