Avoiding The ‘Messiah’ Complex
Ministry can be a bit addictive. Yes, there are times when things aren’t going well. Critics arise. Discouragement can set in. That is one potential trap to avoid. But there is an opposite trap that also can ensnare us. When things are going well. When you are effective in meeting people’s needs. When people are telling you what a big difference that you are making in their life.
There is a rush that comes see transformation in someone’s life by the power of God’s grace. When you see it once, you want to see it happen again and again.
Equally so, there is a certain energy that comes from being thrust into a crisis or a high demand circumstance. Feeling needed. Providing comfort. Being a solution to a problem. This can be very gratifying.
Often the stage of launching a new church is that kind of rush. So many things to do. Vision to cast. People to recruit. You are building something out of nothing. The pace is energizing. The feedback is intoxicating. Even the thrill of risking it all to attempt something new provides a jolt of continual adrenaline.
At some point, however, we hit the wall. Emotion drains out of us. Fatigue sets in. We face some problem that is just too big for us to handle. Or, someone we poured our life into turns around and leaves us or criticizes us unfairly. Or, maybe we just realize that this journey of ministry never seems to take a break. As soon as one Sunday is done, we have to begin thinking of next weekend. (It’s amazing how Sundays seem to come around every 7 days!)
This is when it is good to remember and repeat something to yourself: I AM NOT THE MESSIAH!
There is a ‘messiah’ and He is not me! His name is Jesus. Ultimately, He is the one who is responsible for building His church. He is the only one truly able to transform lives and families. It is His grace which people access, not ours. He is the one we are pointing people toward, not ourselves. So here’s some steps to break the ‘Messiah Complex’.
#1 – TAKE A CHILL PILL
Don’t you wish there was such a thing? What I mean is this: give yourself a break. Stop thinking about ministry. Do something that you enjoy. Take a few days off. The entire world will not implode if you decide to rest. Remember the SABBATH and use a day of our week to rest, get refreshed, and refocus.
I remember a number of years ago taking a few days to get away and pray. It was a stressful time in my life and I was feeling overwhelmed. Everything seemed to be dependent on me. I had several small kids. and was the Lead Pastor of a church, etc, etc. It was a spring day and I was standing outside staring at a tree with birds nesting in its branches. The thought hit me, ‘this tree has been growing in this spot and I had nothing to do with its growth. It doesn’t need me. Neither do these birds who are being fed and finding shelter in its branches.’
Then God spoke to me, ‘I can handle everything else in your life without you too!’ It was a needed reality check for me. So I chose to rest in God and let him carry my world for a while.
#2 – GIVE IT BACK TO HIM
Everything is his anyway, right? The church you serve. The family you lead. The money you oversee. It is His, correct? In John 3, after Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist – all of John’s followers left him to follow Jesus.
So John’s disciples came to him and said, “Rabbi, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you identified as the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to him instead of coming to us.” John replied, “No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven. You yourselves know how plainly I told you, ‘I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for him.’ (John 3:26-28 NLT)
I love the realization that John comes to – ‘no one can receive anything unless God gives it.’ Sounds like Psalm 127, ‘Unless The Lord builds the house, the laborers build it in vain.’
The other realization is: “I am NOT the Messiah – I am only here to point people to him!’
#3 – DELEGATE AND DEFLECT PRAISE TO OTHERS
Feeling overwhelmed is also a sign that you are trying to do to much and that you are not equipping others enough. So figure out what you can delegate to others and start the process of training them and releasing them to do what is needed.
Nothing breaks the ‘Messiah Complex’ like sharing ministry with others and then when good things happen, making the choice to glorify God and credit others. John the Baptist also said in John 3, ‘He must increase and I must decrease.’ Choosing to let Jesus increase also involves choosing to let others increase around you.
#4 – SET BOUNDARIES AND ESTABLISH RHYTHMS
These healthy decisions need then to be embedded into your schedule. If not, you will quickly end up back in the same unhealthy place. So set up some boundaries for yourself. Take a day off. Set aside a day of ‘sabbath’. Choose to be home with your family during set evenings of the week. Don’t live in a constant state of emergency.
Let these weekly schedule decisions become a healthy rhythm for your life. I have given up on trying to achieve ‘balance’ in my life. I don’t think balance is ever possible. But healthy rhythms are possible and we should strive for them.
#5 – STOP BEING A PLEASER
This may be the hardest thing to do out of the five. We often break our healthy patterns because we like the rush that comes with pleasing people. We also want to avoid the unpleasantness of the disapproval and disappointment of others. People often set unrealistic expectations of us. Then want us to be the ‘Messiah’. We actually giving them a gift when we don’t try to meet those expectations.
They may be disappointed in us. But if they are directed to the true Messiah – they will always find the help that they need.