The title is not mine but comes from a series of articles I recently discovered. While reading through the “Letters to Stagnant Christians,” I found them both convicting and insightful. The author, David De Bruyn, is a Reformed Baptist pastor in South Africa. Though the context in which he ministers might seem a world away, his “letters” prove that the same spiritual struggles stymie Christian growth and maturity across ethnic, national, and cultural boundaries.
Here is a sample of the sixth and last, followed by a link to the original article:
In my letters to Christians about their spiritual stagnation, the problem has rarely involved me personally. In your case, I happen to know that I am a real source of the trouble. Not purposely, of course: my calling as a pastor is to promote spiritual growth, not thwart it. Nevertheless, the great obstacle in your Christian life involves your perception of me. Specifically, it is your suspicion of my perception of you. You have come to believe, for certain reasons, that I do not like you, or are irritated, annoyed, or disappointed by you.
Now before I tackle the truth or falsity of this perception, let me tell you why it matters. It would be all too easy, and quite flattering to our pride, to tell ourselves that our relationship with our pastors doesn’t trouble us. It would be give our egos a bit of chest-beating pleasure to say, “he’s flattering himself if he thinks I care about his opinion of me.” In reality, we do care about how people perceive us, and we should care. Scripture calls on us to be blameless, and to give no offence to our neighbours, which implies the perceptions and approval of others. And we should want the approval of our leaders.
Like anything, caring about people’s view of us can quickly be inflated into an idol. When we elevate the importance of this into something all-consuming, we have fallen into the trap of man-pleasing. We have made an idol of self, and we spend all our time making sure others adore us as much as we do. Fretting, flattering, gossiping, scheming, competing, envying all spring up from this polluted spring.