When the Pastor Corks His Bat.

Erik Raymond —  April 15, 2014

I grew up playing and watching a lot of baseball. It was almost a religion for me and Fenway Park in Boston was my church (so to speak). To further the illustration, the elders and leaders were players on the Red Sox. I think of Roger Clemens, Dwight Evans, Jim Rice, and Carl Yastrzemski. When I would arrive at Fenway I can remember walking out of the tunnel and being overcome by all of the images and sounds. There was the fresh cut grass, the 37′ wall in left field, the Prudential Building, and the sight of the players warming up. I was absolutely invested–I might have even secretly felt like was on the team.

Several years ago one of these players, Roger Clemens, was investigated for cheating. He was found to have used performance enhancing drugs, or banned substances. Clemens, along with a bevy of other players, have received something of an asterisk on their career because they have dishonored the sacred tradition and integrity of the game.

As a baseball fan I can appreciate the way the league, players, and fans have renounced the way these guys tried to take a short-cut. Some players cared more about themselves than the game. This, according to baseball is unacceptable.

These days I am a bit less beholden to baseball. Sure, I enjoy watching a game every now and then but my real love is Christ and as a result, his church. I love her purity, mission, beauty, and sacred place. I enjoy reading the stories and books of the “old-timers” as well as following the careers of many pastors and authors who lead us today.

At the same time we also hear of guys who have taken short-cuts and do not seem to honor the tradition and beauty of their calling. There are guys who have corked their pastoral bats or sought some other edge to achieve their ostensibly good goals.

Earlier this year popular pastor and author Mark Driscoll was publicly accused of plagiarism in a number of his books. A couple of months later it was found that he used over $200,000 to purchase books and promote his Real Marriage book to the NY Times Best-Seller list (links here, here, and here). To many of us this smells like pastoral PED’s. It’s troubling and heart braking. Personally, I have learned a ton from Driscoll. I’ve prayed for and defended him while “rooting” for his ministry for years. I want him to succeed. But this, in my view, is unacceptable. It is also complicated by the fact that we do not have all of the information.

Let’s be careful to not just throw Mark Driscoll under the bus. To achieve our ostensibly noble goals we might do similar things. I know Driscoll is not the only one, he’s just the one that has gotten caught (lately). Do you know there are websites out there where pastors can buy sermons and/or sermon material? This is an indictment because it proves there is a market for the lazy pastor.

Have you ever taken someone else’s sermon and preached it from your pulpit as if it is your very own work? Have you taken someone else’s life experience and claimed them as your own to prove a point in your sermon? Let me just state it bluntly: Have you ever stolen other people’s sermons? Pastors. Brothers. Let each of us be sure to labor in our own study, prayer, meditation and reflection each week, everyday as we prepare to feed the flock, in our own church, from our own pulpit. God put you in this church for a reason. He wants you to preach the Word that you have labored over. We reflect him in all we do and are to set the pace in speech, love, conduct and purity (1 Tim. 4:12), much less practiced.

Let us take a cue from Major League Baseball–for the sake of the purity and beauty of the church, these things should not be practiced, tolerated or ignored (1 Tim. 3:1-7).

I refuse to let my kids wear the jerseys of guys who used steroids. All I can do from my seat is, with a heavy heart, not recommend books or support ministries while praying for change and / or more information. At the same time, I am thankful for all the pastors and authors who “play the game” the right way. They are an encouragement and blessing to the church. May their tribe increase.

Erik Raymond

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Erik has been writing at Ordinary Pastor since 2006. He lives in Omaha with his wife and kids while pastoring at Emmaus Bible Church. Follow regular updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/erikraymond

2 responses to When the Pastor Corks His Bat.

  1. I appreciate reading your thoughts about this, Erik. Thank for your honestly. Keep pointing people to Jesus.