The false gospel of self-love is becoming increasingly vogue at clerical gatherings.
The catechism of the church of the boosted self-esteem sounds so reasonable - how can you love others if you neglect to love yourself? Did not Jesus say: 'Love your neighbour as yourself'? Do you understand that unless you convert to our creed, you will burn out or go bonkers?
The catechists of self-love are able to exploit an opening for their message in the fact that the pastoral calling is manifestly becoming more stressful. Here are some suggested reasons why:
* Not knowing whether you will be replaced when you leave due to financial pressures in the denomination
* Having responsibility for several churches due to cost-saving amalgamations
* For Anglican clergy, the increased significance of ministry reviews under the new clergy terms of service
* A diminishing culture of commitment and volunteerism
* Growing moral disorder in the congregations and communities we serve
* Postmodern philosophical distrust of leaders.
It is both unwise and ungodly to try to counter such pressures by over-working and to fail to rest. But the biblical gospel of eternal salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone rather than the religion of self-love provides the only secure basis for our spiritual defence.
There have been deplorable cases of good Bible-believing clergy suffering breakdowns in their physical or mental health through minimal or no fault of their own - in these cases congregational or denominational persecution has been the major factor. But is it not also the case that what can make clergy go under is not so much the inevitable stresses of the calling but unwise and ungodly ways of dealing with them, such as resorting to sinful forms of escapism?
One unfortunate result of some clergy adopting the self-love creed is that they are enabled to carry on being spiritually unfruitful for longer when it would be better for the Kingdom of God and indeed for them personally if they stepped out of front-line pastoral ministry.