I was five years old and my friend Nate, who was only four, came over to my house to play. It was summer time, and we found ourselves bored, with nothing much to do in my front yard.
We were hanging out around a recently planted tree that was surrounded by mulch and a ring of medium to large rocks.
An Idea is Born
As I looked down at the rocks, an idea was born for our next round of fun. I picked up a heavy rock and surmised that if Nate stood about ten feet away, I should still be able to throw the rock over his head.
“Hey Nate!” I yelled over.
“Yes” Nate shouted back.
“Go stand over there, ” I pointed to about 10 feet away. He dutifully moved to right where I pointed.
“I’m going to throw this rock over your head!” I shouted across the yard.
“Ok” said Nate, without any hesitation or doubt in his voice.
As Nate stood his ground, I picked up a large rock and heaved it with all my might. I distinctly remember that I was 100% sure that the rock would simply sail far over his head, and that my superior rock throwing ability was about to be confirmed.
As the rock flew through the air I stood in awe…but then something happened. The rock begun to descend sooner than planned and it hit Nate square upon his mouth.
Shock, just utter shock descended upon my five-year old mind.
Shock, just utter shock is what I saw on Nate’s face, as he stared back at me. It seemed like time stood still as we stared at each other, both shocked at what had just transpired.
Then…blood begun gushing down Nate’s face from his lip. It had been gashed open by my misfired rock and he was now bleeding all over his shirt and white shorts. As the pain of his injury overtook him, he screamed and cried as he ran into my house to seek assistance from his mother.
The next few minutes are a blur, as I was vacillating between the shock of learning that my rock throwing abilities were not up to snuff and the thought that my injured friend my was probably going to get me in trouble.
My Mom stormed out of the house with a mild scolding, along with the unanswerable question of “What were you thinking when you threw that rock?” coupled with “Were you trying to hit Nate with that rock?”.
The truth is, I had no intention of hitting him and I was having a hard time explaining what I was thinking, because I was still in shock over my poor estimation of my arm strength.
Unfortunately for Nate, our rock throwing adventure ended our play date prematurely, as he got a trip to the Doctor for seven stitches and I got a trip to my bedroom for a grounding.
It wouldn’t be the last time in my childhood that I had a hair-brained idea involving rocks…but that’s for another day.
And the Point of all of this?
Besides being a perfect example of why children should be taught to think about their actions before running headlong into adventure, it’s also an example of what happens when we believe ourselves to be infallible.
You see, the same mindset of my five-year old mind, is very similar to the many ministry leaders and pastors I have known in my life. They are similar in that often times, they overestimate their abilities and in doing so put others at risk.
An infallible mindset never considers the question of “what happens if I am wrong?”. And this is dangerous.
“You have marriage trouble, no problem, set up an appointment I’ll explain to you the Biblical way to save your marriage. Never mind that I’m only 28 years old and have only been married for 15 months. Not to worry, I’m a pastor and I graduated with a degree in Biblical counseling.”
“What do you mean your husband is ignoring you? It may mean that you’re not submitting enough. He hit you? Well he wouldn’t have just hit you unless he was very frustrated with you and your behavior. Here’s a book on submission. We’ll read it together and I’ll meet with you weekly so that you can begin to have a Biblical marriage again.”
“You’re having financial troubles? Can I ask you a question? Do you tithe? Have you considered that maybe you’re having financial troubles because you’re not tithing to God’s House?”
“What do you mean you’re having suicidal thoughts? That’s demonic…think of your children and family and the sort of testimony that would be. You need to commit to reading your Bible and praying every day. Then the Joy of the Lord will be your strength. You don’t need counseling, you need the Holy Spirit.”
I could go on with more examples, but I think it suffices to say, that many a Christian leader has overestimated their ability to help counsel people who are in serious trouble. Often times with disastrous results.
I witnessed this first hand, as a pastor (who was also my neighbor) counseled a couple who’s twin babies were facing almost certain death. As their health deteriorated in the hospital, my pastor friend encouraged the couple and their church to pray harder for healing. One church member had even prophesied that the twins would live (which would have been a medical miracle) and the church encouraged the couple to blog, so that God’s goodness could be shared with the world (since they were 100% sure the babies would be healed).
Rock to the face…the babies died, the church was in shock, and the pastor was unprepared to deal with the crushing disappointment that his counsel had caused. The couple left the church and was understandably angry. Other members left the church. Some of the elders remained but told me that they didn’t think that God answered prayers. The whole church was bleeding like Nate’s gashed lip. All because they had adopted an infallible mindset at the behest of the pastor in my neighborhood.
A couple of times during this episode, I had actually tried to convince this pastor to consider, if what he was doing was wise. I even asked him, what he would do if he was wrong. He didn’t seem to know, but he also seemed pretty sure that he wasn’t going to have to worry about being wrong.
After the deaths and funeral,what surprised me most, was how this pastor was more in shock that his counsel had not worked, than he was in grief over the loss of these dear children. He was just like me at 5 years old, completely confounded that he wasn’t as good at this as he had thought.
So the next time someone tells you to “just do this” or “just pray that” to solve your problems. Remember, people aren’t always as good as they think they are…
Just stand over there and I’ll throw a rock over your head, if you don’t believe me.