It is the danger of every parent, elder, Bible study leader, and especially preacher. I am wary of its snare. I pray against it regularly. I hope to avoid it this coming Sunday. Brothers, we are not gate agents.
I have been flying a lot over the past 6 weeks, and thus have had the opportunity to watch gate agents at the airport. You probably know what these gate agents do. They make announcements, take tickets, and get people loaded on the plane in a timely manner. They administrate and facilitate. Most importantly (if you are traveling), they exhort you to get on the plane before it is too late. The gate agent is like the train conductor yelling “All aboard!” The gate agent tells you about this plane going to St. Louis, this one to Chicago, and that one to Omaha. He proclaims and provokes. He calls and consoles. He summons and sends off. The gate agents have an important job. They make announcements all day about places you want to go to.
And places to which they’ve never been.
As a pastor, I’m scared of becoming nothing more than an earnest gate agent. I’m afraid of calling people to places I’ve never been. Of course, pastors are humans too. None of us have arrived. There must be room for aspiration and inspiring ourselves (so to speak) even as we try to inspire others. But my fear is that I would keep preaching about God, without really communing with Him. That I would stir people to obedience I don’t really take seriously. That I would speak earnestly of an affection for Christ that I am not earnestly pursuing. I give so many sermons and talk about God so often, I fear that I may end up exhorting people with exhortations I’ve learned to ignore.
Lord help me. I don’t want to round people up for holiness and never go there myself. I don’t want to talk so much about St. Louis and Omaha and Chicago that I convince myself I’ve been to places I haven’t. I don’t want to preach about the glories of knowing Christ if I haven’t made an effort to know that glory too. I don’t want to be a gate agent on this heavenly journey. I want to be someone working in the cockpit.
Or a flight attendant–just as well.