I have been reading a book titled Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson. The book is written by his son, and well-known scholar, D.A. Carson. Essentially, the book is a biography describing the ministry of a faithful “small town” pastor. He never speaks at a conference, never writes a book, never has thousands of “fans”, never leads a mega church, and really never realizes his full vision. It is the story of an “ordinary pastor.” It is a fascinating read, containing various journal entries and excerpts from letters Tom Carson wrote, as well as commentary by his son. It is also a sobering read, especially for pastors, as it presents an honest and realistic picture of the various discouragements that come with being a pastor.
In one journal entry, during a particularly dark season of ministry where Tom experienced deep discouragement from relationships in the church, he wrote something to the effect of: “I guess every Jesus has his Judas; every Paul has his Demas.” Both Jesus and Paul were betrayed by good friends and fellow workers. Judas’ betrayal is infamous. He spent three years in the circle of 12. And though he was a thief the entire time, he also was a friend. This makes his decision to sell out Jesus with a kiss, and for a few coins, that much more troubling. I have always wondered what kind (if any) of sadness Jesus experienced.
Paul’s “betrayal” was a bit different. By betrayal, I don’t necessarily mean Judas-style. By betrayal, I mean to include a breaking of trust; an unexpected shift from faithful to unfaithful. We don’t know exactly what happened to change Demas–there was no material benefit involved like there was with Judas. What we do know is that Demas was considered a fellow worker, a fellow soldier, a fellow missionary and close friend. He is included in the closing remarks of two letters (Colossians 4.14 , Philemon 24). Buy sadly, in the last letter Paul writes, Demas is described as, “in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica” (2Tim 4.10). He has abandoned Paul, the mission, and perhaps even faith itself.
There are some hard, but real, lessons to be learned here. Unfortunately, most pastors or planters learn from first-hand experience. It hurts the pastor when a friend leaves a church. It hurts the church when a fellow worker leaves the church. It hurts everyone when a friend, who was a fellow worker, betrays the pastor and the church. Though it shouldn’t be this way, people come and go from churches constantly. That question is not THAT someone leaves, the concern is always WHY and HOW. There are good and bad reasons to leave a church just as there are good and bad reasons to leave one. BUT, there is a right way and a wrong way to leave a church. One way is beautiful, one way is painful. One is loving; one is mean-spirited. One is righteous, one is unrighteous. One makes much of God, one makes much of men. One ends in friendship, one ends a friendship.
So here is a word to pastors who encounter a Judas or a Demas. Don’t give into the temptation to respond with your flesh. God wants to use the experience, even the very relationship, to build your faith–to make you look more like Jesus (more loving, more gracious, more merciful, etc.) At the same time, Satan wants to use this experience to sabotage your faith, your family, and your ministry–to make you look and feel more like him.