Serial The Anointed: 7. Is My Ministry Rooted In Love?

Serial The Anointed: 7. Is My Ministry Rooted In Love? December 23, 2023

A silhouette of a man lifting his hands in worship against a backdrop of an evening sky. Next to this man are the words: "The Anointed - a faith-based serial."
Follow along with this thrilling serial about the highs and lows of Pastor John. (image courtesy of Canva)

It’s 2010. I am away for the weekend with my daughter Anne. During a walk, I tell her about John.

I am away for the weekend with my daughter Anne who turned twelve this year. During a walk on a beach near Barnegat Bay, I tell her about John. ‘Why do you follow him?’ she asks me. A good question. ‘Because I’m intrigued by his success. Somewhere, I would also like to seem that successful,’ I tell her, while thinking: probably I’m just jealous.

‘What does he have then?’ The list flashes through my mind: A church with 5000 members, national renown, people who adore him and blindly follow, a villa in Long Island, a beach house in Keywest, a fortune in the bank, a Mercedes, a BMW, and a personal assistant. At the latter, I always get an image of Meg Ryan at her prettiest, but I have never seen his personal assistant. Maybe it’s a retired nurse…

‘He is very successful in his work,’ I answer her. ‘Is that a reason to follow someone? To actually become obsessed with someone?’ Boy, she’s sharp. ‘Obsession is a big word. I feel responsible for him.’ Understandably, she understands nothing of this. Why does her father feel responsible for someone he never sees and who seems much more successful than him? I try to explain. ‘We used to be friends.’ But that can’t be the whole reason. ‘I think that summer we became connected in a strange way.’

‘But you are successful too, right? It’s not something big or massive, but you do it with love, right?’

‘Together?’ she asks me. ‘Does he also follow you?’ I laugh and shake my head. ‘He has no idea what I’m doing, I think.’ ‘But you are successful too, right? Look at what you’re doing. Okay, it’s not something big or massive, but you do it with love. That’s what matters.’ I give her a kiss and we walk on.

‘You do it with love.’ That’s clear to my daughter. But love for whom? For me, that’s not always clear. I blame John for doing everything out of love for himself. You know, I can’t imagine that in all his motivation there is even a grain of love for Jesus or others. But I also know that if John knew this, he would deny it to the utmost. I think he’s convinced that he does everything out of love for Jesus and for the people entrusted to him.

When I look at myself, I often doubt my motivation. I know that there is so much more at play in my motivation to be a pastor. The inner love for Jesus and people unfortunately plays but a small role. It’s mainly about me. Sometimes it scares me when I become aware of these motivations and know that in my work it’s all about me. I wish it were different. Sometimes I wish I was eighteen again and could live under the assumption that everything in my life was just about Jesus and his gospel.

I wish the years didn’t distort you, or rather, didn’t open your eyes to what really motivates you. In that respect, I am very much like John. Only I can camouflage it better and reap fewer fruits. But the hunger may be the same. Should I explain all this to my daughter now?

‘I recognize in myself an emptiness, a hunger for affirmation, recognition, and success. Perhaps we pastors are the ones who are wounded.’

One of my deepest wishes is that as a person you could be free from the needs that you carry with you from your personal history. I recognize in myself the longing for affirmation, for appreciation and recognition. Desires that like hungry wolves influence your motivation and behavior in search of the quick snack of human appreciation and achieving success. But it’s never enough. No one can fill that emptiness and that hunger, and we… we keep looking for always more.

More affirmation, more recognition, more success, more appreciation. And if necessary, we’ll gladly trample over others. It’s just never enough. No one can satisfy our hunger. So we rush on. Nobody sees that we, the pastors, might be the ones who are wounded. Unless someone stops us, we are heading for our downfall.

I’m worried about John. As far as I know, he has no one in his life to stop him. He has become a sole ruler in a universe where everyone nods ‘yes’ and no one can or wants to correct him. I know, or rather, I think John’s pain comes from his relationship with his father, who was never there, who was always busy with the church, and too busy to be a father to his son. I think deep down John is looking for that recognition from his father. Only he doesn’t know it yet. I’m afraid he will find out too late. As far as I can estimate, Annelies doesn’t slow him down either. I think she actually drives him on more from her own wound to run even harder. I know I’m not a psychologist. Maybe I’m projecting it all. But that’s where my sense of responsibility comes from. If I look closely, I see in John that little wounded boy. My heart goes out to him.

‘There are rumors that John bought his doctoral title from a Nigerian university.’

We write 2012. In an article in the magazine Charisma, I read that John can now call himself doctor and thus put Dr. in front of his name. A Christian university in Nigeria has recently awarded him an honorary doctorate. That’s not crazy for someone who only has his high school diploma and has never studied, not even at a Bible school. I look on the internet to see if I can find out more about this. Within a few clicks, I hit the jackpot. There are rumors on several sites that John would have bought his title through an American site. This title seems bought anyway, since there has been a large donation from Joy to this university this year. What you can do with money…

It’s been a few years since I googled John on the internet. I now see that a new forum has emerged where ex-members of Joy air their grievances. I read several stories about people who, when they were still members of Joy, went deep into debt to finance the new building and the television broadcasts. Some even took out a second mortgage on their house to contribute. Others took out large loans.

Now they’re left with huge debts for something they’re disappointed in and no longer believe in. They weren’t shares they could have sold now. They were their donations to the church that enabled John and Annelies to receive their top salaries, the new building to be bought, and all the television broadcasts to be made. Donations they now feel they didn’t give entirely voluntarily, but under manipulation and coercion by the leadership. ‘How stupid could we have been!’ is a sentence I come across several times. Now that they’re gone, they’ve lost not only their money but also the dream they believed in. Some will spend the next ten years paying off their debts. How bitter for them!”




Read some background articles on why Evangelical leaders fall: 



Have you read some my other articles:


Matt Vlaardingerbroek, a former seasoned church planter and pastor in Holland’s inner cities, brings Bible stories to life through ventriloquism and magic. He’s authored three books, and founded, providing over 1,500 innovative Sunday school activities worldwide.



About Matt Vlaardingerbroek
At 52, I’ve worn many hats. For 14 years, I have been a church planter in one of Holland’s tough inner-city estates and served as a pastor, deeply immersing myself in community life. I have authored three Christian books and am a regular columnist for the Netherlands’ premier Christian website. A role close to my heart is that of a Christian children’s artist. Using ventriloquism and magic, I breathe life into Bible stories, sharing God’s tales in schools and churches. My creative streak also led to, a rich resource offering over 1,500 Sunday school activities. This platform aids children’s workers, teachers, and parents globally in imparting Biblical lessons to youngsters You can read more about the author here.

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