Three Temptations of Jesus - Relevancy, Spectacular, Powerful

Henri Nouwen writes in his book In the Name of Jesus there are three temptations Jesus faces in the desert with Satan. He frames them as:

Photo by  Darius Soodmand  on  Unsplash
  • Relevancy - turning stones into bread
  • Spectacular - leaping off the temple
  • Powerful - bowing to satan

Why is being spectacular a temptation? Nouwen writes about "after six years of training and formation, I was considered well equipped to preach, administer the sacraments, counsel, and run a parish. I was made to feel like a man sent on a long, long hike with a huge backpack containing all the things necessary to help the people I would meet on the road."

As he walked on this road, he discovered ht "did not have the power to draw thousands of people" and "could not make many conversations" or "were not as popular with the youth, the young adults or the elderly." Despite these truths, he still felt like he should have been able to do it all and do it successfully.

Many clergy feel that we have to be spectacular in order to grow the church. We are told to preach the best sermons each week, visit every person at home, respond to each crisis with care, speak truth to power, maintain boundaries and uphold a spiritual life while developing vibrant children's ministry and keep those graduating youth involved in the church. And if the church is not growing then we are failing.

So pastors and churches are tempted to do something spectacular that grabs the attention of people for a while. Of course when people respond to the spectacular there is the temptation to keep on doing the spectacular, so we do. One day our spectacular comes to an end and we crash. The pastor and church feel dejected and because numbers drop and people do not show up. When this happens clergy and churches grow in anxiety and fear of death.

The spectacular is tempting because it works to draw people in, but often the spectacular points people to elevate the the pastor or Church and overlook Jesus. The humble pastor and humble church are neither relevant or spectacular but are often called ineffective or bad thus adding pressure to fall into the temptation.