Today was commenting on a blog post on Journeyguy’s page about the reason why the youth from ages 18-25 are dropping out of church. In the comment, I eluded to my concerns about the “majority rules” direction that many churches have turned. I would like to elaborate more on the subject.
As one who loves the body of Christ, and the institution of the local body of believers, it makes my stomach twist in knots to think of what is happening in so many Bible belt churches.
Let me qualify some of what I’m about to say. I’ve been on staff vocationally at 2 churches over 7 years of time. My father has pastored since I was 11 years old. I know how things work on the “inside.” I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’ve spent the last 3 years on the “other” side of the church office as a member of a local church. I’ve worked in alliances with pastors and youth pastors alike in 2 cities, and many of my friends are or have been in ministry themselves in various denominations and types of churches. I intimately know the subject which I am about to address.
I love my pastors. They are people who have spoken words of life to me when I needed to hear them most. They have a love for people who anyone else would have written off long ago. They have an ability to put up with almost any attack by their sheep on their lives and on their families, then put a smile on their face Sunday after Sunday, no matter what battlescars they are hiding underneath their suit.
Unfortunately, in most Bible belt churches, the pastor is treated merely a manager who can be hired or fired by the board and congregation. The way he preaches, the songs that are sung, the visitation schedule, and sometimes even where he lives is dictated by a democratic process. If the congregation don’t like what they are getting, they pass around a petition, present it to the board and they either get their way – or the pastor gets a U-haul gift certificate for Pastor’s appreciation day.
The membership/board voting process may have begun in good taste when more than just a few in the church were hearing God’s voice on an important matters. However, we have a problem when a large amount of members and even board members haven’t spent time in prayer on the matter, nor would they be able to tell Gods voice from Elmo’s.
This always reminds me of some accounts from ancient historians during the time of Jesus. During the era, some wrote of how priests would have a rope around his ankle when going into the Holy of Holies in the temple (Please note, the teaching that the priests from Aaron’s day wore a rope is incorrect). The reason he would wear a rope: the priests’ position was controlled and governed by the carnal authorites of the time. The Pharisees and Sadducees were those who controlled the high priest. There was a great fear in that because the priest was so carnally controlled, God would strike him dead. This tells me when doing God’s work, treating it as a carnal position and not doing it with the utmost respect for who it’s for – is a recipe for clerical flambé.
My church’s fellowship, The Assemblies of God, has some things in their constitution and bylaws that church leadership needs to wake up to. The disciplinary procedures and conditions of voting membership and board members need to be enforced. These conditions – tithing, abstaining from a lifestyle of sin, family life, abstaining from dissention, etc – are being ignored. These conditions are there for a reason. They are there to help protect the church from carnal mutiny, and to prevent carnally-minded decisions being made on spiritual matters.
Deacons as well should be made aware that their job is not to keep the pastor doing his job, but to do the work of the ministry (that’s scriptural!). It’s funny, many deacons (or board members as they like to be called) are constantly reminding the pastor that it’s his job to go visit the sick, put out the fires, and keep all of the ministries in the church running – when it’s the deacon’s job. Deacon from the greek means “Servant.” In the book of Acts, by the direction of the Apostles, Stephen was one who was selected by the multitude of disciples to do the various tasks of the church so that they could stay in the Word.
1And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.
2Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.
3Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.
4But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
5And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:
6Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.
7And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.
8And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.
The deacons must rise to the occasion – they have a spiritual job to do to take the burden off of the pastor so he can focus his attention on the Word and in prayer. If he is to be the prophet of the house, he should be acutely aware of what God is saying to that congregation. Lost souls are at stake, and his time should never be taken up by pacifying big babies (what I affectionately call those who have been saved long enough to stand on their own, and not have their feathers ruffled by pettiness). I know pastors personally who run the wheels of their cars pacifying people who have supposedly been saved for decades, thus distracting them from the task at hand. Instead of deacons agreeing with the big babies, and having meetings to straighten the pastor out, the deacons need to serve the pastor by correcting the big babies.
As far as keeping him accountable, where is the apostollic (don’t freak out – I’m talking of someone over him OUTSIDE of his church) leadership over his life? I’ll paraphrase what Watchman Nee said in his book, “Spiritual Authority.” In order to be in authority, you must submit to authority (I’d quote it, but it’s packed in boxes while we move). If you are a pastor who has no covering, who’s holding you accountable? Surely it’s not your congregation and board!
Again, we must understand that a pastor is not to be “hired.” He is a gift from God to the church. He is a caretaker of the sheep, which includes some automatic servant traits; but the sheep never lead the shepherd.
If you are a member of a church, and are one who has treated him as a hireling, call him today and repent. Either way, call your pastor, and offer to visit the sick for him, or to mow his yard. Just do something to help take the load off of him. It’s not his job to be the manager of your church. It’s his calling from God to be your pastor. He is a called man in a called place. Be good to him, and reap the rewards of someone who has a Word from God that he didn’t muster up at 11:00 on Saturday night!