Friday, December 12, 2003
I was referred to a site by a malicious antagonist who in intent on what he calls Reformation of the church. This "brother" agreed with the creator of the web site that the office of pastor as we currently know it is unbiblical and should be abolished. He claims that most pastors have set themselves up as miniature popes and are ruling over the church in an ungodly fashion. He says they are taking advantage of their position to live lazy, godless lives at the expense of God's people. While this might be true in non-Pharisee churches, it is hardly appropriate to accuse those of us who are good pastors for the failings of the bad. This week's column is dedicated to the proper role of the pastor and the due respect that is due him by godly Pharisees everywhere. As in David's day, we should live by the maxim, "I will not lift my hand against God's anointed."
The main role of the pastor is to be a ruler or overseer (the Bible sometimes uses the term "lord") over God's flock. These men have authority over the sheep of God and are charged with the "rule of the church." The Bible teaches that pastors have the authority to rule over the church. It also teaches that it is the duty of every God-loving Pharisee church member to place themselves under subjection to their pastors.
Some people would argue that there are bad pastors out there to whom submission would be wrong. What these misguided folks need to understand is that we are not in subjection to the particular man in the pulpit but we are to be subject to the office of pastor, regardless of how qualified or abusive such a pastor may be. God ordained the office and we show due reverence and respect to God by being subject to the man he has placed in that office. Remember, even if he seems unfit for the job, "there are no powers that be but those that are ordained of God." If God doesn't want him in the pulpit, God will take him out. Our duty is to submit to his rule, no matter what, in order to demonstrate our obedience to God. If we don't then we will find that in resisting the power of the pastor, we will be resisting God, for the pastor is his appointed authority in the pulpit.
"But what is the extent of a pastor's authority?" some may ask. This is a valid question and one that is well worth addressing. Please note the following:
A Pastor is responsible to teach the church. This is largely due to the fact that in most churches the pastor is the only one who has enough Bible knowledge to be qualified to be a teacher. Most church members never read their Bible or study it and they certainly don't spend as much time as I do discussing it on discussion groups online. As a dedicated scholar, I spend a significant chunk of my day online in deep discussions about serious Bible topics.
A Pastor is responsible to protect the church from error. Church members are like sheep and are easily led astray. It is the pastor's job to teach them and make sure they stay on the straight and narrow. Most church members would fall into the traps of Postmodernity, New Evangelicalism, contemporary Christian music and other grave dangers posed by the spirit of compromise. It is my main task as a pastor to prevent people from being exposed to these teachings. Sometimes they run into these teachings anyway and then it is my job to combat their pernicious influence from the pulpit to prevent harm to God's tender flock.
A Pastor has God's anointing. Only special people who have felt God's call and received his anointing are capable of pastoring. It is only the Spirit-filled, godly, righteous, holy and sanctified person who is qualified to lead God's flock. There are many out there who aspire to pastor but are disqualified because they have compromised the truth and lack God's anointing in their lives. Most church members have not felt God's special call and lack this anointing. If it weren't for this anointing, anyone could be a pastor, but as it is, God has only chosen the few to lead the many. This anointing is what confers on us the awesome responsibility of directing God's people and without it, we could not demand the subjection of church members.
A Pastor is responsible to oversee the church. Anything that happens in the church should be under the umbrella of the pastor's authority. He alone is responsible and accountable to God for what goes on in the church and so he bears the primary authority for approving or rejecting any action taken by the body. He is the one who runs every aspect of the church and his direction and guidance should be sought in every decision from creating the budget to choosing the brand of toilet paper to put in the bathrooms. And all of his decisions should be final. Failure to submit to his rule in these matters is rebellion against God.
This message isn't very popular in most churches but people need to be aware that we are motivated by love. Some would call us power-hungry megalomaniacs. This would be true if we were interested in building a large church with a huge following and a great deal of influence in the community. Now, don't get me wrong. If I had all of those things I would be grateful but that is not the reason I am in the ministry. No, I am motivated solely by compassion for those poor misguided souls out there who are hungering for the truth. These are sheep looking for a leader and they will follow nearly anyone. At least when they follow me, they will be following someone who cares for them more than my own personal aggrandizement.
Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers - not because you must, but because you are willing as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
I PETER 5:2-3 (NIV)
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