Do we Really Know and Love our Pastors?
Pastoring is a very challenging role if one is to do it right – according to the Word of God. We need to pray for pastors and stand with them in the spirit, or there is the real possibility that they will be brought down by some kind of temptation. And then the whole body of Christ suffers. So we must learn to pray for pastors and spiritual leaders. We need to pray the promises of the Word of God for them too. Pastors do not need people praying intensely that things will be done according to their own human will (i.e. that of the person praying). But we can safely pray for the will of God to be done as described in the Word of God, and should use the Word of God a lot in our prayers for others.
The internet regularly brings to our attention all kinds of news. Sometimes we hear the sad news of how pastors have divorced their wives, or been caught in an immoral affair. Then you learn that "it has been going on for the last 5 years" or something like that.
I think it is important to ask a question about this. I do not ask this question as some kind of perfect individual, but only as a human being. And the question is this: "Do we really know our pastors?" And we also should ask: "Are we praying for them 'Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one'?" It is clear that gifted men can put on an impressive show. In many of these churches where uncleanness and unfaithfulness has existed right in the heart of the senior leader, on Sunday the show went on and most of the people were none the wiser. Programs continued. Announcements were made. Songs were sung. Oratory was performed. Yet loyalty to Christ was not present. I would say this reflects a spiritual failure on the part of the people as well as the pastor. But the real reasons for this kind of failure might lie in our failure to major on authentic spiritual dealing with God. I wonder to what extent many are content to participate in the "shell" of Christianity when there is no REAL life there.
Church members have generally "bought in" to the persona and ministry of the pastor for various reasons in the past. Maybe the pastor had an especially helpful way with words, or maybe there was a time when God's Spirit really moved through him to bless your life. However, we need to realize that we ARE in a continual spiritual battle and no person is immune to discouragement or temptation in some form. The perception of grace and blessing may not always be the reality. I wonder to what extent people are essentially buying into a brand image when they join a local church. The maintenance of the image can become paramount in these kind of situations, but what we REALLY ought to be concerned about is the maintenance of a genuine connection with the HEAD – who is Christ. We need to be concerned that Jesus Christ is still on speaking terms with us and with church leadership. THAT is paramount, or should be.
I fear that there are many churches where the subtext of the message is that we don't have to be too concerned about loyalty to Jesus Christ and His Word. What "matters" is the quality of the "worship experience", the "attitude", our friendships and relationships in the church. The things that really matter for many do not include Jesus Christ and His righteousness. This is not good. It is sad. But if this is what is indeed going on in a given situation, we now need to take a good hard look at what we are on about.
If someone can be committing adultery and leading a church at the same time, and no one on earth knows the difference, then we are not very sharp. It may be a case of "the blind leading the blind". The problem with this is that spiritual problems as well as blessings tend to get imparted from the pulpit. If men in the pulpit are not clean, their iniquities will start to spread to their hearers. And this could be spiritually fatal in the end. So it really matters.
The Bible says that "an elder must be blameless, the husband of one wife" (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6). It is up to everyone to know that this is the case. "Elders" here, by the way, are what we call "pastors". The idea that elders are an advisory committee to the real pastor is not biblical actually. Otherwise, when Paul came near Ephesus and called the Ephesian church leaders to meet him (see Acts 20), he would have called the "pastors" and not the "elders". If there was a senior pastor in Ephesus, what Paul did would have been unethical. But when Paul called the elders of Ephesus, he was really calling all the pastors of the city in that church to meet him. So then, PASTORS must be blameless, the husband of one wife.
To be blameless, a man needs to have the victory over sin, at least conscious sin. The only way to know if this is the case is to spend time with the person in question. The Bible also says that an elder must be hospitable. This means that the pastor should be someone who often welcomes people into his house. I know this goes against conventional wisdom today. It is also a reason why pastors can have rotten marriages and disobedient children and no one knows it – except God and his own family. Opening up our homes exposes our lives to scrutiny, to light.
We have this system of church life in which pastors can potentially be one thing in reality and another thing in ministry/work situations. I can't think of a situation any more antithetical to what the New Testament taught on the subject. Jesus Himself taught his disciples to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is really showmanship in which something is projected that does not correspond to a person's real identity or condition.
If a spiritual leader is in bad shape, we need to find out so we can help that leader come up spiritually again. This is one reason why team ministry is a healthy idea. Maybe the church leader can stop preaching for a while and let others do that ministry while he takes some time to put his life in order. But because we often have these kinds of contractual arrangements with pastors, where they are basically "paid to preach", this isn't always what happens. Things would be better if we preached and demonstrated holiness and consecration for a while and only put people strongly established in these things in positions of trusted ministry. That is the Bible way. We need people who have endured the fire of testing. These are the ones who are qualified to be spiritual leaders of others. Mere eloquence, gifting or even calling is not enough to ensure the spiritual safety of the people of God.
I hope this short article does provoke some thought. It will be for the Lord to clean up and establish His own church. Our part is to pray, and to act within the limited sphere of authority given to us by God. When we all learn to do our part, and pray for others to be enabled to do theirs, we are on the path of restoration.