These are some pretty random thoughts that have swirling around in my head for awhile so I wanted to just splash them out in writing. Tim Challies posted this article a while back on his blog that served as the catalyst. The article concerns the workforce but I think it’s premise is very transferable to Christian ministry. Basically, it highlights that productivity is best accomplished when we quietly do what we do and let the work speak for itself. When we’re secure and confident in what we do, there is no need to make a lot of noise about what we do.
Noise. This has been an increasing observation and concern regarding churches. When I say noise I mean advertising about what you do. Now it’s reasonable that in the 21st century technology age that you’ll want to do a certain amount of advertising. But sometimes the way churches and ministries are advertised make it seem that you will miss out on God if you don’t participate. Here’s where I think the principles of that article resonate. Churches should concentrate on being faithful and committed to the gospel rather than marketing and how to get more people in the door. I think this cartoon from the Naked Pastor speaks volumes.
The same can be said of ministers, i.e., pastors and preachers. There is little that turns me off more than when I hear a pastor or church leader brag about what they are accomplishing or how great they are (usually embedded in language of how much the Lord is using me). I am convinced by scripture that it is Christ’s church. Those who get the opportunity to shepherd should be grateful and caring not noisy. Let the Lord use you to impact others and let them tell you how much they’ve been impacted. It doesn’t really mean much if the pastor or preacher talks about how much what they’re doing will change somebody’s life if it isn’t actually happening. I can’t help but wonder if it’s due to illusions that one has arrived. Paul Tripp posted an excellent article about delusions of grandeur.
Affirmation. This is proof that you don’t need to be noisy to be effective. Let others affirm how much they are being impacted. Now I get that the pastor/preacher has to be confident in the word they preach. But that can easily tip over to how much they are doing for others. The greatest validation is impacted lives not self-promotion about how much you bring to the table.
The message that will change your life. To be honest, this is a pet peeve of mine. The Lord and his Word change my life. I personally think it’s pretty arrogant when pastors proclaim this and makes me wonder if they are putting more confidence in their ability to preach than in the Lord’s ability to transform. Your message on that day may not impact me at all, especially if it’s related to a pet agenda and is not necessarily gospel-centered.
Part of the problem is that we’ve developed a cult following around celebrity pastors. When crowds applaud it is easier to put faith in the personality of the preacher than in the word he is proclaiming. And hopefully he is faithfully preaching the Word, rather than opinions or worse. I’ve heard some egregious things come of the mouths of some well respected pastors. When you have large crowds, book deals, extensive marketing, and support from many, it’s pretty difficult to contradict.
Pastoring is a tricky and delicate task. I don’t envy the ones who sign up for it. I try not to get into the gender debate and think when it comes to church affiliation, we should just go where are theological convictions are compatible. But my hats off to that woman who wants to shepherd a body and bears the tension of restrictions (whether by conviction or instruction). That’s not a position or fight I’m willing to engage in.
But pastors need our support. I believe there is a diminishing respect for authority that has crept into and results in a lack of respect for those who serve the body of Christ through shepherding and teaching. Christians, support your leaders and remember they have problems and life issues too, just like you.
On the flip side, pastors can take authority too far so that nobody can challenge them. In terms of church governance, my own convictions based on scripture reside with the presbyterian/plurality of elders model (this has been a shift over some time from a congregational model). But although I believe that church should be led by a plurality of elders, they are also accountable to the congregation for leading them in truth, which means they must pay attention to what is going on in the congregation. If the elders are accountable to each other and to the gospel, it will work its way out with the congregation. Certainly, you will have the occasional disgruntled member. But with a firm commitment to the gospel, church ministry and the Holy Spirit’s work, any issues with leadership should be resolved.
And speaking of accountability, situations that involve the solo pastor sans elders can be dangerous. Especially if the pastor/preacher has relied on a private revelatory affirmation of their “calling”. Well that goes back to affirmation. I personally don’t believe that pastors/elders are necessarily “called into ministry” by some kind of mysterious revelatory conviction. All Christians are called into ministry by virtue of being called into the body of Christ. But the Lord has given some a greater capacity for responsibility for the flock and convicts them accordingly. Affirmation of qualifications according to 1 Timothy and Titus are essential.
So I cringe when I hear that solo pastor/preacher castigate members for speaking against him. It’s the “touch not thine anointed” mentality. If you are shepherding the flock they need to be shepherded, not intimidated, threatened or bludgeoned. Pastors should not bring harm to the congregation and the congregation should affirm your service with their lives. Here too, evidence if someone has elevated themselves into a position vs. affirmed by the community because they have the capacity to faithfully serve in that capacity. Notice, I said faithfully, which also means being committed to the historic doctrines of the Christian faith. I actually I sometimes wish there was some type of screening and/or licensing process for orthodoxy. I wonder how many spots that would eliminate. Who knows?
But what I do know is that Jesus said he would build his church and the power of death would not prevail against it. No matter what kind of craziness exists, the Holy Spirit is big enough to handle it.