Over the years, we have written numerous articles calling attention to false teaching and dangerous trends in the church corporate. Among them is “Missionary Pastor in a Pagan Culture,” where we discussed the difference between the mission of the church and the ministry of the church. Our friend, the late Pastor Bill Randles contributed, “Why God Holds Pastors Responsible.” Indeed, pastors (and elders) are given a great responsibility and burden to “guard the flock” (Acts 20:28-31). It is perhaps their number one mandate in Scripture.
In the pastoral letters, pastors are instructed to teach the word diligently, regularly, and patiently. With the advent of the market-driven church, many pastors and elder boards have strayed from that mandate. The focus shifted to finding ways to “expand the market base” and entice unbelievers into the church doors — to introduce them to a gospel mainly geared to “improving their lives” and/or making them “feel good about themselves.” The unfortunate result is that many believers (seekers too, for that matter) have not been fed spiritually, rendering the church weak, biblically uneducated, and spiritually stunted. It has become an enormous problem. We all suffer, including non-Christians, from the lack of a strong *genuine* Christian influence upon our world and not meeting the flock’s spiritual needs in individual congregations.
Thankfully, this is not the plight of all churches. Many pastors, perhaps mostly in smaller churches, diligently and faithfully guard the flock and teach the word — and who are under-appreciated in many cases. Biblically, pastors are held to a high standard, but churches or church members hold them to unreasonable standards in many cases. The local pastor studies and prepares his weekly sermon and often a weekly Bible study or two. He visits the sick and shut-ins. Some, like our pastor, are also the chaplain for the fire and perhaps police departments. The local pastor often performs the marriage services and maybe also does any premarital counseling. Then there are the funerals. Some pastors are engaged in jail or prison visitation. All of these fall under the general category of “care of the flock” for most pastors. They are pretty much on call 24/7. Others in the congregation could and probably should serve in some of these areas of ministry, but the pastor is often viewed as the “paid professional Christian.” If the pastor doesn’t measure up in the eyes of some in the congregation — he may be “roasted and eaten” for Sunday brunch, metaphorically, of course.
The standard that many pastors today are measured against is some airbrushed celebrity pastor. He is eloquent, without a hair out of place, and his messages are scripted and these days are often solely aimed at making his listeners feel good about themselves. The messages of celebrity pastors are frequently less than faithful to the text of Scripture and sometimes downright heretical, but he is popular, and the money keeps rolling in. Unlike the local pastor, the celebrity pastor is not seen by the public when he may be less than 100% camera-ready. He is likely not visiting the sick or shut-ins. He probably does little, if any, counseling. His sole job is writing and delivering his next talk. We don’t mean to say that all well-known televised pastors are phonies, heretical, or in it for the money. There are many godly pastors who happen to be popular and televised, and their ministries can be of great benefit to shut-ins and people who happen upon them when dialing around, and hear the true gospel, maybe for the first time. We are saying that we should not hold our flesh and blood pastors, whose lives are probably lived in a fishbowl, to impossible standards. Burnout is high among pastors, pastors’ wives, and their children, and perhaps the fishbowl judgment arena is one of the main reasons. Who among us is absolutely perfect all the time? Who among us have perfect children? Maybe, just maybe, we should consider ministering to our pastors when they just might need a caring friend.
So, this is meant to be an encouraging word for the local pastor. This isn’t a new problem, and it is one that none other than the Apostle Paul was faced with as well.
In 2 Corinthians, Paul is writing to a church that he founded. He spent about eighteen months in Corinth. In his absence, celebrity teachers arrived and wowed the crowd. He was weighed against them by the congregation, and his oration skills were deemed to be sub-par in comparison:
Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things. (2 Corinthians 11:5-6)
It sounds like he may have been a little hurt by their backbiting. Perhaps adding insult to injury was the fact Paul had served them without charge.
Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God’s gospel to you free of charge? I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. (2 Corinthians 11:7-9)
Even worse, these “super-apostles” were false teachers who nevertheless spoke ghastly falsehoods very eloquently:
For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. (2 Corinthians 11:4)
We are not told whether these super-apostles were televised, probably they were not, but we have enough information to suppose they could have been, had TV been invented. Why did Paul do the things he did for “his” churches? Because he loved them. (2 Corinthians 11:11) Therein lies the difference. Unlike the “super-apostles” who were frauds and hucksters, focused on their own financial gain, and probably perfectly coifed, the Apostle Paul simply served the people out of love.
I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? (2 Corinthians 12:15)
We feel blessed with our pastor. We don’t know if he is perfect or not, but if he is like us — no. We don’t know if he is always right in everything he says, but again, no, if he is like us. One look in the mirror tells us we are certainly not qualified to judge whether anyone has PH (perfect hair) or not. We think it probable our pastor does have it, but frankly, we don’t really care a fig about that. We cannot say if the congregation is perfect in every way, but if they are like us, they certainly are not. Of course, it goes without saying that Pastors, elders, and the laity should be called to account for any serious sin or error, but even that should be done in love and humility. Paul said that “those in error” should be corrected “with gentleness.” 2 Timothy 2:25. The Bible talks about the “suffering servant,” but that doesn’t mean our church servant has to suffer at our hands, if by any means that can be avoided.
There is no doubt our pastor cares for his flock, and we care for and pray for him. We have other friends who are pastors — like our pastor — mostly in small churches where their people can truly know them. These servants should not be measured against the celebrity preachers, whom we do not even know unless it is to appreciate them even more for faithfully teaching the word.
The entire church, which is the Body of Christ, is extended family, most of whom we will never meet in this life. The local church is our “immediate family.” The pastor and elders are the heads and chief servants of the local family. The pastor should receive adequate compensation (1 Timothy 5:`17-18), not so much as a “church employee” but as a family member who is caring for and serving the “family” in the local congregation. Pray for your pastor and elders. It surely wouldn’t hurt to pray for the congregation also. 😊 We are called to pray for one another, carry one another’s burdens, love one another, and be kind toward one another. Difficult things sometimes have to be said and discussed but that too is part of being family. The humility and gentleness part of it should not be forgotten by anyone involved.
The early church had pretty much the same problems as the church today — which is largely why we have the New Testament. Much of it was written to correct false teaching and bad behavior. Yet, the early church turned the pagan culture on its head, and we have all greatly benefitted, even non-Christians, from living in the Christian era, which sadly seems to be drawing to a close. They transformed civilization by living out the faith which was delivered to them. They cared for one another, those abandoned by society, cared for the weary traveler who needed a place to stay and even cared for the graves of the dead. As we have pointed out, sometimes they had to be reminded to care for the pastor. As our world turns progressively more pagan, outside and even inside the church, pray for and appreciate your faithful pastor. And perhaps pray that he is likewise praying for you.Î©
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