Was recently listening to the hurting heart of one of the most caring pastors I know; truly a faithful person loving Christ, loving God's people, devoted to the Gospel ministry. O, to be a pastor!
Perhaps there are those who believe if they just found the right pastor their church experience would be better, when in fact the opposite is possibly true. If they were just the right church member most of their conflicts with pastoral leadership would be resolved or at least put into reasonable perspective. We should not be foolish about this matter; the greatest pastor of us all, Jesus Christ, He was rejected, abandoned, disobeyed, forsaken and disowned, all by disciples (John 6:60-68) and members of His church: ¯But I have this complaint against you. You don¯t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first." [Revelation 2:4] Even Christ with His impeccable love and care towards His people can be jerked by them.
From firsthand experience, I've encountered parishioners with an elevated view of themselves assuming the pastor had to prove himself worthy of their membership versus their membership proving worthy of having a pastor. And at the risk of perhaps strong rebuttal, I'm convinced that how church members interact with their pastors is indicative of how they interact with the chief pastor, Jesus Christ. If they honor Jesus, they'll honor their pastors, and if they dishonor Jesus, well.... I think you know the rest.
So here's my series of questions on this matter: 'Do you have a pastor? If so, have you cultivated healthy relating to\with them? Do you know God's prescription specific to responding to pastoral leadership? - 'Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith. Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.' [Hebrews 13:7, 17] And finally, have ever thought of the experience of what it¯s like to be a pastor you?'
I don't believe all persons are pastors who identify themselves as such or who occupy the role. A Sunday morning preacher or weekday administrator doesn't make a pastor. To be a pastor is actually a gifting of Christ, not a calling: 'Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.' [Ephesians 4:11] It's the foremost responsibility of shepherding God's people to maturity in Christ with a complimentary nurturing diet and leadership oversight.
It¯s a good thing when you can identify your pastor\s and them you. On some level it shows perhaps the most important Christ ordained human relationship has been cultivated within the church context. But it's unfortunate not to be able to identify your pastor. Clearly, God gives His people pastors which means you should have at least one though there can be several: ¯Return, faithless people,¯ declares the LORD, ¯for I am your husband. I will choose you¯one from a town and two from a clan¯and bring you to Zion. Then I will give you shepherds\pastors after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.¯ [Jeremiah 3:14-15]
I've always believed the greatest supporters of pastors should be parents! The roles are similar on so many levels, especially the nurturing functions and multiple calling points of accountability. Both pastors and parents are imperfect beings called to complete God's highest task of shepherding human hearts towards healthy adulthood from places of the home-house and house of God. But it is a most interesting pastoral vanish point watching parents become children-like in God's house.
I'm always skeptical when persons first response to pastoral leadership is to go on the offensive, especially with piles and piles of negativity. It's usually the first mark of pastoral dislike, which is an actual church attitude held by many. Apart from gross sin or flat out horrible relating skills, most pastors aren't as bad as we paint them to be, especially true pastors. To be infected with negative perception can reduce the best of us to being a negative person. Parents know what it is to be viewed as 'the enemy' especially when it's a necessity to hold children accountable, which leads me to the main matter of dishonoring pastors.
By far, accountability is where the pastor-parishioner relationship makes or breaks. To be sure it's understood, functionally accountability indicates 'being both responsible and answerable to another.' And our God makes us accountable to parents and pastors. Interestingly, relational accountability is by far the toughest to perfect because it's based in mutual trust and mutual love over time, not one way trust, one way love. A loyal pastor without a loyal church member in return creates church dysfunction as well as loyal church members without a loyal pastor. And for the record, not all pastors are loyal to God's people as they view themselves worthy to be served by God's people versus serving them, which is actually disqualifying to be a pastor.
Continuing with accountability... Relationships just don't work well without mutual accountability in the home or house of God. And specific to God's house, the first question we should ask ourselves in any relationship including the pastoral is: "I'm I willing to make myself accountable?" You must first account for your own accountability, not your pastors. A biblical relationship can't begin with a pastor without your accountability: 'Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.' [Hebrews 13:17] And I'll even add an ironic note, that it's the accountability aspect of pastoral ministry not even some pastors want to fully employ. It's far more easier preaching\teaching to them, worshipping with them, praying for
them, fellowshipping with them, baptizing them, laughing\joking with them. Like some parents, some pastors work greatest at being friendly versus a shepherding leader, shirking the accountability aspect of their function.
And as the highest honor of accountability one can pay to a parent is submissive-obedience, so it is with pastoral leaders: 'Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say.' [Hebrews 13:17] It should highly interest us all that God consistently directs to 'obey both parents and pastors', parents in the home, pastors in the house of God. Parents will tell you; nothing like the disobedience of a child drives them crazy. Is it any different with pastors?
Again, I don't believe pastoral leadership is a calling! It's foremost a gifting of Christ: 'Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.' [Ephesians 4:11] And true pastors Christ gift's ultimately lead persons to a faith and lifestyle of obeying Christ and His commands which in turn makes them credible to be obeyed. Clearly Jesus said: "Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you." [Matthew 28:20] And while an apostle, with a certain pastoral perspective the Apostle Paul declared: 'So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. That¯s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ¯s mighty power that works within me.'
I contend that pastors are dishonored far more than parishioners. And that needs to be healed! Again, apart from gross sin and poor relating practices, most pastors aren't as bad as we make them to be.
Pastors over extend themselves to help while being underserved. They give of time, tithe and talent, and can be underpaid. They're expected to listen, but aren't listen to. They pray for many, but could be the least prayed for. They restore the fallen, but can be abandoned if they fall. They oversee imperfect people while being held to s standard of perfection. And good pastors prepare to serve and show up while some members elect to stay home.
This is actually simple. If you're dishonoring your pastor, stop! And perhaps it's a matter of your own healing. Pastors are Christ gift to you, gifts that work out much better when received.
Pastor Ronald W. Parks
Philadelphia Bible Fellowship
Church Planting Alliance, INC
P. O. Box 16867 - Philadelphia, PA 19153
Phone: 215 365 6264
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Philadelphia Bible Fellowship CPA
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