The subject at hand is extremely controversial and the ramifications of such an article will no doubt cause me open contempt, disrespect and possibly the label of ‘heretic.’ In spite of the inevitable results, I feel it necessary, yea vital, to present readers with a Biblical perspective on the role and authority of the Pastor. It is in no way my desire to cause division or discord among the brethren in this land but to present the truth for those who will hear.
The Catholic Church has long been known for its ability to manipulate its members through fear and threats, allowing those in leadership to effectively control the people and their commitment to the cause. The power associated with the pope is beyond belief. Masses submit to his every wish, convinced that to disobey or even disagree, is to fight against God Himself. A similar ploy has entered into the conservative churches of our land. A pastor will exalt himself to a place of power and demand the allegiance of his people instead of turning their hearts toward God and exalting His power and authority.
All Men are Sinners
It does not matter how ‘good’ your pastor or church leadership may appear, all have sinned. There are those pastors who would have their congregations believe that they have reached the state of sinless perfection, and therefore are a perfect example of holiness and wisdom, and that is simply bogus. The Pastor does not gain some ‘special’ entrance into the presence of God; He comes before the same throne of grace as all believers, and through the same person – Jesus Christ. The Pastor may preach from an elevated platform on Sunday but that is not an indication of a spiritual superiority in God’s hierarchy. Pastors who seek the praise and accolades of men are not fit to fulfil the shepherd’s role. Surely a man who is ever broken over his sin, and has an understanding of the holiness of God is the only suitable candidate for leading and shepherding God’s people.
‘…there is none that doeth good, no, not one.’ Psalm 14:3
‘Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?’ Prov.20:9
‘If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.’ 1 John 1:8
The Church is Christ’s
‘…Christ is the head of the church: and is the Saviour of the body.’ Ephesians 5:23
‘And He [Christ] is before all things, and by Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church…’ Colossians 1:17-18
‘And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church.’ Ephesians 1:22
If Scripture were not so clear on this subject, I might look around today and be confused about who has the ultimate ownership and rulership of the church. The way some Pastors parade about, introducing bylaws and setting non-biblical standards and assuming the role of ‘Pope for the people’ is appalling, and is in total opposition to the clearly outlined role of the pastor. To assume a role of authority in the church that has not been given by God is theft. If I instruct my congregation to obey standards and practices that God has not commanded I become the ‘master of God’s people,’ and in turn teach them to follow me instead of the Lord. How many congregations in our land follow a confident, oratorical, dictatorial, ‘my-way-or-the-highway’ pastor instead of Christ and His Word as the final authorities in their lives?
It is the Message, not the Man
‘Remember them that have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the Word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.’ Hebrews 13:7
Commenting on the above verse, John Gill writes:
“Christ’s church is a kingdom, and He is King in it; pastors of churches are subordinate governors; who rule well when they rule not in an arbitrary way, according to their own wills, but according to the laws of Christ, with all faithfulness, prudence and diligence.”
The pastor, like you and I, is a man saved by grace. He has not been imbued with some special ability (albeit there are gifts dispensed by the Holy Spirit which differ – Romans 12:6), nor does he have some supernatural power over men which is of his own energies. The pastor finds his authority solely in the Word of God. His counselling and preaching must be grounded in the Scriptures if he is to exercise the authority that God has given him. The pastor is a man who is to be given to prayer and the studying of the Word. It is not his job to select the colour and pattern of the curtains in the auditorium. Nor should he concern himself with counselling men on the type of vehicle they should purchase for their family. I know pastors who busy themselves with all the tangible and temporal aspects of church life when they ought to be focusing on the urgent spiritual and eternal matters at hand. His job is to preach the Word and passionately pursue God thereby leaving an example for his people. The following ought to form the pastor’s chief ambition and desire:
‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’ John 3:30
‘For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.’ Philippians 1:21
The Pastor will fail you
Nobody is exempt from the effects of sin. One of the great dilemmas in church today is the expectation on the pastor to do everything right. If the congregation is not careful to remember that the shepherd is only a man, they will inevitably and subconsciously promote him to ‘perfection.’ This will be the great downfall of that church and will result in heartache and discouragement when it is found out that the pastor cannot meet those impossible expectations. This does not give license to the pastor to enjoy the pleasures of sin but it does remove from him the unattainable standard of perfection. A humble and honest leader will acknowledge his own inability to perform his God given role, and will openly admit that he is the chief of sinners, and unworthy of such a responsibility.
‘It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.’ Psalm 118:8
‘Thus saith the Lord; cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.’ Jeremiah 17:5
‘…the Lord thy God…..He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Deuteronomy 31:6
There is much more to cover in this topic and I have not yet had the opportunity to address the qualifications of those in church leadership, the pastor on judgment day and the pastor in relationship to his family. Perhaps in time the Lord will lead me to write articles regarding those topics.
In conclusion, it is obvious from the pages of Scripture that God desires a pastor to lead by example, nurturing and caring for his people. When the time comes for him to discipline, confront and challenge, he must find his authority in the pages of Scripture. God give us pastors who love God supremely, act with honesty, humility and integrity, lead by example, and find the basis of all preaching, teaching and counselling rooted in the pages of Scripture.
“Dear pastor, it is better to stay silent on a matter in which thou hast no biblical foundation or word from on high, than to speak and find thyself defying the very will of God.’
The Chief of Sinners,