Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sheep Follow Shepherds

Poor leaders make for weak churches.  That is a truth that many churches and even denominations in America are learning right now.  Far too many people who have no business being a pastor are leading churches, shepherding their sheep right over a cliff.  I am not talking about the error of women pastors or the complete insanity of homosexual pastors, but just men doing a work they are unqualified or unwilling to do.  I am not even talking about the apostate teachers such as Joseph Prince or Creflo dollar who teach an entirely different Gospel, though some of these pastors borrow heavily from their errors.  Pastors have a very important and unique role in the church. Their calling is a high one and their responsibilities are endless.  It is not a job one can do if they are not fully committed to doing that work.  They are not only part of the body, but they are leaders of that body.  Their vision is the church's vision.  Their doctrine is the church's doctrine.  Their commitment to Christ is the church's commitment to Christ.  I say that because sheep follow shepherds, many times even when they should not.  There is some fault to the flock as many will flock to a teacher who suits their fleshly desires.  Ultimately, though, a pastor (as a teacher) is held to a very high standard and when he stands before God, he will have to give an account to all that he did with that charge.  I think a good place to start is the job qualifications.
This [is] a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having [his] children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the [same] condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. 1 Timothy 3:1-7 NKJV
The first thing I noticed was that being a bishop (or church leader) is a good "work."  It is not a position, it is a job.  This means that being a pastor means you have to be committed to doing the work associated with that job.  I know that in many smaller churches, the pastor must also work outside the church to support himself.  That, in and of itself, is not a problem.  The problem is when that job takes precedence over the church.  Do you see that job merely as a means to support your main role as a pastor?  If not, then there is a problem.  If you find yourself missing more and more pastoral responsibilities because of that job, then there is a problem.  If that job calls you away from the church family you are supposed to leading, then there is a problem. If you are not fully committed to do the work of a pastor, then there is a problem.

Next we seem some important personality traits.  A pastor must be blameless, that is not living in sin.  He can not be a polygamist, which is not really an issue in America today.  He must be temperate, meaning he should not be given to excess whether it be in material things like money or emotional things like anger.  He must be hospitable, meaning anyone should be able to approach him with questions or concerns and he certainly can not be aloof or distant.  He must be able to teach, as a large part of his job is to be the teacher to the church.  He must not be given to wine, meaning he should not drink. He should not be violent.  He can not be greedy for money.  He can not be quarrelsome, meaning he is not known to engage in arguments of feuds.  He can not be covetous, meaning he should be happy with what the Lord provides for him. 

Next, we learn something interesting.  We learn that the qualifications for being a pastor go beyond his own life. We learn that his family's behavior also matters.  I realize that even the best parents can have some bad apples, but what we see here is a pattern of bad family behavior.  Do his children respect him and his rule?  Is he capable of ruling his family and what is the fruit of that headship?  Is he leading a godly household or is he leading a worldly household?  If a man has a family known for poorly behaved or even apostate children, how can this man lead an entire church family?  How a man rules in his own family is a good guide to how he will rule the church.  That is not my opinion, that is the Word of God.

The description ends with a couple of more qualifications.  He must not be a novice, meaning there has to be some distance to his walk with God.  A brand new Christian should not be a pastor, but only one whose faith was time tested.  Someone who lacks maturity will tend to grow prideful if given a position of much authority.  The last is that he must have a good testimony outside the church.  This means that he has to have a good reputation as a good upstanding man. He needs to be a man of good moral character. 

This is not the job, this is merely the set of qualifications where one can be considered for the job.  If a man meets these standards, then there are other things he must be in order to effectively lead the church.  The first is that he must be a part of the body.  I do not mean that he must be elevated from within the body, I just mean that as the pastor, he must be a part of the church body.  What I mean is that he can not see himself as or be seen as separate from the church that he leads.  That is his church family and he must spend time with them.  I know in big churches that becomes more difficult (which is why I believe that churches can get too large), but he must be approachable and friendly.  He must be a part of church events.  He must spend time with church members and he must know his flock.  A pastor who does not know the people he leads will never be a really effective leader. 

A pastor is responsible for the vision of the church.  This implies that a pastor has to have a vision and that vision should be from God.  This also implies that a pastor must share that vision with the church.  If a pastor has no vision or shares no vision, then the church has no drive.  It continues on in neutral week after week with no growth and little to no witness to the community.  The pastor must receive the vision from God for that church and lead the church in achieving that vision.  The church needs to know what the focus is in terms of time and resources.  The pastor must also be a part of that work.  A pastor can not just sit there and tell the church the vision the Lord has given him and send them out to do it while he either goes to work at another job or just sits back and watches.  A pastor must be part of the work or that vision will never catch on with the flock. 

A pastor is also responsible for the doctrine of the church. I sometimes think that many pastors do not know the power they hold in this area.  I see so many people who parrot things that pastors said that are glaringly wrong.  People, by and large, do not do their own due diligence to search the scriptures to make sure what the pastor is saying is true.  Even ones that invite correction are rarely corrected and, from what I have heard, even when they are it is usually from someone with some off-the-wall doctrine looking for justification or argument.  Church members will believe what the pastor teaches.  That is why his doctrine must be solid.  If his doctrine is shaky, then the whole foundation of the church will be shaky.   A pastor must have good doctrine and adequately teach that doctrine to the church. 

A pastor is also an example to the church.  It is how he is as a husband, father, leader, person, friend, member of the community, etc that will be an example that others in the church will follow.  If he continually fails in these areas then so will the church.  I am not talking about a pastor who fails in some area from time to time, but I am talking about one who is willfully living in sinful behavior.  If he is a drunk or an abuser.  If he is temperamental or violent.  Another example is if he uses foul language.  Any and all of these things will be examples that the rest of the church will follow.  He must be the example of righteousness in the church, and be humble and repentant in those times when he is not.  As the leader, the people will follow his example for good or for bad.  He must be a good example.

We have seen that being a pastor is quite a job.  This does not even include the plethora of emergencies that he gets called upon for prayer and for ministry.  This does not include the burden for all the souls under his responsibility that I am sure he feels.  A pastor is a job that you can not be half committed to.  It is not just something you do, but it defines who you are.  People look at you differently when you have that title.  Pastors who are not ready for this kind of commitment have no business being behind the pulpit.  They are doing their church a disservice and leading their flock to nowhere.  Even if a pastor works outside the church, that work must be a means of provision and not a career he sinks his life into.  Church must always come first.  If a pastor is not committed, neither will the church be.  Why should the church care about something that is seemingly not important to their leader?  Just as a shepherd actively leads his sheep so must a pastor actively lead his church.  Just as a shepherd is responsible for the well being of the sheep under his care, so is the pastor responsible before God for the spiritual well being of his church.  It is not a job but a calling.  It is not a position of pride, but a position of responsibility.  Pastors must take their roles seriously or step out of the way to allow God to raise up another who is willing to make that commitment.  Sadly, there are many pastors who are in a position they were never called to have and not qualified to fill.  For them, if they remain unwilling, unqualified, and/or incapable of doing that work, the best thing they can do for their church is to step down and allow God to raise up another who is called, willing, and qualified to fill that important role.
I charge [you] therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season [and] out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, [because] they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn [their] ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.  2 Timothy 4:1-4 NKJV

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