I have seen it all three of these ways and whichever way it goes, it is not good.
The pastor who wants supreme authority over the church he pastors.
The flock who wants to control the pastor.
The flock that is dead.
None of these situations is ideal.
Yesterday I wrote about the communication that occurs between the teacher and his or her class. That model applies to the classroom but it also applies to the pastor-church relationship.
How can things go so wrong?
Dr. Willard references 1 Peter 2:5(NIV) “ you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Why does he refer to a passage in the Bible that calls members of the church “living stones?”
He does so because we are living stones.
Let’s flip that around. Do you think a pastor wants to lead a church of dead stones? That would be a church that is content with doing nothing. That would be a church of people who are not feeling The Holy Spirit. That would be a church of people who are letting the pastor [or “the paid staff”] do all the work.
Why? Because they pay the pastor to do the work of the Lord [so sayeth the shiftless congregation].
Let’s hear another platitude that drives good pastors crazy. “Pastor’s don’t work any day of the week but Sunday.”
What does this attitude lead to?
A church that is not meeting its potential.
A church that is lazy.
A church that doesn’t understand the concept of the priesthood of all believers: church members should believe that through Christ they have been given direct access to God, just like a priest; thus the doctrine is called the priesthood of all believers. God is equally accessible to all the faithful, and every Christian has equal potential to minister for God.
Pastors and paid staff can’t do all the work alone.
Dr. Willard writes about pastors who sometimes think that people who hear God’s word can cause problems but pastors need church members who hear God’s word and church members need pastors who hear God’s word.
Churches need pastors, people who are to oversee the work of the church, people who serve as caretakers of the church, people who feed the flock the word of God and people who guard the doctrine of the church.
Without pastors we would have more anarchy than we do.
Today we have enough splits in Protestantism to shake the foundation of the faith.
Where do you think all the little storefront pastorates come from? People who have decided to stray away to their own offshoot of a congregation, people who are dissatisfied with doctrine, people who really want to be autocratic.
Many of you may be Methodists. If you are not that is ok. But if you are, think about the name UNITED METHODIST CHURCH. What is that word united in that title? Anyone who has any knowledge of some of the inner workings of the UMC, will encounter the work connectional. That was John Wesley’s original intent. We are all connected together. Our church has connectional meetings, conferences etc. We try to be on the same page, on purpose. We try to be united.
Is this appealing to an autocratic leader? Probably not. Can a congregation get too far astray from the United Methodist “connection?” Yes it can. And sometimes they do. That’s when a leader must consult the Book of Discipline to see what guides a local church administration. Dr. Willard talks about the fear that some pastors have that there are too many “living stones” in their church. Some pastors want their “God connection” to be the only one in town. It is not a bad thing for a church to be made up of people who live out their lives with Divine Inspiration as long as they remember they are not the overseers, the caretakers, the feeders of the flock and the guards.
They are the flock, not the shepherd.
I like Dr. Willard’s explanation of the relationship of the shepherd and the flock. [By the way, I don’t mind being referred to as a sheep.] The shepherd is not a sheepdog. The sheepdog forcibly maneuvers the sheep “whereas the shepherd calls as he calmly walks ahead of the sheep…the shepherd is profoundly significant for how we think of our work as leaders of Christ’s people.”
To be called to preach the word of God is indeed a noble calling. The call to lead a church is a noble calling. Paul’s admonition to the young pastor Timothy was, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus…I give you this charge: Preach the Word…!” (2nd Timothy 4:1-2). So there is no doubt the preaching of the Word is of primary importance to God. So must it be for anyone considering entering the ministry as a preacher.
When we have a good pastor, we need to appreciate him or her, for the work is hard, the hours are long and there are many needs that must be met.