Saturday, October 09, 2021

Pastor Problems

Many Christians are concerned about the increasing number of pastors who are falling from grace, due to broken marriages, accusations of child abuse and abusive behaviour. At the same time, there is growing concern about the hundreds of pastors who have stepped out of the role, because they are unable to cope with the pressures of ministry. Some commentators have suggested that the problem is lack of character and maturity. They suggest that charisma has got pastors into positions of power that their character could not handle. This misses the point.

The reason that pastors are failing or falling is that they are trying to do a job that is impossible, and a role that God never intended a human to do. Even Jesus did not attempt to pastor a church of several hundred people. He focussed on discipling twelve men and a small group of women who supported him. He trained them to do what he did, so that they could each do the same for another small group of people, allowing the movement to rapidly multiply.

The New Testament church was led by teams of elders with complementary gifts and callings. Some were pastors, some were prophets and some were evangelists. These elders replicated their ministry in the people they were discipling, raising up an ever-increasing supply of leaders for the rapidly growing church.

In contrast, the modern church has made an idol of the pastor-leader. It has become so normal to have one person as leader that people find it is hard to imagine a church that does not have one. The common cry in the church is "We need a strong leader". However, this desire for one man to lead is a consequence of the fall. Sinful people have a tendency to choose slavery and domination (1 Samuel 8:6-9), but those who have been redeemed should have the same mindset.

When Jesus ascended, he left his disciples with no one person to be the leader. He had carefully discipled them, and taught them to expect the Holy Spirit, but he deliberately avoided appointing a person to take charge. An attempt by two of the disciples to obtain a position of precedence was strongly challenged by Jesus (Mark 10:35-45). The new church did very well without a single leader.

The New Testament never states that a church should have "a pastor". Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in each church. They never left one man to run a church or singled out one elder to be a senior elder or pastor. They "committed them to the Lord in whom they put their trust" (Acts 14:23). In Antioch there were "prophets and teachers", not one pastor.

The pastor-leader is often given a different name: apostle senior pastor, senior leader, but it does not matter what they are called, because the role simply does not exist in the New Testament. Having a paid professional running programs to support the members of the church trains them to be passive and prevents them from doing what Jesus needs them to do.

The most serious consequence of relying on a single leader is dangerous is that it leaves leaders vulnerable during a season of spiritual struggle. When a man is at the top of an authority structure, he becomes the target of concentrated attacks by the spiritual powers of evil. If the church members submit to him, he has tremendous authority. But because he is not under the authority of anyone, he is vulnerable to demonic attack and deception. In most situations where Churches have failed, it is because, they were led by one man or one woman who got side-tracked by the spiritual powers of evil.

Over the last two decades, far too many leaders have fallen into immorality and had to step down from their ministry. This has been painful for them and their families. It has also done tremendous damage to the church and harm to the gospel. The fact that this has happened to so many good people confirms that modern church structures provide inadequate spiritual protection.

The current problem with falling pastors will not be resolved by finding pastors with better character. As long as the church persists with an unbiblical leadership structure, pastors will continue to be vulnerable to spiritual attack, and many will fall from grace.

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