Okay, here we go!
Frequently, I have what you would call “inevitable” conversations. One of the things that I have been taught to pray is, “Father, today, I ask you to bring me people with questions on their lips that I have the answers to.” I know it seems a bit simplistic but it works. As a result, the “inevitable” conversations occur.
They happen with all sorts of people; atheists, non-believers, believers. But, one of the most common is the “where do you go to church?” conversation. I normally do not ask that question or take the conversation to that place. That step in the conversation usually transpires under the direction of the person to whom I am conversing. In these particular instances, I usually ask questions rather than offer up information. As I make deeper inquiry, the ultimate destination of the conversation becomes, “My Pastor is great!” or “I just love my Pastor!” or “You should come and hear my Pastor teach!”.
Now, over time, I have come to understand why the conversation always goes there. They have been taught to say such things and it is all they know to say. It is the product of the religious order of things so prevalent in the church system. The follow up question to….”So and so is my Pastor! ” is always, “Have you heard of him?” As if I am supposed to have heard of him. The World (as a system) has their idols, superstars and icons………….. the church system has theirs, as well. I call them Super Pastors.
In the 70s and 80s, a new train of thought came to the forefront along with the “church growth” movement. This was the school of thought in which my particular denomination followed. The goal was a “mega-church”. Build it as BIG as you can, man, so everyone can see it! The catalyst for doing so was the extraordinary giftings and abilities of a super-spiritual “pastor” as a chief executive officer (CEO/leader), who casts a vision and rallies and motivates people to fulfill the new vision which normally resulted in lots of money being given, hours and hours of volunteer time spent on programs/events and some new building being built.
Today, the essence of that thought lingers with a new generation of Clark Kents who have been called into ministry. Now, it is not just one location, man, it is about multiple site locations, church plants and networks. Each site comes complete with pyro-technics/lasers to accompany the worship music, state of the art, multi-million dollar facilities and, oh yeah, a really big video screen so that everybody at each location can watch/listen to Super Pastor.
Obviously, this is the extreme. Not every church is like the one described above, but, it is a sliding scale. Despite the size or denominational affiliation, you will find that they are all centered around the Super Pastor. One man who drives the show, oversees the activities and is responsible for various facets of “ministry”.
At best, this definition for “pastor” is weak on a scriptural basis. You actually have to revert back to the Old Testament to find such positions of ministry function. But, since I am a New Covenant believer, call me crazy (and believe me, most do!) I think that the role of the pastor should be defined by New Testament scripture.
I sit with “Pastors” in discussion. When discussing a topic such as this, this is how the conversation usually goes:
Me: “Do you believe the Bible?”
Super Pastor Eventually Wannabe: “Yes!”
Me: “Is the scripture what you teach/preach from the pulpit?”
SPEW: “Oh, definitely!” (usually with a further emphatic affirmation such as, “without compromise!” or “I am not ashamed of the Gospel!”)
Me: “Excellent! Do you have your Bible with you now?”
SPEW: “Yes, I take it with me every where I go.”
Me: “Great. Well, can you open it and show me in scripture the scriptural basis for the way you “do” church?”
SPEW: ………usually a long silence, indicating that they have never really thought about it that much. Then, they will usually take me into the Old Testament to show their reasoning for their form and function. Or, the more educated ones render this response, which to this day completely puzzles me, “Well, you can’t let the silence of scripture on a topic define it. Just because it is not in there doesn’t mean it is not valid.”
This is usually where the conversation ends unless they ask me to show them in scripture about the New Testament Church. Then, it ends for sure.
Listen, I get it! I know these brothers are doing what they were trained. I used to be them! I understand that their income is based upon their “vocational ministry”, which I have no qualms with………because it is scriptural! But, it isn’t revealed in scripture as they have it set up. (that’s another post all together)
But, here’s the matter that concerns me. I have seen too many brothers, well-meaning and intentioned, crash and burn from trying to be Super Pastor. They are asked to do something that you can’t find in scripture and that Father NEVER ASKED THEM TO DO! The really sad part is that their identities are in doing church that way and not in being a son of the Father. It’s based on performance (for pay, reputation and identity.) You have to be “ON” every Sunday; better than last week! The numbers have to keep growing. The buildings have to keep getting built. The last book has to sell more than the previous one.
Furthermore, under the Super Pastor Syndrome, the believers are experiencing insufferable harm, as well. Because it is not scriptural, The Super Pastor model does not lend itself to scriptural growth or spiritual maturity in the life of believers. It leads people (knowingly or unknowingly; it does not matter) to follow a charismatic personality rather than biblical principles and stay dependent upon the pastor. (Go to a Wednesday night service and check attendance when SP ain’t there teaching!)
The focus becomes the building of a mega-church rather than building a healthy Church. The needs of the organization (salaries, cameras, buildings, private planes, television time, etc.) are set before the people and presented as the way the city/world will be won for Jesus! The burden, of course, is then placed on the people to GIVE MORE! More money. More time. More energy! This is how you serve God. This is how/why He blesses you!
Ultimately, this environment encourages people to focus on their self- needs and never attain to the scriptural principle of the priesthood of all believers and the Body that BUILDS ITSELF up in love. As a result, not only is the growth of the believers hindered, the Kingdom is not advanced through the people’s expression.
So, while Super Pastor looks great and is doing great (not really, but nobody is close enough to him relationally to really know) the people of God are still “making bricks”! God wants His people free! Even from religious systems that attempt to bear His name!
Whew! Let me step down from my soapbox and get back to the conversation with the “My Pastor is so great” brother or sister.
Me: “So, ummmm, you really love your Pastor?”
Super Pastor Advocate: “Oh, yes. He’s so wonderful!”
Me: “That’s great. How big is your church?”
SPA: “Oh, we usually run around (size doesn’t matter) . (May continue) “We have two Sunday morning services! I go to the early service!” or “We have multiple locations!”
Me: ” I see. So, has your Pastor ever been to your home for dinner?”
SPA: “Oh, no! He’s really busy. I did go to the ‘meet the Pastor’ luncheon when I joined though.”
Me: “Okay. Does he pray with you regularly?”
SPA: “Once, I went down in the prayer line. They actually called off the Altar Prayer Team (? – scriptural basis) and Pastor prayed with everybody who came down. It was awesome!”
Me: “But, your Pastor knows your greatest weaknesses in your faith and instructs you on how to grow and mature in the Lord, right?”
SPA: “Well, no. But his teachings series are really great!”
Me: “Tell me this, if you met your Pastor on the street, say in the mall doing some shopping, would he be able to call you by name?”
SPA: “Probably not. I only met him once or twice so I don’t think he would remember me.”
Not every conversation goes directly according to that order but that is the gist.
Most believers call a man, “Pastor” because of a “ministerial position or religious office” in an institution; NOT because of an accurate, biblical function based upon intimate relationship. These things ought not be so!
I think that is enough for now. In the next post on this topic, we’ll take a look at the New Testament foundation and function of “Pastor”.