Are Pastors Positioned to Err and Fall?
Is the current method of hiring/ obtaining a pastor Biblical? Is the pastor set up from failure from the beginning?
Can the hiring of a pastor be compared to hiring someone to manage a business? One expectation of a pastor is to preach good sermons to pack the pews and fill the offering plates? That may seem like a crass statement or accusation but in reality that is an important bottom line. I forgot to mention that Church members do not refer to hiring but "a call" to distance it from a "worldly" business position. They must determine if the pastor has truly been "called" by God!? How does a person truly determine if they are "called"? My experience and observation of the past demonstrates that some were not "called" and some get caught up in tradition.
The manager of a large corporation or a small business is often fired if the money does not come in to keep the business open. What are common qualifications for a business manager? Typically the person has a college degree in sales or business management or has proven success in a prior position.
The common qualifications for a pastor not only includes church business and management but a degree from a seminary with assumed understanding of the Bible and Christianity. There are many seminaries primarily oriented toward a denomination. Are the professors at a seminary Christian? Is it possible for a wolf in sheep clothing to be teaching there? Is the material taught rife with Man's bias - their interpretation and understanding?
One has to wonder how 21st century seminary pastors can preach that Christianity is okay with homosexuality, transgenderism, critical race theory and socialism for example! Am I implying that all graduates from seminary are misguided or corrupt, not at all. Miracles do happen!
Does the current tradition of choosing a pastor line up with God's Word? I submit that it does not.
Are church members partially responsible for this error? Yes! It is unfortunate that church members rely on tradition when choosing a pastor. In addition, the tradition of the pastor role has been corrupted since the time of the "church fathers " when they elevated and set the pastor apart from the church members. The "calling" of a pastor sets that person up for error and a great fall. By setting the pastor apart and elevated in authority, it is a miracle that any survive the pressure and temptations.
When a pastor is elevated and set apart it is very difficult and nearly impossible to come alongside and correct doctrine and understanding. They are in charge and educated, who are you to question his wisdom? Questioning a traditional pastor is usually seen as humiliating at the least. The Bible has much to say about church structure and Christian gatherings. When a church exists outside the Foundation problems plague even those with good intentions.
One issue with a church not following the Biblical Church Foundation is teaching with error!
I often hear "pastors" reference "church fathers", Calvin and other theologians; is that wrong? Recent concerns has brought this to my mind. Was their theology based on Man's wisdom or God's Word? Christians, pastors/elders and theologians debate this all the time. I can only respond by saying that God's Word is the only authoritative source. If anyone else is mentioned it should not contradict God's Word.
Does Scripture shed any guidance on this dilemma? Most definitely yes!
1 Corinthians 3:3–4 (ESV): For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? [I believe Calvin or any popular pastor can be replaced with Apollos.]
1 Corinthians 3:10–11 (ESV): 10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.[How many "well meaning?" pastors/elder or theologians are laying a different Foundation? I submit that too many are. ]
1 Corinthians 3:18–19 (ESV): Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. [Attending seminary does not mean one is wise, for Truth and Wisdom can only come from the Holy Spirit who leads us in all Truth]
1 Corinthians 4:15–17 (ESV): 15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church. [Christ Jesus laid the Foundation through the "unique" Apostles. The Apostles started churches and taught all 1st Century Believers to be imitators of them - Not Calvin or some seminary graduate or "church father" . Timothy was left to remind them of the Foundation that Paul helped lay via the Holy Spirit]]
Did the "church fathers", Calvin, or any theologian carry the exact message (teach) or did they distort and lay a new foundation or modify the Foundation to their puny wisdom? From my research they at least tried to modify the Foundation. Two obvious examples are the role of pastor/bishop/church and the anti-Semitic attitude to the point of excommunicating Jewish Believers from their own Jewish Christianity and demonizing all things Jewish. My research demonstrated that both Luther and Calvin were complicit in one or both areas.
What does history have to say about elders, pastors, bishops?
How difficult is it for well meaning Christians who become a pastor/teacher and then become popular or well known to maintain a humble attitude before God and man? I have seen many "pastor/teachers" in my days and I can only imagine how hard it is to remain at the same level as a "common" Christian. I have also seen many in the "popular" status fall into disgrace just as fast. How many well known or popular pastor/teachers are teaching Truth and how many have strayed teaching Man's wisdom instead? I submit too many.
After Apostle John went to be with the Lord, the Truth, the Word of God no longer had an Apostle to correct error in the existing Christian communities. Although the Holy Spirit remained ready to Guide each Christian the "church fathers" assumed that someone had to take the place of an Apostle's position, more specifically directing all churches. Was this authorized by the Holy Spirit? No. Some Christians even in the 21st Century have appointed themselves prophets, apostles using Ephesians 5 as their basis. If that was (and is) the case let us look at the fruit of those decisions. One of the first "church fathers", Ignatius Bishop of Antioch (98-117A.D.) [note that bishop is attached to his title which usually means he is over a group of churches] was already preaching something different than Apostle Paul! He wrote, "For if we are still practicing Judaism, we admit that we have not received God’s favor…it is wrong to talk about Jesus Christ and live like Jews. For Christianity did not believe in Judaism, but Judaism in Christianity". He apparently, did not understand Romans 11 - Christianity is Jewish - the Gentiles were adopted into. Here is part of Paul's response! "
Romans 11:1–2 (DARBY) 1 I say then, Has God cast away his people? Far be the thought. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not cast away his people whom he foreknew. Know ye not what the scripture says in the history of Elias, how he pleads with God against Israel?" Then continue reading Romans 11.
This is an early example of an early "church father" - producing bad fruit, which exists in churches in the 21st century - even among those claiming to be Apostles (NAR) on the same level as Paul - false doctrine. Therefore, just with one example, they were (still are) not following or listening to the Holy Spirit. Again, I submit they [church fathers and many pastors, apostles, prophets, teachers] were not directed by the Holy Spirit.
The "church fathers" began distorting the Truth with their wisdom and understanding. and then the Roman Catholic church influenced the known world adding to the distortion. Both put men into elevated positions over others.
Apostle Paul makes it plain to all Followers of Christ that the only way for each to receive Spiritual wisdom and understanding is from the Holy Spirit 1 Corinthians chapters 1 and 2. Does that mean Christians should not read commentaries or other Christian books, not necessarily. Christians must be alert and check everything out with Scripture and the Holy Spirit's Guidance before letting it "settle" in their mind.
Do I and Christians in general encourage pastors to be in an elevated status? Yes, churches in general continue the tradition by hiring a pastor to shepherd the church. When I was growing up it was common to see a pastor physically set apart and physically elevated above the "common" Christian.
I submit that tradition has clouded the understanding of the Apostle's Foundation for a church. Apostle Paul made it clear that all Believers were on the same level, no one was above the other. An elected elder was to be the main shepherd. The elders and the whole church were to come along side. The whole church body kept each other accountable and following God's Word. Is this how most churches are "organized"? Not from my vantage point. Does each church member take on the role of Berean? No, they tend to give up that right when they hired a pastor - they put the pastor in a very disadvantaged position. In general, do Christians look the other way when they see a brother or sister making poor choices? Yes.
What does Scripture say?
- Acts 5:1-9
- Matthew 18:15–17
- Hebrews 12:6–9
- 1 Corinthians 5:1-13
- 2 Corinthians 2:5-8
What prompted this writing? I was listening to a popular preacher lately and realized the words Calvin and Spurgeon were often mentioned. I discovered that, in general, when a Christian and especially a pastor mentions Calvin and Spurgeon they have been swayed by their [Man's] wisdom. Man's wisdom has modified and redefined Christianity. An early example, as shown above was "church father" Ignatius Bishop of Antioch, who still influences Christianity nearly 2000 years later!
Then I began to wonder about his eschatology. After listening to two sermons I became alarmed. I then emailed the church asking for a sermon on Romans 11, since I could not find any. They replied back saying there were none in his 30 plus years of teaching. Then I emailed back asking specific questions and the communication stopped. Combining the lack of a sermon on Romans 11 and the notes from Revelation 7 especially the 144 thousand witnesses I feel safe in saying he is misguided and depends more on Calvin's theology than Apostle Paul's Holy Spirit inspired Foundation. That was a very disappointing discovery, as I liked his teaching method. Unfortunately, the Calvinistic leaning brings into question everything!
Calvinism, covenant theology and allegorical Biblical interpretation negatively impacts every aspect of Christianity, including eschatology. If a Christian or pastor never discusses or preaches on Romans 11, it is obvious they do not agree or want to understand Apostle Paul. Tradition overrides the Gospel! Man's wisdom overrides the Holy Spirit! I tried to reach out to this pastor to make sure I understand his position correctly. So far the response is that there is no sermon on or from Romans 11 and that I need to talk theology with my local pastor. Been there and done that - waste of time.
Who am I and what right do I have to question a pastor or seminary graduate?
Acts 17:10–11 (ESV) 10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. [Does that sound like a 21st century church gathering? No! ]
If I am wrong in my understanding of Scripture they should help me understand! If it is Man's wisdom then the pastor should hurriedly get back on Path! This is not a game to see who wins the discussion but all win if Scripture is adhered to.
Does Scripture provide guidance on a pastor's position and interaction with Christians within that church? Yes!
- 1 Timothy 3:1–16 - Leaders in a church
- 1 Timothy 5:17–20 (elders, pastor and teacher)
1 Timothy 5:17–20 - 17 Elders who handle their duties well should be considered worthy of double compensation, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You must not muzzle an ox while it is treading out grain,” and “A worker deserves his pay.” 19 Do not accept an accusation against an elder unless it is supported “by two or three witnesses.” 20 As for those who keep on sinning, rebuke them in front of everyone so that the rest will also be afraid. (ISV) [1 Timothy 5:19 says accusing an elder (or any Believer for that matter) only with good evidence and two or more witnesses - but it is still expected. A pastor is an elder with a specific function]
Romans 8:17 (ESV) 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Romans 8:26–27 (ESV) 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
1 Corinthians 14:26–33 : 26 What, then, does this mean, brothers? When you gather, everyone has a psalm, teaching, revelation, other language, or interpretation. Everything must be done for upbuilding. 27 If anyone speaks in another language, only two or three at the most should do so, one at a time, and somebody must interpret. 28 If an interpreter is not present, the speaker should remain silent in the church and speak to himself and God.
29 Two or three prophets should speak, and others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another person who is seated, the first person should be silent. 31 For everyone can prophesy in turn, so that everyone can be instructed and everyone can be encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the prophets, 33 for God is not a God of disorder but of peace. (ISV)
I have not seen this followed in any church (one came close in the 70s. I have been told that conducting "church" as described in the New Testament would be chaos! Is that a justified reason not to follow Scripture?? Sunday school was added to help bring it more inline with Scripture. Unfortunately, Scripture, the Foundation, is ignored thereby adding to error for pastors and church members!
Galatians 3:27–29 (ESV) - 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
Ephesians 1:21–23 (ESV) - 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Ephesians 2:18–22 (ESV) - 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
The Foundation was laid by the Apostles and Prophets (past tense) The need for the same kind of Apostle and Prophet is no longer needed. I have found no verse that puts one Believer over another. Elders and deacons preform a service but are not over another Believer. All Believers in a church are all on equal footing, as it were. I believe the Holy Spirit was preparing for a time such as the 21st century where wolves try to deceive a church with the goal of destroying or dividing it.
See the same note above: 1 Timothy 5:19 says accusing an elder (or any Believer for that matter) only with good evidence and two or more witnesses - but it still is expected. A pastor is an elder with a specific function, not separate. NOTE: finding another Believer to confront or accuse an elder/pastor is highly unlikely, as they were hired to do that job and no one feels they are in a position or authority to accuse, so the error is just ignored! Remember, Christ is the Head of the Church and churches not a pastor/ elder/ bishop!
The Biblical approach to choosing a shepherd/elder/pastor should be used. However, observation and experience have shown that a hired pastor with elders is more like a business organization. The elders rarely if ever discuss doctrine or disagree in any way with the outside-hired pastor. The priorities are to keep the customers coming, offering plates full so the doors of the business can remain open. Make the building as comfortable and appealing as possible to at least one age group and say a few words from the Bible. what was (is) the main purpose of church, Christian gatherings?
Was the primary function of the first century church a place for non-Believers to find Christ or was the primary function of a church to disciple Believers? Surprisingly, the answer is discipleship, strengthening and encouraging Believers. Christians should be diligent about avoiding Man's tradition and correcting error found within a church. I believe a pastor would be less stressed and see a stronger church body under the Foundation laid by the Apostles via the Holy Spirit!