Someone was having a bit of a grumble about our church recently. They asked me if I felt there was enough leadership in it. Their view is that the church pastor is a leader and should lead.
I didn't have an arguement, just heard him out. But I've heard those comments before and it makes me wonder: do people sometimes get the focus a bit wrong, and look to the church, the human congregation and the pastor, for things that should come from the Holy Spirit?
Yes, a church pastor has a leadership role in their church, so do the elders. But it can be a mistake, I believe, if the pastor or any group within the church take too much on themselves in telling other people what to do. Some churches, especially those ones that might be called sects, have gained a bad reputation for being too heavy handed and controlling in their attitude to their congregations. They may be assuming an authority that only belongs to God. The human leaders of the church are there to teach and guide, but the ultimate Lordship is God's alone. And the most critical leadership for any Christian does not come from another mere human being. It comes from the Holy Spirit dwelling within you. The Spirit's guidance goes hand in hand with the Scriptures. If anyone claims they have been told 'in the spirit' to do or say something, and that something contradicts the teachings of the Bible, then it is a false leading. That is why we need both. But if human leaders gain or claim too much influence, too much power in running other peoples' lives then you get the Jim Jones mistake. It seems Jones acted and said things contrary to what the Bible actually teaches, and his followers did not see it because they looked to him for things that they should have found from the Written Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in prayer. Some more mainstream churches can lead their followers astray, also, when in an attempt to be 'modern' they compromise the Word.
The moral of the story is, do not mistake the mere human body of the church, its pastor or any one else for He who is not of this flesh and world. The leadership of a church should always be subject to that limit. Ultimately we do not rely on the human members of the church, although it is good to join in worship and seek the guidance of others where it can help. But too much emphasis on leadership in a church can lead people astray. I heard of one pastor who told some of his congregants that if they left the church they would break the bond with the Holy Spirit. He as good as said that they could only communicate with God through him. That man was, I think, going way over the top claiming that. And all humans are fallible and imperfect. No human should claim the mantle of God in holding too much power or authority over others. We need to remember that when we talk about church leadership. Its real leader is not the pastor, but the God who calls him and all of us too.