Saturday, November 28, 2009

Check your focus.

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.

10 comments:

jel said...

Morning Andrew

jeleasure said...

When someone truly believes in the ministry of a church 'leader', it is difficult for that person to be swayed. It is usually a result of long term pastoral care that the cogregate can not see potentially harmful characteristics in their ministers. The church leadership has had an influence over the congregate for so long, the subtle changes in the leadership of the church are evolutionary, and not noticed by congregates.
I think church leadership needs to change in a similar manner as our Governments.

Debbie C. said...

good post, I agree with you

Jenny B. said...

a very good post. I've seen leadership go bad in a big way, and it is not pretty.

Marshall Art said...

The fault of bad church leadership is really at the feet of those being lead, in my opinion. We are each responsible for our own study of the Bible and we need not rely soley on the instruction of our pastors if we feel there is a conflict between his teachings and our own study.

But there is a matter of who is better suited to interpret or explain Scripture. The pastor is normally the one with the formal theological training. He would normally be a bit more knowledgable of the details and nuances of Scripture, such as they may exist. But when we ask for help in understanding, we should have some idea of our own, see how much different is the pastor's and see which makes more sense. If it seems a coin toss, seek out other sources. This is something that should be done anyway. Eventually, the more this is done, the easier it is to determine which teachers are agenda driven and which are truly devoted to seeking God's truth.

A pastor, or any church leader for that matter, should never get the idea that salvation or true knowledge can only be had through them. They are mere facilitators of our own knowledge and simply the "day-to-day" source of intstruction and guidance, but not the only source. The ultimate source of course is the Bible itself, and pastors and other ministers and theologians help our understanding of His Will.

On a more mundane perspective, church leaders are no more than those who deal with the operation of the church and the "keepers", if you will, of that particular congregation's identity and mission.

Anyway, that's my take on the subject.

Merry Christmas!

Fr. Peter Doodes said...

Quite right Andrew, every Christian is a minister and all are equal to all others in the sight of God, it's just that at times our ministries are different.

If Church ‘leaders’ are not aware of that fact then they are assuming that they have a direct line to the Almighty, a very dangerous position indeed, and if Church ‘members’ are also not aware of that fact then they are failing in their ministry.

As you said, it is "God who calls him and all of us too".

As Jesus said in Matthew 12:50 "For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother."

jeleasure said...

Hey Andrew,
c'mon man. What? Are you lounging in the rays? Where is your new stuff?

I just figured out a way for me to keep up with my former blogging pals and promote your blog. I am permitted to post the same content on Blogspot as I will at Richmond Evangelical Examiner. So, I have created a Richmond Evangelical Examiner blog, in Blogspot. Your link is already on my page. Just use this url to add my link to your side bar and we can begin exchanging traffic again and staying in touch.
I’m polling the group I have linked in my side bar to ask if you all prefer that I use the link list format or the blog roll format. The blog role format is the one that places the most recent blog postings at the top of the list. Let me know what you prefer. I tally the vote in a week. Email me at jeleasure1@verizon.net

Tamela's Place said...

Amen!

When we take our eyes off of Jesus and begin to focus on man you can rest assured problems are just around the corner. No man takes God's glory.....

Great post:)

jeleasure said...

Happy New year, Andrew!
I was watching Sydney's fireworks on the television, today.

Andrew Clarke said...

Thanks, Jim, and Happy New Year to you and all who visit here. Blessings. Sorry I've been off the air but we had a computer virus that crashed things.