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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Pastor's role in God's House Part II

You can find Part I here  Pastor's role in God's house Part I

I am currently reading a book titled 5 Ministry Killers and how to defeat them by Charles Stone.  He talks about how the demands of parishioners often hurt pastors and drive them out of the ministry. 

I agree with Charles!  Too many ministers have been mistreated and are so starved for love and appreciation that they leave the ministry in despair.  Shame on any congregation that doesn't take care of their ministers.  We will discuss you later in this series.  There's an old saying - "Christians are the only organized group that shoots their wounded!"  It's true -- and it must stop!

However, as kind as Christians need to be - we do have a duty to require certain standards in our churches.  That standard must start with the Pastor.  I'm an only child and both my parents are ministers.  They built three churches and pastored many more.  They have been great examples of sticking close to the Bible and its demands for pastors. 

I observed an "unspoken" requirement for a good pastor.  I don't recall my parents ever talking about it, but it rang loud and clear for me.  As a child I witnessed the problem with bad marriages and bad parenting within other pastoral homes.  Some ministers were even ask to leave because of their homelife or rebellious teens.  How can you lead your congregation to a closer walk with God when you are unable to lead your own family? 

If I was the administrator of a college or university, I would add marriage and parenting classes to the requirements for a divinity degree.  In those classes I would insist that young pastors pray long and hard about their spouse.  After all....she will be called into the ministry - by marriage.  You can't fake ministry.  At some point the light will shine on your spouse and he/she will have to show the congregation the personal side of your faith.

Look at it this way.  If I belonged to a church where the pastor can't control his teens, why would I think I could control mine?  His lack of expertise would make me think that the task is impossible and can't be done.  I wouldn't have any reason to continue to try. 

Why is that important?  Pastors are our example of "how to do it right".  If he can't resist temptation, resist anger, grow children who love God, have a great marriage, love people.....what hope do I have of doing those things?  Everyone agrees that we need "spiritual role models"....but contemporary churches want to look outside the church for those role models.  The Bible however, demands that our role models be closer to home.  The entire chapter is enlightening, but let's look at I Timothy 3:1-5 specifically.

Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer (Bishop-Pastor), he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?)

It is important that any congregation be loving, kind and helpful when the pastor is experiencing stress.  But maybe it is just as important for a young pastor to "plan" for the dangers ahead by building a strong family as he goes along.  He will need that family to support him when the job is overwhelming.

I ended my last post with three questions.  How does a discussion about the homelife of a pastor fit with the question - What are the Biblical goals of the church?  Goals must come from the top down.  If your pastor isn't leading the life God has called him to.....neither will the congregation.  I've had to counsel with many people who have been hurt and spiritually destroyed by a pastor who was not living like he should.  The Pastor is our earthly Shepherd.  If he can't get it right - neither will we!  If he walks down a rocky path and eventually off the cliff - if we are following him - we will too!

But Debbie....we aren't supposed to follow our pastors...we are supposed to follow Jesus!

That's right, with an exception.  Our eyes should be on Jesus but when you sit week after week and listen to your "pastor" explain the scriptures - he will be preaching what he feels.  Little by little his problems will leak into his sermons and into your hearing and eventually into your life or worse....the life of your children. 

Plus....if your pastor isn't living a Godly life and he isn't engaged on a daily basis with spiritual enlightenment from God - why would God show up on Sunday morning?  Go back to our last discussion....God's house must be sanctified.  If your pastor isn't - how can God show up and bless the service?

Several years ago a friend complained about his church.  He said they were growing as in adding members - but he just didn't "feel" the spirit like he used to.  The services were more "excitement" oriented but he just didn't feel like it was touching his heart.  Just three months after that conversation, the pastor announced he was having an affair and yet wanted to continue as pastor while he went through his divorce.  Hum...."Sin" isn't the way to invite God into your services.

The Biblical goal of the church is first and foremost to follow the teachings of Jesus and then to evangelize the world.  If your pastor isn't following those teachings - how can God bless the church spiritually?  Remember, numbers are NOT an indication of spiritual blessing.  Go back and look at the picture above.  Does it remind you of a spiritual meeting - or more of a show or concert?  Church is not about outdoing secular shows - church is about spiritual growth! (more on that later)

What should my pastor be teaching?  The full Bible, the teachings of Jesus and the love and forgiveness demonstrated on the Cross.  He should be teaching about sin and how it pulls you away from a Holy God, how your life would be better without sin and how to avoid separation from God.  He must teach about Heaven and Hell.  If he avoids that subject, something is wrong.  He should also give a regular alter call.  If he avoids that, something is wrong.  The teachings of Jesus demand repentance.

My grandmother (a minister who built six churches in the south) used a neat illustration.  An elderly woman needed to hire a driver.  Three men showed up.  She asked only one question.  "If you had to drive me up a steep mountain, how close could you drive to the edge of the mountain without going over?"

The first driver said he could drive within 2 feet of the edge of the mountain.  The second driver said he could drive within 1 foot of the edge of the mountain.  The third driver said he wouldn't go near the edge of the mountain.  Instead he would drive as close to the yellow line as possible.  The woman hired the third man.

This illustrates how we should view the role of the church.  Do we want to attend a church that takes us as close as possible to the cliff that leads to Hell?  Do we want to trust that a "contemporary" pastor can show us how to cheat God and get away with as much as possible and yet hopefully God will smile and let us into Heaven anyway? 

Or in contrast, do we want a pastor who says, "Perhaps you could go to an "X" rated movie and still make heaven, but why would you want to?  Why not stay here with me, clinging to the cross and begging God to keep me safe.  Why would you want to take a chance with eternity?  You may think that avoiding some things in life is boring - or unnecessary.  But this life is only 90 years at best.  Wouldn't you want to be positive that you will have all of eternity to enjoy every good thing? 

Our last question is....How can I tell if I'm at the wrong church?  Are you growing?  Do you feel closer to God now than when you first joined the church?  If the answer is are at the wrong church. 

If you can't tell any difference in your life now and when you first began need to look for a Pastor that will challenge you to grow.  Why?  God never leaves you where you are.  He insists on growth. 

Yes, growth will depend on your involvement in the process.  But...if the pastor does not challenge you or preach sermons that "convict" you to change, something is wrong.

I'm 58 years old (agh...) and I've been in the church all my life.  I gave my heart to God when I was six and I've been growing for 52 years.  About the time I think I've learned all my lessons, God hits me with something new. 

When I was a teen I decided to write down all the scriptures I could find that commanded me to "do something".  After 280 scriptures I stopped recording.  I figured that God has so much for every Christian to do that there's no way to do it all.  We are required to grow through this life and graduate into the next.

Are you growing?  When God comes back or when you face the pearly gates will he be able to say..."Well done thy good and faithful servant!"

God loves you,


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