I’ve had this blog post in draft mode for a while, however, because of some recent events surrounding well-known pastors, I thought I’d maybe dust it off and share it.
If you weren’t aware, I love the Church. She is the bride of Christ. And even in her deficiencies, she is loved by Jesus and should be loved by me. I share these thoughts today not to dog her or belittle her, but rather, to acknowledge a lie she seems to have bought into. I can acknowledge it because I believed the lie myself.
I also write about this lie as a pastor. My wife and I planted a church about 4 years ago, which we continue to help lead, and have been in some type of pastoral/ministry leadership for over 12 years. We’ve seen it and experienced this lie first hand.
The lie I’m referring to is viewing pastors as if they were Jesus.
Now, of course, any God-fearing Christian would quickly denounce the notion that their pastor is actually Jesus and/or that they view him as such. However, how we’ve treated pastors, especially in America, speaks to how I believe we DO view them in a similar way to Jesus.
Pastors are often expected to have perfect theology, to have all the answers to life’s tough questions (ie. finances, sex, relationships, etc), to have a perfect family life and to walk perfectly in their own relationship with the LORD. Some even have the idea that their pastor is completely untouchable (from temptation to sin, from submitting to authority, etc).
I can tell you, as believers, we have thought those things because of how loud we gasp when we find out a pastor isn’t perfect.
Whenever a pastor falls (ie. moral failure), the interwebs fills up rather quickly with gossip-laden articles highlighting the extent of their failure. The pastor gets thrown under the bus by the masses, because of their sin (or mistakes). This happens because they’ve been placed on such a high pedestal.
“The bigger they are the harder they fall.”
Interestingly enough, when a similar sin (or mistake) is committed by a non-clergy believer, it is expected, by said masses, that the Church should offer grace and mercy and restoration. And that the Church “shouldn’t judge.”
This is quite the double-standard.
We place such high standards on ministry leaders, while all the while forgetting the fact that they need Jesus just as much as the next person. The expectations we’ve placed on “the man of God” are both non-biblical and unhealthy.
Are there biblical standards and expectations for local church leadership? You betcha there are (see Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3). But in those lists, being Jesus is not listed. Yet, how pastors are treated/viewed is with this mandate of perfection or of being a celebrity.
So what do we do about this?
Well, if you’re a pastor, or ministry leader of any kind, I’d encourage you to not facilitate or add to this celebrity mentality. There’s multiple ways to help prevent it, but the obvious one, in my opinion, is to stop tooting our own horn. Stop promoting our own name and self and actually start pointing people to Jesus. Walk in humility.
We, as pastors, can also stop pretending that we have all the answers, cause we don’t. It’s OK to say these simple words: “I don’t know.”
Stop feeding the co-dependency lie that can so easily creep into our churches, and our own hearts. You know, the idea that people can’t live without their pastor. Pastors often fall prey to the trap that they need to feel needed. This is a very unhealthy thing and is part of the overall problem.
Recognize that just because we’re the pastor or lead a ministry team, does not mean that we have all of the spiritual gifts. Cause we don’t. Holy Spirit distributes those and it’s quite apparent from 1 Corinthians 12-14 that the body needs full the body… not just one part.
Serve. Serve the people that are part of the church you pastor. And not just in action, but also in philosophy and heart.
Other ways pastors could help change the problem can range from simply having others lead along side of us (ie. sharing the pulpit) to completely changing up our church’s leadership structure. We’ve done this for the church we help lead and it has been quite a healthy and rewarding move (more on that some other time).
If you’re a believer, a part of a local church, here are some things you can do.
Don’t worship your pastor. Seriously. Stop it. You may not admit that you’re doing it, or even see that you’re doing it. But if you talk more about your pastor than you do Jesus, you’ve got a problem.
Use the spiritual gifts you’ve been given to encourage and edify the body. Don’t expect your pastor to always fill in the gaps where there is a void. This one is huge. Pastors are often expected to be a one-man show, when really the body should be taking care of the body.
Recognize that your pastor is a human being and without Jesus would be destined for hell just like you. The pastor title does not equate perfection and absolute sinlessness. Recognize that your pastor has spiritual struggles, emotional struggles, family issues, is tempted to sin, etc. This is not to excuse sin or misdoings, but it is to recognize that we are all in need of grace, regardless of how we serve the Body of Christ.
This issue of viewing pastors like Jesus will only get worse if we continue to feed the beast and keep treating them like celebrities. The way of the Kingdom is quite opposite from that of the world. The way up is down. The first shall be last and the last shall be first. If anyone wants to lead, then they must serve. Only once we get THIS will things begin change and it will help us see and understand our pastors in light of what they are: imperfect human beings still in need of Jesus.