I’ve got to thank my sis, Lynn Scribe, for sharing the article that inspired this post. I thought I was going to share something very different with you today but I pushed it to next week.
Minister Kenny Burchard (http://thinktheology.org/author/kburchard/) posted a message on Churchleaders.org that resonated with me with such clarity I knew I had to write about it.
We have a problem in our church leadership and by extension, our congregations. There, I said it. I’ll fast forward to the end of Minister Burchard’s message for those who may bail on this conversation before reaching the end…
The church is not to be envisioned as a Kingdom over which the pastor is King. Rather, it is a pasture with sheep that need a shepherd who knows how to take care of them and feed them.
You, dear brother and friend, are not a king.
The church is not your kingdom.
The pulpit and sanctuary (or worship center, or auditorium, or whatever you call it at the church you serve) is not your throne room.
The associates are not your servants, and the congregation are not your subjects.
Brothers, we are shepherds. We are not kings.
I grew up in the church. I was trained as a youth leader. My parents and grandparents served in leadership positions. So I witnessed “church” from a different perspective than many parishioners. I saw from a very young age the very human side of church leadership. There were the new ministers who struggled with the “Do I Stay or Do I Go” problem when they feel their calling to minister from the pulpit more start to bump heads with the schedule their Senior Pastor has assigned to them. There were the challenges of transitioning leadership roles to the next generation when Sister So and So has been the head of a particular auxiliary for years and clings to that leadership role as an essential part of her identity and self-worth whether she is still capable of discharging the duties of that office or not. There were the youth leaders who were assigned duties sometimes without the full training of how to manage those responsibilities, especially how to handle the extra scrutiny that comes with being a young person with a spotlight on how you live your life. After all, you are a church leader. You must set a standard. You are NOT allowed to make “mistakes”.
Churches are not kingdoms, pastors are not royal and the congregation are not your subjects.
It’s a trip to see church attendees treat church leaders like royals or some type of Hollywood celebrity. With my own eyes I have seen this fanaticism. I’ve seen the people who hang back at the end of service hoping to have the opportunity to “touch the hem of the pastor’s garment” so to speak. I’ve witnessed women who always seem to make their way to a particular minister or deacon every Sunday during altar call prayers and publicly pour out their struggles weekly rather than seek out the council of elders to help them work through their issues/problems. I’ve seen men emulate the “fashion” of their pastors in an almost hero-worship manner whether they can afford to or not.
We are sheep in need of a shepherd.
I’ve watched parishioners look around to see who might be watching and bide their time before they take off running around the church catching the Holy Ghost making sure to take off on the right cue from the Pastor. It’s AMAZING what you can see in church when you sit back and observe with your eyes wide open.
We need pastors who know how to take care of and feed ALL of the sheep.
I’ve seen the pained expressions of ministers who want so badly to connect with parishioners and see them make a breakthrough that they just keep on pressing and press so hard that it starts to feel more about them getting particular reaction they are looking for than delivering the word to God’s people and allowing the people to be responsible for what they do with the word. We are charged to “preach the gospel to the poor…to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18). I have always understood that the call to ministry and in particular the pastorship of a church means that you must minister to all of the sheep in that pasture God entrusted to you from the youngest babe to the height of the eldership. But we MUST stay connected to the Source to do this work and not give into our human need for goal-driven success.
I’ve seen choir leaders treated like secular rock stars. Even though we are taught and trained through the word that our service to God, the LOVE that we are to show one another is not to be “puffed up”. We don’t do it for the glory, we serve so that God can be glorified. I hear so clearly my mother’s and my grandmother’s admonishments that we not accept the praise for a good work that we have done for ourselves but take that opportunity to remind others that the credit is owed to God who allowed the work to be facilitated through you.
But how can they know without a Teacher.
I remember as a young child being in church one Sunday and my grandfather, who was the pastor, stopped members of the congregation from clapping after the reading of a passage of scripture. He looked out to the congregation and said simply, “The word of God does not require that we applaud. God’s word is sufficient.” A hush fell over the congregation, but the people listened. We discussed what had happened during church as a family once we got home and it was explained to me that sometimes we get in the habit of doing things that we need to be reminded of our actions so that we can be intentional in what we do in the service of God and His people.
I remember times when the choir would get a little puffed up after receiving accolades for a performance and having the eldership remind us that we’d better make sure we were singing for the RIGHT reasons and in the RIGHT spirit because WE are accountable for our actions and service in the name of God.
I don’t see those loving reminders being received from the elders any more. In fact, many of the elders that I am still blessed to have a relationship with have told me that they feel that all the can do at this point is pray for the Church. Their voices have been silenced and their cautions ignored. They pray for God’s mercy on their children who have made church service into a time of entertainment. They pray for God’s mercy on their children who seem more interested in fundraising than ministry and service. They pray for God’s mercy on their children who treat the church more like a business than the body of Christ, our church family. We used to care for one another, what happened to that?
The church only has one King, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.
If we focus on the “power” that can come with positions of authority within a church structure, we run the risk of poisoning the body of Christ just as Minister Burchard touched on in his article. We allow “A Saul” to come between us. Future leaders cannot grown in that type of climate. Current leaders get no rest which can lead to destructive imbalance in other important areas of their life like family time.
We are all children of the most High King and that makes us all FAMILY. We need to care for one another, help one another, love one another. Playing by the world’s rules of power and advancement is not the legacy that Christ left for us to fulfill. It can bring only destruction to the people of God because the love of power can not coexist with the spirit of Christ. If you doubt me, pick up and read your Bible and get on your knees and pray to ask the Lord for yourself.
I highly encourage you to read the article from Minister Burchard in its entirety. Perhaps it will stir up something in you that will be helpful to meditate on as it did for me.