Here are a few ways that the role of pastor is seen in many churches today:
The Pastor as Priest: Some leaders see themselves as priests, mediators between the people of the congregation and God.
The Pastor as Policemen: Some leaders see themselves as policemen sent to enforce the rules
The Pastor as CEO: Many pastors have so bought into the models of business in the surrounding world that they see themselves primarily as CEOs running a business.
The Pastor as King: I actually heard a quote from a local pastor who got up in front of his church and told them, “This church is the kingdom and I am the king.” Though his statement seems frightening I think there are many pastors that think themselves above the people and actually see the church as their dominion.
If one starts out with any of the above understandings of pastoral ministry then it is no surprise when churches get run like businesses, mini-kingdoms, courtrooms, or gatherings where the only guy who is qualified or gets to do ministry is up there on stage.
I think we need to start with how church leadership is defined in the Bible. For example let’s look at Ephesians 4:11-16
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
He Must Increase
John the Baptist once had his own followers questioning the ministry of Jesus because Jesus was now beginning to gather more disciples while John’s group seemed to be dwindling. John’s response? “He must increase, I must decrease.” This mentality has to be the foundation of pastoral ministry. Our ministry is not to cause people to be dependent on us but rather to be dependent on God. I love what Paul writes as the goal of the 5-fold ministry: to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
So from this vantage-point leadership is not an end in and of itself but rather working towards equipping others and helping them grow in the knowledge of Jesus and the love of God. It is interesting that the Apostle Paul, for all of the churches he planted, did not stay very long at any of them. The longest he stayed at any one church was in Ephesus where he lived for around 3 years. This itself is a testament to what Paul was doing. He was trying to teach them to live around the reality of Jesus as King.
In the church I pastor I try to keep mindful of Paul’s approach. I would hope that if I died or suddenly got called to relocate somewhere else that the church I pastor wouldn’t shrivel up and die.
Starting in the right place is a start but that still doesn’t answer the question of how pastoral authority should be expressed within church. But I think that we are doomed to end up in the wrong place if we don’t at least start in the right place.
The Kingdom and the Empire