WE ARE PASTORS, NOT A CEO
I read the story of a dog who would not abandon his goats during the fires in California. The recent fires that swept through California, destroyed homes, farms, vineyards, animals, and people. see here One family had to quickly abandon their home. They tried to round up their pets, but their dog would not abandon a herd of goats that belonged them. They, sadly, could not rescue the goats. But the dog would not leave the goats, so they had to lead the dog as well. When they returned the next day, they expected the worst of outcomes for their dog. After a few minutes, their goats came running to them, the dog, singed and limping, herding the goats. And apparently the dog now had a few baby deer as part of his herd.
In this story, I see a picture of a good shepherd who would not abandon his keep and even picked up a few outsiders along the way. This is what good shepherds do. They don’t abandon their flock in a time of need or danger. And the goats and the deer, the flock, had enough sense to recognize the intentions of the shepherd.
Of course, one of the biblical terms for the pastoral office is pastor, that is, shepherd. The picture of a shepherd is as old as time itself. The biblical David was a good shepherd, who defended his flock from bears and lions. Best of all, Jesus is referred to as the Great Shepherd and gave himself for his flock.
Jesus warned about the hireling. The hireling, or as modern translations have it, a hired hand, takes a job for the money. (See John 10:11-13) He has no commitment to it and often sees the work as menial in nature. He may see the work as a stepping stone to the next job. The hireling is not reliable in times of need and will abandon the flock in times of trouble.
The pastor is called pastor, a shepherd and not a hireling. I hear and read from people, who should know better, refer to the office of Pastor as a job and that a pastor is hired. Prominent Baptist writers write advice for young candidates on how to get their first “church job.” I have been laughed at by deacons who talked about “hiring” a minister, when I insisted that we use and understand the idea of call. I think it is a biblical element that we have lost in the modern church.
Until recently, most men in pastoral ministry entered that “profession” because they had a call experience. Later a church would prayerfully issue a call to their church believing that God had appoint that person to be their pastor. And as a pastor, he would do anything for that church.
Today we appear to have two problems. We have pastors who don’t believe in a called ministry and churches who want to “hire” hirelings. I think a worldly business model has taken over the church. Members no longer see themselves as the flock of God and the sheep of his pastors. Churches see themselves as a business, which hires a director which they control and boss around. And pastors stumble and fall because they are not shepherds but “work” in an environment where they are supposed to lead the flock of Christ.
I want to encourage people in ministry to consider why they are in ministry. I know that there are many who reject the idea of call. But there is no leadership in the Bible that are not called and set aside for that purpose. Sometimes the call is directly from God and sometimes it is through God’s agents such as an apostle or a church. Even if you consider Paul’s appointment of men to ministry, you will see that he regards, Timothy for example, as one who has be set aside (called), gifted with spiritual gifts for ministry and laid hands upon for that work. We have no reason to believe that the practice of recognition of men as gifted and called of God to lead churches ceased after the Apostles. For example, Paul told Titus to appoint elders (pastors) when he was in Crete. In that case, Titus acted as God’s agent in appointing pastors.
I realize that every Christian is called to be a minister in some sense. We are called to minister to each other. But the office of pastor is set aside with strong requirements that indicate a person who is equipped and appointed to that office. Some see Paul’s words, “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” (1 Tim. 3:1 ESV) indicating that one chooses to be a pastor. In this case the term is bishop. In the New Testament the terms elder, bishop, and pastor refer to the same office. A desire to the office of overseer would be in light of a calling by which the person would be equipped with the gifts of ministry that Paul gives that qualify the office. Not anyone can hold the office, just those whom God has gifted and equipped to do so. It is not a matter of education, though education is very important, it is a matter of spiritual equipping for the office.
We have a massive decline in today’s church in part because we do not have men who are called and confirmed in that calling and we have churches who want to be a business and hire a hireling to boss around instead of a shepherd who leads them. Often, pastors see themselves as the CEO and churches often treat them as such. Some churches have in their operating documents that the pastor is the CEO. I do not think this is an advancement for the church.
We need to return to the biblical model of church. We add positions and programs to church life thinking that they are more efficient to the work of the church. I have no problem with staff or programs as such, but they tend to cover over and blur God’s design for church life. Church life, even in the later New Testament period were simple in design. The pastor leads the church and the church followed the leadership of the pastor. Church members where dynamic in their ministry to each other and in their witness to the world. The Pastor equipped them to do so, taught them Scripture and doctrine and stood between the church and those who wished to destroy it by actions or by false doctrines. (See Ephesians 4: 11-16)
Church life is always messy and inefficient. Human relationships are dynamic, and one cannot control how each gets along with the other. It is a matter of spiritual health when church members love each other, not because of an efficient program. The condition of a loving membership comes from a shepherd, who imitates the Great Shepherd, in loving his flock and through the Word of God preached and heeded. We are not allowed our private interpretations of Scripture that allow us to live “alternate” Christian lives that exclude the commands of God. We are all called to live by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit produces in us the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Are these not the desired characteristics of Christian personhood? I know that personally these characteristics have been most difficult for me personally to cultivate and I am not sure if they could be at all if had it not been for the work of the Spirit in the context of fellow Christians in a church.
As you read this, you might think I have gotten off track. But I have not. Only a pastor can lead a church into spiritual growth. It is this spiritual growth that leads us on the journey inward to a mature church and outward to true and faithful witness to the world. God’s design for pastors, called and equipped by the Holy Spirit and a congregation of believers equipped with spiritual gifts, pastorally equipped and lead by the pastor, accomplishes the work of service, which is the goal of pastoral leadership. Ephesians declares that the pastor is a gift to the church who leads the church “to work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph. 4:7-10)
The work of the pastor is not easy. We lead churches through the fires of life and we will get burned, singed, injured, unappreciated, hated, abused, and often left in poverty. It is a lonely calling. Like some of the Old Testament prophets, many pastors will come to God in brokenness and despair. So, if you are not called, how will you endure. Why would anyone want to be a pastor if you are not called and gifted for ministry? It is a strange calling indeed!
How will the church get on track and stay on track if there are not called ministers who teach the Bible, who explain the doctrines and give the church the biblical framework to live the Christian life in a secular world? We live in modern times, but we lead an ancient organization that does not belong to us. It is Christ’s church, which he established before the foundations of the earth. The entire Bible is the story of God’s plan for his people. Pastors, called pastors, are entrusted to lead the Church that Jesus established his way. In doing so, we simply follow in the footsteps for the Great Shepherd.