The article that I am about to write I could not have written 5 years ago. I believe that I suffered from an identity crisis as a Pastor. What is more, I believe the office of Pastor is suffering from an identity crisis. Between the power model C.E.O. type who demands allegiance, and the average church member who sits in the pew, the gap is deep and the gap is wide. There are Pastors who use their people to achieve fame among denominational leaders, and Pastors who struggle to gain the respect of the people in the pew.
The stories of the strong-arm pastor who pounds the pulpit and demands the respect of the flock are far too common. Where in the world did we pastors ever get the idea that is what we are supposed to do? Where does that model of pastoral authority ever cross our minds as the way to do ministry? I shake my head whenever I hear stories of pastors who manipulate the emotions of their people to gain their way on the direction of the ministry. Really? Where do we read of Jesus doing that? Does the Apostle Paul ever authorize that type of attitude? We ought to repent in sackcloth and ashes for treating the ministry of the gospel as if we were the Generals and our people the Privates in our own army!
I know my personality may be different from others who are called to lead God’s people, and that may influence my perspective. But, I truly believe I lead best when I do so as my people understand that I have their best interests at heart. What I have learned is that to develop a rich, loving, caring relationship with the people, one must take their time! “Don’t be in such a hurry, Finch!” I can hear my mentor lovingly shouting at me! I am called love the flock, warts and all, to be with them, encourage them, and that way gain their respect. The Apostle Peter writes,
“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.”
1 Peter 5:1-4 (ESV)
Yes, Pastors are called to lead, but first and foremost to be leaders in their walk with Christ, leading with their devotion to the Word of God and the practice of the spiritual disciplines of prayer and patience. We need to model to our people how to silence the critics with the ethic of love not with glares and turning our back to them! To our shame, we have prioritized winning the congregational, or elder vote, over exercising Peter’s words. I am slowly and painfully learning how to back off when on an issue when I sense that to proceed would adversely effect the unity of the body.
Yes, there were times that Jesus blood pressure got a little high in dealing with the disciples when they didn’t catch on right away. But as they watched the Lord walk through his mission on earth, they sensed up close and personal, his love for them! That is what the dear people in our churches desperately need to experience today! Pastors, we need to be known for being the biggest cheerleader for each and every member who graces us with their presence week by week!
Serving Together for God’s Glory,
Pastor Bill Finch