August 23, 2017
Musings on Pastors, Preachers and Leaders (Series)
Much can be said about the general state of modern-day Christian preachers, pastors and leaders. It’s probably time to address these concerns, in a mature way.
As I’ve done in my previous series, (“Musings on Relationships”), the hope is to explore the issues from a historical, biblical perspective. Rich wisdom is available to us.
“There is nothing new under the sun…” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). This isn’t the first time God has had problems with ineffective leaders; we can study His providential dealings to derive patterns for how we treat with the issues. (Jeremiah 23 is quite powerful.)
An important commonality shared between a pastor, a preacher and a leader is that each is a steward of persons that do not belong to them. From a biblical standpoint, the Owner of the various flocks is God (Yahveh, Adonai); thus He is the one that determines how the flocks are to be nourished, and how they should be cared for.
A good pastor (preacher, leader) is one that faithfully follows the instructions and methods of his Master. An evil pastor is one who perverts the instructions of his Master: perhaps by using other methods, or by supplying the flock with a different type of food.
Discerning whether a pastor (preacher, leader) is good or evil has little to do with his qualifications, wardrobe, charm, intellect, business acumen, fame or good works. It simply depends on whether he is faithfully discharging the duties enjoined upon him by his Master.
So if you know what those duties/commands are, your ability to discern whether one is good or evil will increase.
* * *
“Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.”
— 1 Peter 5:2, 3
“He shall feed his flock like a shepherd:
he shall gather the lambs with his arm,
and carry them in his bosom,
and shall gently lead those that are with young.”
— Isaiah 40:11
(A beautiful depiction of a good shepherd.)
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, since he isn’t a shepherd and the sheep aren’t his own, sees the wolf coming, abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf drags them off and scatters them. The hired worker behaves like this because that’s all he is, a hired worker; so it doesn’t matter to him what happens to the sheep.
“I am the good shepherd; I know my own, and my own know me — just as the Father knows me, and I know the Father — and I lay down my life on behalf of the sheep.”
— John 10:11-15
We find in this passage (see part 3) stark comparisons between a good shepherd and a bad/evil shepherd.
Here we focus on one major difference:
“When calamity comes, you see the true nature of the shepherd.”
Good shepherd: Confronts the evil, making the protection of the sheep his first priority.
Bad shepherd: Abandons the sheep, make self-preservation his first priority.
You may not readily discern between them when everything is peaceful; but when problems and calamities arise, the true nature of the shepherd will be clearly seen.
* * *
“Get wisdom… get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:7)
“Fine speech is unbecoming to a boor,
and even less lying lips to a leader.”
— Proverbs 17:7
“Woe to you, land, when your king is a child,
and your leaders start their parties in the morning!”
— Ecclesiastes 10:16
“The leaders *who lead well* should be considered worthy of double honor, especially those working hard at communicating the Word and at teaching.”
— 1 Timothy 5:17 (emphasis supplied)
“Qualifications of a Leader, found in 1 Timothy 3” (1 of 3)
“A congregation leader must be above reproach, he must be faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, orderly, hospitable and able to teach. He must not drink excessively or get into fights; rather, he must be kind and gentle. He must not be a lover of money.”
— 1 Timothy 3:2, 3
“Qualifications of a Leader, found in 1 Timothy 3” (2 of 3)
“He must manage his own household well, having children who obey him with all proper respect; for if a man can’t manage his own household, how will he be able to care for God’s [household]?”
— 1 Timothy 3:4, 5
* * *
An accurate gauge of a leader’s stewardship has always been the management of his own home.
“Qualifications of a Leader, found in 1 Timothy 3” (3 of 3)
“He must not be a new believer, because he might become puffed up with pride and thus fall under the same judgment as did the Adversary. Furthermore, he must be well regarded by outsiders, so that he won’t fall into disgrace and into the Adversary’s trap.”
— 1 Timothy 3:6, 7
* * *
Pride… still destroying churches today. There truly is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiates 1:9).
“Rebuke before the whole assembly those leaders who continue sinning, as a warning to the others.”
— 1 Timothy 5:20
We have ignored this counsel… and have ended up with the crisis that is now on our hands.
A false shepherd is worse than no shepherd at all.
With no shepherd, at least you’d have time to seek out a good one…
“[Isra’el’s] watchmen are, all of them, blind;
they don’t know anything.
They are all dumb dogs, unable to bark,
lying there dreaming, loving to sleep.
Greedy dogs, never satisfied —
such are the shepherds, unable to understand;
they all turn to their own way,
each one intent on his own gain:
“Come, I’ll get some wine,
we’ll fill up on good, strong liquor!
Tomorrow will be like today;
in fact, it will be even better!””
— Isaiah 56:10-12
* * *
Deluded leaders aren’t new phenomena… there’s nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
[Jesus] also told them a parable: “Can one blind man lead another blind man? Won’t they both fall into a pit?”
— Luke 6:39
To keep yourself from the pit, be sure that the one who leads you is not blind.
There is a disturbing practice nowadays of placing young men (barely out of college/university) into positions of leadership (pastors, elders). Many who have been pressured into this arrangement have found the burdens unbearable, and even strayed away from the faith.
Leadership (according to the biblical model) is best put in the hands of those with good experience in managing their own homes. A ‘degree’ cannot give you this experience.
“Not a novice…” (1 Timothy 3:6)
My respect for a leader is directly hinged
upon how he treats his wife and children (1 Timothy 3:5).
“So [the twelve disciples] set out and preached that people should turn from sin to God…”
— Mark 6:12
Many modern-day preachers have missed the plot entirely it seems…
“Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock…”
— 1 Peter 5:2, 3
Willingly; eagerly; being examples to the flock…
“And [Jesus] said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?
“How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.”
— Matthew 12:11, 12
* * *
A good shepherd will have compassion… even on the Sabbath.
[The passage below records some advice that Moses’ father-in-law gave to him. Please read through the passage slowly; if you have a mind to it, please share the characteristics of good leadership found here. (‘Moshe’ is the Hebrew name for Moses.)]
“Moshe’s father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing isn’t good. You will certainly wear yourself out — and not only yourself, but these people here with you as well. It’s too much for you — you can’t do it alone, by yourself. So listen now to what I have to say. I will give you some advice, and God will be with you.
You should represent the people before God, and you should bring their cases to God.You should also teach them the laws and the teachings, and show them how to live their lives and what work they should do.
But you should choose from among all the people competent men who are God-fearing, honest and incorruptible to be their leaders, in charge of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens…”
— Exodus 18:17-21
A charming persona, a captivating voice, and a trendy wardrobe
Do not a godly preacher make;
And the many who are attracted (or distracted) by these
Will soon realize their mistake.
“To the law and to the testimony:
if they speak not according to this word,
it is because there is no light in them.”
— Isaiah 8:20
Do we still assume that a person that stands behind a pulpit is there to “lead us in the paths of righteousness” (Psalm 23:3)?
Let’s exercise our discretion.
“Dear friends, don’t trust every spirit. On the contrary, test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
— 1 John 4:1
For the proper training of young pastors/leaders, we should return to having them spend some time as actual shepherds (of actual sheep). The lessons of self-sacrifice, humility and care are best learned in “giving your life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
The academic system of preparation, by comparison, has fared quite poorly in developing character… we’re seeing today how inadequate this strategy truly is.
When Yeshua noticed how the guests were choosing for themselves the best seats at the table, he told them this parable:
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, don’t sit down in the best seat; because if there is someone more important than you who has been invited, the person who invited both of you might come and say to you, ‘Give this man your place.’ Then you will be humiliated as you go to take the least important place.
“Instead, when you are invited, go and sit in the least important place; so that when the one who invited you comes, he will say to you, ‘Go on up to a better seat.’ Then you will be honored in front of everyone sitting with you. Because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but everyone who humbles himself will be exalted.”
— Luke 14:7-11
Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled…
“And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.
The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.”
— Ecclesiastes 12:9, 10
Godly preachers (i) are wise, (ii) teach the people knowledge, (iii) disprove popular (but erroneous) teachings, (iv) employ wholesome words when speaking, (v) use the pen to promote words of truth.
“Get wisdom… get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:7)