Livin’ On A Prayer

This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This post’s topic is “The Leaders of Your Church.”

You want to know what’s wrong with the church today? Pastors.

Well, not pastors, really. Pastors are great. We need more of them. It’s the preachers you’ve got to watch out for.

Of course, the actual preaching is only part of the problem. It’s what those preachers do when they’re not preaching that causes problems.

And it’s not their fault. I don’t really blame the preachers, per se. They and the church are both victims of a system centuries in the making.

First, I’m not entirely sure there should be a preacher. A preacher is basically just someone with the gift of teaching, of which there should be more than one in a body of any size. Paul tells us in Corinthians that when the church assembles, everyone should bring something to the service. The church should have room for all of those with the gift of teaching to teach. Instead, we pick one teacher, call him the “preacher” and disenfranchise the rest of the members of the body from participants into spectators.

Second, I’m not entirely sure why the preacher should be, effectively, the Chief Executive Officer of the church. Generally speaking, the person who delivers the messages on Sunday morning is the one with the greatest single responsibility and authority for setting the direction of the church. We assume that because someone has the gift of teaching, we should give them responsibility for leadership and administration as well. Granted, there are people who have all three gifts, but it’s a heavy burden.

Third, and to me most importantly, neither a preacher nor a CEO is the same as a pastor. A pastor should serve as shepherd to the members of the body, and that can’t be done effectively without a personal relationship. Unfortunately, most people never get that. We talk about THE pastor of a church, as if its a unique position. Instead, just like teachers, there should be several in a body with that gifting, enough to interact directly with all of the members. Instead, we take the one teacher we call the preacher and place in charge of the church’s direction, and we give him the title of pastor as well, robbing the members of actually having a true, personal pastor. And that’s extremely unfortunate.

Fourth, this is unfair to the preachers. You take someone with the gift of teaching. And you give him the burden of carrying a huge part of the teaching in the church. And then, on top of that, you give him the responsibility of also being the church’s CEO. And then you call him pastor, giving him a burden that there is no way he can bear. Most try, responding to the needs of their parishioners as best they can without the time or relationship to really help. Preachers today are set up to fail. They’re given a job too big for any person to hold. That’s probably why the first-century church was so much less top-heavy than today’s. The preachers suffer. It’s more the rule than the exception that their families suffer. Their congregations suffer. And the system continues.

That said, while I believe very firmly the church should be much less top-heavy, clearly there is a Biblical call for church leaders — bishops, overseers, deacons, elders, whatever terms your translation uses. And I’ll admit that it’s an area that I need to study more. I tend to believe that those are the people who are recognized as the go-to people. If you need someone to talk to, if you need something explained, if you need a dispute settled, then that’s who you talk to. But I’m open to being wrong about that.

But leadership isn’t about being a pastor or preacher. Let those who can teach, teach. Let those gifted to be a pastor, be a pastor.

“When ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.”

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