A topic that has rolled around in my mind often lately has been one of our responsibilities as laity in a church. I realize that pastors are consistently being placed in a place where they are consistently bombarded by criticism for things that should have little or no bearing on the operations of the body of Christ. I realize that there will be people who come to a pastor and say something like this:
We want more hymns.
We want fewer hymns.
The music is too loud.
The music wasn’t loud enough.
I don’t agree with…
… and the list goes on. For every variable in a church, there is always a possible critique to be leveled at a pastor. So, I can understand that for the pastor, there does need to be some cushion, or insulation, against flippant complaints against non-essential variables in a church.
However, something that bothers me is the opposing stance that pastors and leaders are not to be questioned. How biblical is this attitude? Is it God’s best for His church? What about situations where we, as believers, have a legitimate concern that should be brought forth in the church? Are we unable to voice it? Should we not be allowed to voice it? I have heard responses from pastors that range from the fairly respectable (although still a bit brusque) “if you don’t agree with me then go to another church” to Steven Furtick’s video about people who do not agree with him. It’s at the bottom of the linked page.
So, what should we as laity do? I’m all for giving men of God all due respect, but the essential phrase there is “men of God.” I do believe that as a pastor, you should be able to discern between the wisdom of the advice of laity given in love for the body of Christ and a heart for both the saved and the lost, and the foolishness of the lay person who is complaining solely based off of their own desires. However, I would like for pastors to consider the following:
Where exactly did Jesus respond to sincere questions with the attitude of “don’t question me you fool!”
Where exactly did God establish that a pastor is an unquestioned dictator of his flock?
Where did God establish that it is ok to treat your flock worse than you treat the unsaved?
When God asks you to give account to Him for the way you tended His sheep, are you really going to be okay with the account you have to give Him?
It’s particularly interesting to note that in his video in the link above, Furtick sounds more hateful than any of the people I have heard whom he condemns. Odd, isn’t it, that the pastor preaching “love” is very unloving?
If it seems that I am lately attacking Steven Furtick, it is only because he is a dangerous part of a larger disease that is attacking the church from within. There is a whole generation of pastors who are beginning to emerge that feel that part of being a pastor is a lack of accountability to the flocks whom they serve. I’m not meaning this to be an attack on anyone, but it is a call to the body of Christ to be wary of these wolves in sheep’s clothing. They remind me very much of the foolish shepherd of Zechariah 11, who does not care about their flock, but tear it apart for their own glory and honor.
As a pastor, you have a duty to be a loving leader of the people you are shepherding. You do not have the duty to “entertain,” whether for yourself or others, you do not have the duty to be “hip” or “cool” or “cutting-edge.” Look, there’s nothing cutting edge about the truth. It’s eternal. It’s the same now as it was at the dawn of time. And you know what? It has worked this entire time. I think Truth should be the big draw at church and the power of the truly transformed life. I definitely DO NOT condone the beating of the Lord’s sheep and I definitely DO NOT condone a singular focus on the wishes and desires of the new, young, and hip crowd which includes being rude and ruthless for entertainment sake to throw a steak to the pit bulls. I think that when it comes to love, Paul said it much better than Furtick (and without the weird movie intro):
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13 ESV)
As a pastor, there may be a need to think: Is your attitude truly based on love as modeled by Paul formed with the concern and guidelines of the pastoral epistles, or is your attitude based on a love of self that can’t allow you to be humble, open, and inviting, loving to your flock, and caring for those who have concerns or wisdom? If your heart for pastoring is not shaped by those things, then you need to have a heart to heart with God.