My kids just went to watch the second installment of the new Amazing Spider Man series. I refuse to go because I thought (with the glaring exception of the third movie) that the original Spider Man series with Tobey Maguire was absolutely fantastic and this reboot is just a cheap way to make more money. But, I’m reminded of something out of that movie (and the comics) that always sticks to me.
With great power comes great responsibility.
I wish everyone could have chestnuts of wisdom like that lying around in the ol’ cerebrum. I say this because, as an irritated Christ follower, it bothers me that so many pastors place themselves on a pedestal that seems to toss this little bit of wisdom out the window.
I’m reminded of a Sunday at Southbrook Church several years ago. The pastor at the time was in the middle of a sermon that basically amounted to this:
I am the lead pastor/visionary/vision caster. Failure to agree with me means you need to leave. God has spoken to me specifically about what to do here in this church.
FYI, that pastor is no longer at Southbrook. But the attitude there is one that can be found in many churches. One (I think) unintended side effect of the mega church is the new model of “pastor as rock star” that is unquestionable in his vision for the church, that is unapproachable, and by proxy, is unaccountable. These things add up to dangerous propositions for the church, and the reason is pretty simple. By placing a man in a place of utter lack of accountability and approachability, we place into complete power someone who is the subject of these bible verses:
Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he? (Isaiah 2:22)
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. (Psalm 53:3)
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Isaiah 64:6)
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Proverbs 14:12)
Get the picture? Do you think it’s honestly a good idea to set yourself up as unquestionable when this is ultimately the picture scripture paints of mankind? That’s just a recipe for disaster!!!!
I recently came across this story at apprising.org that made me really consider the situation the body of Christ is in with regards to this new breed of unquestionable pastors. At Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC, the little kiddos of the Children’s ministry were given coloring sheets that depict Elevation Pastor Steven Furtick preaching, carrying the message of unity behind the obvious church visionary, Pastor Furtick. The scripture being used to promote this unity is Romans 13:1.
The problems here are many. First, all of the body of believers are united under a single visionary, Jesus the Christ. Mankind is not visionary. We are finite and are but a breath and then swept away. Only Jesus is the true visionary.
Perhaps more irritating than the sheer pomposity of calling oneself a visionary is the use of scripture as a cattle prod for the masses. That may be worded a little harshly, but much deserved. Here is the issue: That portion of scripture has nothing to do with reinforcing authority within the church. That passage has everything in the world to do with the Christian’s role in secular civil government. Ultimately, this passage has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with a Christian’s need to submit to “church authority!”
It’s bothersome to me (and it should be to anyone who is a believer) that scripture is being taken entirely out of context and being used as a “Holy Ghost cattle prod.” To abuse the Word of God and use it to force your flock into obedience is deplorable as a pastor. It becomes even more deplorable to me when one of the main arguments leveled against Christianity by the secular crowd is that scripture is used by those in power to maintain their power! How terrible that there actually would be a group of believers where this would actually happen! This merely serves to reinforce the skeptical notion of “bible as a weapon.” Whoever is responsible for this should repent immediately, and the congregation of believers in which this happened should be on guard against future occurrences.
Sadly, neither of those things will happen. We have raised a generation of “spiritual lemmings” who are all too willing to go for whatever their pastor/prophet/holy man would tell them, despite the warnings of scripture not to do so. It’s sad that we have developed a culture of people who are biblically illiterate and are simply unable (more likely unwilling) to examine for themselves what scripture has to say about this kind of behavior. Of course, anyone listening to a Steven Furtick sermon will at some point likely hear what amounts to derogatory comments against anyone willing or desiring to study scripture more thoroughly. Apparently, it would be dangerous to these congregations for their members to start reading scripture and being discerning, because they would eventually see their shepherd this way…
Then the LORD said to me, “Take once more the equipment of a foolish shepherd. For behold, I am raising up in the land a shepherd who does not care for those being destroyed, or seek the young or heal the maimed or nourish the healthy, but devours the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hoofs. “Woe to my worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock! May the sword strike his arm and his right eye! Let his arm be wholly withered, his right eye utterly blinded!” (Zechariah 11:15-17 ESV)
While Zechariah’s passage is not in reference to any pastor’s in particular, it is important to see the qualifications of a foolish shepherd. They abuse their flock. They don’t care for those being destroyed. They devour the flesh off of the fat ones. They tear them apart and ultimately they shepherd only for their own gain. If you don’t think that using scripture out of context, converting the God-Breathed Writ of Scripture into a weapon to bludgeon people into blindly following you is a terrible wrong that must be stopped, you are a fool. If you think that bullying your flock by holding God’s word over their head is being that foolish shepherd, you will find out the truth all too soon and all too painfully.