by Robert Earl Houston
Being a shepherd within the Lord’s church is an honorable position. I’ve been pastoring since 1989 and I’ve had memorable experiences, made some lifelong friends and some enemies on the way, and I’ve learned that sheep are best led when the shepherd leads, as intimated by Psalm 23.
Leadership in the Lord’s church, I admit, is not the easiest thing in the world. When a young man or woman comes right out of seminary or the educational system and is placed or called into a pulpit – they come into the pulpit with high expectations, great plans and ideas and often time discover that it is rare to have a congregation of equal expectation. I’ve been blessed, the five congregations that I’ve served wanted to grow, wanted to go forward, and weren’t afraid of trying things that were new and different. That is not always the case.
There is something that has crept into the Lord’s house: It is this desire of some shepherds (pastors) to want to absolutely control the spiritual AND personal lives of their membership to a point of where it’s almost difficult to distinguish pastoring from patronage.
I spoke with a church member of another denomination who opened up about a ministry that they were involved in. They had to sign a “non-disclosure form” – of where they could not discuss any matter or ministry of their church without direct permission of the pastor. They were given instructions that if the Pastor gives you a list of names of who not to ever have contact with again – you are not to talk to, phone, nor email that person or those individuals – even if they were family. They were told to bring their payroll stubs to the church within a week of joining the church. And then to cap it all off, they were told if they have any baptist or methodist or traditional Christianity friends – they were to sever all ties and communication with them immediately because “they ain’t saved like us.”
Call me crazy but it seems to me that this is not being a pastor. I’m not sure if there is a biblical command to pastors to “be thou stupid and controlling.” I’ve learned in 35 years of ministry that a pastor can encourage, cajole and suggest – but the individual member will either accept or reject said encouragement, cajoling and suggestions. In other words, if they were free moral agents before salvation, they will still be free to make decisions – and that’s not always rebellion, it’s just human nature.
Being told what colors to wear each day . . .
Being told what day or days to have sexual intercourse . . .
Being told what type of car to drive . . .
Being told not to wear a hair weave . . .
Being told to divorce your spouse because “I said so” . . .
It goes beyond the pale of pastoral ministry. To tell someone who is new in the faith that our Christian faith is one of division and exclusion of other denominations it petty and petulant. I’ve had people join my respective churches from all Christian faith traditions, and I’ve never told them, “You know you’re not saved because you are methodist.” I’ve never said “you’re not saved because you’re Apostolic.” Matter of fact, I think it’s childish to ignore or belittle another pastor or refuse to fellowship just because they’re not in your Christian faith tradition. To add insult to injury, to tell your congregation “we don’t fellowship with them baptists because they don’t have the Holy Ghost” is probably a sign that you’re lacking in some spiritual maturity.
Maybe there is a psychological diagnosis for this type of disorder. There is a remedy which many have used – they just leave – sometimes it’s the church, and sadly, sometimes they are so turned off from this type of pastoral deportment, they stay home and never darken the church doorway again.
This is not to say that a pastor shouldn’t teach the Word. He or she has every right to do so – but this is beyond the realm of preaching and teaching. Preach the word! Teach the Word! The Holy Spirit will change behavior – that’s HIS job!
You’re not a strong leader because you bully people. You’re a strong leader when you advocate the principles of God’s word. I want to see church members GROW, DEVELOP, MATURE, SHINE, DO GREAT THINGS FOR GOD . . . not to be subject to my own selfish and egotistical wishes. They are not my sheep, they are HIS. It’s difficult to fly when someone is standing on your wings.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED.