Dear Church: The Pastor Is NOT A hired Hand

Posted on April 22, 2015 in Theology by

shepherd and sheepI wish I could get this article read, studied, and learned in every church. It’s not that it is some previously unknown theological truth that will amaze with its depth and riches. Quite the opposite. It’s a very simple teaching grounded in biblical truth that should be known by churches, but is, sadly, not.

The bottom line is this: the pastor/overseer/shepherd/elder of the church is answerable to God, not you.

While I love our democratic-republic form of government here in America, it has, unfortunately, caused a little chaos in the church. Many church members have this idea that everything must be voted on, and everyone has to agree. With that in mind we want to vote on who the leaders are, what ministries will and will not exist, and how every dime of “our” money will be spent. The result is a church where the biblical leaders are little more than talking heads and puppets acting on behalf of the people.

But that’s not how God designed the church and certainly not how He intended it to be operated.

I recall an experience where I was brought in to a church to help it change. The church was older and needed to make some much-needed changes in hopes of seeing younger people join. In the course of seeking to do just that some of the older members bristled at some of the suggestions I made. In a conversation with the pastor he cautioned me against upsetting those members because “those people pay your salary.”

I didn’t say what I was thinking at the time. But suffice it to say, I didn’t stay at that church long. The pastor had lost sight of what a biblical church looks like and been reduced to a puppet on a string doing whatever the church wanted (apparently in fear of upsetting people and losing their money).

But the pastor is not called to appease anyone or cater to “big givers.” The pastor is called to be led by the Holy Spirit in doing what is best for the people (sheep0 even when they don’t like it. We’ve got to get away from this idea that being a Christian is about being happy. God never once said anything about being happy – we are called to be holy (with joy being a fruit of that holiness). Any church that sees the pastor as an employee (hireling) is operating under a false pretense as the Bible very clearly calls pastors “overseers” of the church (Acts 20:28).

The article I referenced earlier has some wisdom on this topic:

“The church that sees itself as a country club, its leadership as the board of directors, and the pastor as the hired executive answerable to the board, functions as unbiblically and detrimentally to the work of the Gospel as does the operation of the local Jehovah Witnesses kingdom hall. Unbiblical is unbiblical. Heresy is heresy. You do not want a hireling leading your church, friend.”

Many churches are backwards. They put the people out front as the ones who make all the decisions and really “lead” the church while the pastor is just the guy hired to teach and preach and be on-call 24 hours a day for whatever reason. This is clearly an unbiblical and confused method of operating God’s church. The words of 1 Peter 5:2-3 help us to understand the pastor should be willingly followed by his congregation as he serves them. If any party in this arrangement fails to honor their part of the agreement, it will end tragically.

Let’s be clear, this doesn’t mean the pastor can get away with anything he wants. If the pastor is guilty of sin, he should be called out. If he is suggesting something that is unbiblical (theology, polity, or otherwise), he should be called out. As the leader that God has called and appointed to faithfully shepherd His church, the pastor should be known as a servant, a servant leader.

Once again the article mentioned above has some insight here:

“Paul said, ‘We do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake’ (2 Corinthians 4:5). The pastor is not sent to proclaim his philosophy, his opinions or his politics. He was not sent to preach his pet theories. He is to preach Jesus. He is sent to serve the Lord’s people, true, but ‘for Jesus’ sake.’ That means the pastor does not take orders from God’s people as to how to serve them; He takes orders from the Lord as to how to serve God’s people.”

Far too many pastors are guilty of preaching their own agendas, views, and positions. And far too many congregations are guilty of telling their pastor how to lead the church and serve the people. At some point we need to understand that sheep don’t tell the shepherd where the best grass is.

Many of the problems that exist in our churches today are there because both the church and the pastor refuse to do what the Bible commands. Pastors fear losing their jobs so they cower and refuse to lead. Congregations fear losing power and control of “their church” so they refuse to be led. Both are wrong. Both are sin. Both are killing churches and driving people away. There’s a reason church planting has exploded in recent years: no one wants to go to established churches and put up with this garbage.

Our churches are dying due to being terribly unhealthy. If something doesn’t change many small churches that exist today will close their doors in the next 10 years. It’s time for pastors to stand boldly and do everything within their power to teach biblical truth about the local church. It’s either that, or die. Your choice.

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