Opinions on faith and life

Pastorized

2009-09-30

As you know, pasteurization is the process by which bad things — and good things too— in food (usually liquids, and especially milk and fruit juices) are destroyed. But what I call “pastorization” is pretty much the spiritual equivalent: some good may come of it, but something important in the Body of Christ dies too.

Many believe that without the pastor-driven church there would be chaos, which even on the surface is obvious fear-mongering. The Holy Spirit is quite capable of guiding and protecting those he indwells, but only if they listen carefully to his guidance. Since it seems that many do not listen, is the best solution to hand over all the listening to one person or small group? Not at all. Even a group of pastors can be dominated by the strongest personality (the unbiblical “head pastor”), whose “vision” or “calling” trumps all other voices, and they are no closer to God than any other believers.

If it is feared that the unwashed masses will chase after other gods should they leave the “covering” of the ruling committee or chief CEO, then who is to blame but those very leaders? What have they been feeding the sheep— sheep that belong not to them but to Another? Have they been giving them pablum instead of “teaching them to fish” or letting them graze freely in “green pastures” and drink from “quiet waters”? What reason would there be to fear the wandering off of the flock if the sheep have been well-trained to handle the Word?

It is a vicious cycle of domination and dependency, a homogenization of the distinguishable parts of the Body into a blob of goo that can do neither harm nor help, evil nor good. And just as pasteurized milk can still be contaminated by improper handling, so also can pastorized/homogenized believers be contaminated by false teachings from the “pulpit”. All depends on one or a few, which reduces the number of targets Satan has to be concerned with. Control the one or the few, and you have everyone.

Most defenses I’ve heard of the top-down, CEO/board of directors model of “church”, when confronted with the fact that this model cannot be derived from the NT, resort to the claim that Christianity would never reach as many of the lost, nor serve the needs of the found, without it. But how would anyone know, and how did the first believers grow so rapidly in numbers without it? Have we not traded the “organic”, healthy model for the sterile, dead model? Where is the Life in it? Sure, God can work around human institutions as He always has, but this is a poor argument for continuing them.

Other defenses center around English (mis)translations of proof-texts such as Heb. 13:7,17 but ignore verses like 2 Cor. 13:10 and 1 Peter 5:2-3. Leadership in Christianity was never meant to be like the hierarchy of the world (Mt. 20:25-28) but true, lowly, humble service. They are to build up instead of tear down, to empower instead of subdue, to equip instead of constrain. And many “pastors” (used as a job title instead of a spiritual gift like any other), however humble and serving, still have a job for which they are paid, a staff to support them, and a congregation which is expected to follow his direction.

But if we consider the teachings and examples of Jesus, Paul, Peter, and all the other leaders in the NT, what we see is true humility and true service, done from below instead of above, and done without payment, prestige, or pampering. As I’ve said before, the true test of humility would be this: to give up the title and paycheck, the office and staff, the “pulpit” and raised platform, and everything else that no other spiritual gift claims as its right and privilege. If they are truly leading as Jesus did, they need none of those things. If they are truly “feeding the sheep” as Jesus commanded, the sheep will not wander off. If they are properly handling the scriptures, people will know and learn.

I challenge anyone out there with the title “pastor” or otherwise functioning in such an “office”, to give up everything but the serving. To “watch over” is not to boss but to guard, and it is not the place of the guard to demand others stand behind his or her protection. People will recognize a real guard, and if they don’t, no amount of coercion will protect them anyway. Try this and see if God will not “open the windows of heaven” in terms not of money or popularity but spiritual blessings.

27 Comments

Leadership Part III - a Church.

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Dave

"I challenge anyone out there with the title “pastor” or otherwise functioning in such an “office”, to give up everything but the serving."

It is a good challenge! I do not feel I ever entered the "job" with the plan of "bossing" anyone, though I am aware that I am given a house and a salary. In someways I do not have an issue with this - I trained for a job recognised by our government for "special" tax consideration, partly because I am not well paid for my four years of training!

BUT - I really struggle with the idea that many people in church see me as paid to carry out their spiritual responsibilities. I do not consider myself paid to undertake my own spiritual responsibilities let alone someone elses! I am paid to carry out a task/s that our church considers freeing someone up to do, but as far as loving those inmy church, that I cannot be paid to do. That I do because Christ has worked in my heart!

Not sure if all that was very clear!

Joel

Why do you have to start such things!

First, to add a bit, ’minister’ in Greek means to server - shouldn’t we all be ministers. Second, they we do have overseers, but they are not, should not be the CEO type. They are the leaders, but not masters.

Just my 3.4 euros

Oh, and great post!

Paula Fether

Why do you have to start such things!

It’s my nature. [/tongue-in-cheek]

First, to add a bit, ‘minister’ in Greek means to server – shouldn’t we all be ministers. Second, they we do have overseers, but they are not, should not be the CEO type. They are the leaders, but not masters.

Yep. We’re all serving, but it seems only one "gift" is exempt from also having to earn their own living while supporting others monetarily. This one gift has traded a basin and a towel for an office and a throne.

Just my 3.4 euros

Wow, that’s about $5 USD! I only get 2¢. ;-)

Oh, and great post!

Tanx! :-)

Debbie Kaufman

I agree with you here Paula. I think church members need to be free to use the gifts given to them by God through the Holy Spirit. If this was done, more churches would be thriving and in sync with God’s purpose for the church which is more than just a social get together with a few Bible lessons thrown in.

Joel

Debbie, this is something that I believe Josh Mann touched on yesterday

http://www.sakeoftruth.com/2009/09/the-jesus-paradigm-by-black/

Too often, congregations pay clergy so as not to have to do anything themselves.

Frankly, I believe that most of Christianity is a Milgram Experiment.

Paula Fether

@Debbie: Yes, for the most part it’s been "churchianity" or a Christian club. We go to be entertained and pumped up, either praising or critiquing the performances, and doing all the personal interaction between events.

@Joel: You made me go and look up Milgram experiment, but at least I knew what it was about and just didn’t know the name. And it’s sad but true. I’ve read many "mind control" articles about various organizations, including mainstream churches, and that’s exactly what it is. Even the most seemingly benign congregations engage in peer pressure to one degree or another (which can be good in one sense, but rarely is).

Lin

Ok, this is your best post ever. Amen and Amen.

And the point about paying people as employees to do the things the Body should be doing is right on. I know from my experience in the CEO mega church model where there was a ’minister’ of everything you could imagine. Paid hirlings.

And as to your point about paying for spiritual gift of pastoring when other gifts are seen as NOT needing to be paid, what would your response be to those who claim a worker is worthy of his wage? Don’t muzzle the ox? They like to trot that one out and they really like the ’double honor’ but seem to forget that Paul made tents so as not to be a burden.

Lin

I can remember reading a study a long time ago about many Nazi death camp guards who were brutal all day long and then went home and were excellent, loving husbands and fathers. See, they were only following orders at work.

Paula Fether

Why thank you Lin! That’s a true compliment. :-) But of course as you know, if it’s good, I only passed it along.

I think we covered that bit about "double honor" a while back, but basically I’d ask them, "So who gets ’single honor’?" If it’s about pay, then who gets half a "pastor’s" salary? And of course, the context is about honor, because Paul immediately follows that statement with the "dark side" of double honor: double shame. Just as it takes more than one witness to bring an accusation against an elder, so also it requires swift and public reprimand if the charge is true.

And of course the point you brought up is vital too: that Paul never demanded to use his rights. His motivation for doing so is what I wrote about in that post on people who have received their reward, that by not taking payment in this life, he’d be greatly rewarded in the next.

Greg Anderson

Paula,

You’d really enjoy an old book I recently read. "Lost Horizon" by James Hilton.

It’s probably out of print now, I was lucky to obtain an old copy from the local public library.

It’s a short read and well worth it. It touches on the good, the bad, and the ugly of human nature and the need for self-restraint of the bad & the ugly.

Paula Fether

Thanks Greg, I’ll see if I can find it online. :-)

Ah, there it is.

Lydia

"irst, to add a bit, ‘minister’ in Greek means to server – shouldn’t we all be ministers."

Exactly.

After all,we are all priests now in the Holy Priesthood if saved

And all true believers have ’anointing’ according to 1 John.

That includes us gals. :o)

Paula Fether

Yep.

To ask the very question, "Who’s in charge?", belies a fundamental misunderstanding of the "nature" of the Christian life: "in Christ there is no... for you are all ONE...". Whether we’re talking about clergy/laity, husband/wife, or any other arrangement, the same foundational principle holds true. It is only when we lack faith in the Holy Spirit to guide and protect that we set up our own fleshly, visible hierarchies. We crave sight over faith.

Paula Fether

@Greg re. "Lost Horizon"--

Beside the unanswerable question about whether the story about Shangri-la was true or not, I kept thinking: What good is it to preserve life if it does not affect others? To cloister ourselves away is to stop caring, and to perpetuate such a system just for its own sake is no better than a hamster running in a wheel.

And that’s exactly what "churches" are, huh Greg? ;-)

Lydia

There was a old movie made based on that book.

Sonnet

I think it was somewhere around 3 to 5 years ago that I heard some of the Christians in China have been praying for Americans - that we would be driven underground by persecution. From their personal history of persecution, they thought this would be beneficial for the large number of luke-warm Christians here. I guess a form of refining by fire to remove the impurities from the gold.

I’m curious as to what their house churches are like.

Thank you Paula for another great post. I find it interesting that your name happens to be a feminine form of Paul. :)

Paula Fether

Tanx Sonnet! (And I can hear certain popular "pastors" reaching for the Alka-Seltzer!)

I haven’t read a lot about the underground church in China, but have heard that they understandably are not concerned with who does what or why people sin, only that the gospel is preached.

Greg Anderson

I hear ya Paula.

Hilton’s story is purely fictional I agree, but it does bring up the problem of human hierarchy and "pecking order".

It only becomes a problem when those at the top of the heap have lost touch with those they lead.

Dee

Paula you are awesome! Ok your source/supplier is Almighty and Awesome ;-) Have a great 20th anniversary mini-vacation...

Paula Fether

@Greg: yep. The people were clearly there to serve the needs of their betters, who did nothing discernible for them.

@Dee: On behalf of the Source of all wisdom, thank you!

Lin

"I haven’t read a lot about the underground church in China, but have heard that they understandably are not concerned with who does what or why people sin, only that the gospel is preached."

My sister was there last year and they were taken to quite a few government approved churches...even Baptist! They all had the signs of different religions on the front..such as the Crescent for Islam, etc. To them it denotes a religious group meets here. Very strange.

They wanted so badly to meet some from the true Body but were warned not to even say the word church

She did get to see Lottie Moons house which is way off the beaten path and has NO marker at all. It is not on the official tour and you need some other reason to go to that village. Some family lives there and it is a hovel. It still has no indoor plumbing.

I think our children will see the day Chinese missionaries will come here to teach us about The Way.

Paula Fether

I see what you’re saying, Dave. If so, you seem to be agreeing with what I said about dependency, is that right?

And I recognize that this model is supported by long tradition, such that it would be difficult for many to imagine "church" without it. But I really think that "clergy" and "laity" together need to seriously and prayerfully ask themselves whether this arrangement allows too many people to be more spectators than participants, and to ask themselves why only one spiritual gift is elevated to a paid position as well. They will say they do participate to some degree, and it’s true. But the point is that the participation we see in the NT is not just "busy-ness" but the exercise of spiritual gifts to build each other up.

For example, I was a church musician from my teens to my late 40s, from a family of church musicians. We all said we were doing it for the glory of God and to build up the people by providing inspiring music. But the unspoken reality was that we were performers for an audience, many of whom only came to hear the music and would quickly leave if it were sub-standard. Sunday services were hectic for us instead of rejuvenating, and mistakes brought acute embarrassment as well as scowls from the "worshipers". It was a job, albeit an unpaid one. We did enjoy it when things went well, and that was enough to keep us at it.

Now I’m all in favor of Christians having concerts or plays and such, but that is "icing on the cake". The "cake" is teaching, prophecy, healing, contending... all the things that matter in eternity. Feeling spiritual is nice, but being spiritual is a whole different matter. We have, as a group, lost our priorities, trading the cause for the effect.

What I’m trying to convey in this post is that all believers need to take stock of where we are as a group, why we do what we do, and whether we’ve strayed too far from home.

Dave

I am with you Paula - 100%!

I am keen to be challenged, I am excited by what God can do in the lives of people. I am also excited to have been exposed to these challenges through others. I guess I grew up in a traditional model and now I work in a traditional model, but I have been learning to question it over the last 10 years, and I have been very encouraged to learn that I am not the only one!

Thanks for your honest and challenging comments Paula.

Paula Fether

You’re very welcome, Dave. :-)

Just doin’ my job, ya know. ;-)

Sonnet

Hi Paula,

I just read a blog here - http://umbl0g.blogspot.com/ about how the early church channeled money to help the poor. Oh, how far we have fallen.

Many years back I attended a church that created a special fund drive because they wanted to help single moms with daycare, job training, etc. We were also told that some changes would need to be made to the building to help facilitate this. In the end, when not enough funds were donated to make this become a reality, the staff decided that the funds which had been donated should be used to create nicer office rooms for the pastors and a nicer entry way into the church. I definitely felt like we had been fleeced! :(

Another disturbing thing that I’ve seen at at least a couple of different churches is special, reserved, *prime* parking spaces for their pastors. I think that your synopsis is, unfortunately, very accurate.

Paula Fether

Thanks Sonnet, I’ll check that link.

That incident you mentioned does sound like a bait-and-switch, doesn’t it. Makes you wonder.

And I agree, it’s pretty hard for any "pastor" to claim humility with all those perks, regardless of how they live and teach. Which, again, is why I issued that challenge. That would be a real "separation of sheep and goats".