Words of a Fether

Opinions on Faith and Life


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.

Posted 2009-09-30 under assembly, church, Christianity, Organization, Christian Living, religion, control, hierarchy, pastor