Opinions on faith and life

More Equal, Humble, and Proud Of It

In my recent article Benevolent Lording Over I wrote about the issue of degree vs. kind on the topic of male supremacism. But today I’d like to write about it on the topic of pastor supremacism (see also How Not to Critique a Book). A good friend pointed me to a blog post called Self-Depreciating Narcissism among Christian Leaders, which prompted me to not only point others to it but also emphasize the points it makes that lend support to claims I’ve made in the past. Please read the post there, and remember that this is what outsiders to the churches see.

I know what some of you are thinking: this is an extreme example meant to make all churches/ministries look bad. But that objection only works if the principles underlying the church model are sound and Biblical. Is the elevation of personalities and charismatic leaders really only a problem when done in excess, or is even the slightest elevation a rebellion against Jesus’ command, Not so among you? Are some believers really more equal than others, even just a little? If so, then Paul didn’t write this in 1 Cor. 12:22-24—

Rather, those parts of the body that seem weaker are more necessary, and those parts that we consider nothing we actually treat with more respect. We cover our private parts but give them the utmost respect and care, while our respectable parts have no such need. So God assembled the body and gave the most vulnerable parts the greatest honor.
Clearly there are no better or more important parts in the Body of Christ. It’s very much the same principle as found in James 1:10-11—
The lowly should celebrate their greatness, yet the rich should celebrate their lowliness, being no more than garden flowers that quickly wilt.
And again in 1 Cor. 11:11-12—
In the Master, however, woman and man are not independent of each other. For just as woman came from man, so also all men have come from women ever since— but we all come from God.
Along with Jesus’ not so among you, the clear teaching of all these scriptures is that though we all have our specialties, none of us are to be elevated because of them. Are you an entitled Pastor? Are you therefore to be more respected and pampered and pitied than the volunteer church workers who pay your salary with their day jobs? If you can stomach it, take a look at this example of what its defenders would present as the opposite of the main article I’ve written about here:
October is pastor appreciation month. To show your pastoral staff appreciation (youth pastors, music pastors, children’s pastors, senior pastors, etc.), here are 10 things you can do. I have either had these things given to me or have seen them given to other pastors. Most of these things are monetary, because most of the pastors that I know could use help financially. Very few that I know make enough money to live comfortably.
From just that opening paragraph you can easily see the appeal to pity (and cash), and the elevation of the man (and in that site, they do mean only the MAN). This is how and where it starts. Oh, and the writer of that article is a pastor— a conflict of interest not lost on a few of the commenters on the article. Many of that site’s supporters of the elevated pastor are also pastors. It’s no different from politicians voting generous salaries and pensions for themselves, which even the lost see as corruption. (And by the way, October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. What a coincidence.)

In the comments of the main article we see another consequence of such teachings/actions, one that I’ve touched on before regarding ex-Christians:

my friends preacher states on sun morning when he wants extra money.

go home pray to god and let god decide how much you should give.

it works every time last week he raised 10,000 plus besides the regular sun morning take.

moral of story god is very generous with your money. :-)

he also states god is with us today in church. hidden meaning of course if you are not in church god is not with you. god is not infinite thing just in church with you.

atheists are made not born and religion is the best atheist maker there is, scientism comes in a close second.

How many more souls have been repulsed by the crass and self-serving materialism/narcissism of Pastors? Is this to be excused by the claim that so many more are (allegedly) saved? Is the exchange rate acceptable? Even if the elevation is claimed to be minimal and coated with sixteen layers of flowery adjectives, it is still the very idea of some parts being more important than others that violates the very essence of what it means to be in Christ. Hierarchy is hierarchy regardless of the situation, and it has no place in the Body of Christ.

What, indeed, would Jesus do?

5 Comments

Lin

Thanks for the links to the Watt article. He really nails it and you have made the great point that it is not about excesses. It is about the very idea of someone more elevated who is deserving of special recognition in the Body. And this is even though they are already paid to be exercise that spiritual gift!!! (If that is what they are doing) What prompted a "pastor" to write this about ideas to recognize pastors, anyway? There must be an "I’m special" class at seminary. The whole whiny pastor thing is really getting old. We hear it from both mega church pastors and small church pastors. How hard their "calling" is. I would advise them to trade places with a low paid working single mom for a week. They would keel over from anxiety, doing the bill shuffle and exhaustion. Of course, her pastor is preaching for her to "tithe" instead of helping make her burden lighter.

SaberTruth

Hi Jared, Please understand that this is not focused solely on you, but that your article happened to be a recent example of what I see as a very typical and pervasive problem. This is about all churches, small and large, Protestant and RCC. In the light of the scriptures I presented above (and many others I’ve written about before), I see no support for the elevation of only one spiritual gift in authority over others, regardless of how benevolently that authority may be exercised.  To have any authority over other adult believers is elevation; there’s just no escaping this. People can lead without taking authority, and this is exactly what the last chapter of Hebrews says in the Greek, and the example even of Paul who refused to "make children support their parents". Authority, as he himself said, is "to build you up". Why is it that pastors are so overburdened and stressed out? Jesus’ burden is light and easy. The fact is that no one was ever burdened by God with what tradition has decided certain people should carry. The traditional pastor has been a CEO, a businessman, a "high priest" in spite of us all being priests and all being anointed. All others are expected to exercise their spiritual gifts at no charge plus pay the salary of those with the gift of shepherding. They are the stressed- out ones, being laden with guilt over not giving enough. When in the NT did "pastor" become a job title and a salaried position? All I see in the NT is a gift mentioned only once among others. It has been morphed into prophet and missionary and CEO. I can see supporting missionaries; this is what we see in the NT. Those who traveled had often given up their former country, their livelihood, and their possessions. Their support was to be for basic necessities like food and clothing, not houses, cars, vacations, and all the other trappings of tradition. I could go on, and have written much about this already, some at my books site you can visit by the link in the sidebar. And I’m sure you’ve heard of Frank Viola and John Zens, if you’d like to read more about these things. But my premise is that the traditional/modern Pastor is not found in the pages of the NT.

Jared Moore

Paula, I don’t understand how I elevated any man.  In the sbc, most churches do something for their pastor(s) during the month of October.  All I did was try to provide some suggestions for things that they can do. I serve in Rural KY; and most of the pastors I converse with are struggling financially.  I get emails from pastors asking advice about how to approach their congregations concerning their financial need. I love my church very much; and I’m no better than they are.  I appreciate them very much.  They’re very kind to me and my family.

SaberTruth

Exactly, Lin. It astounds me that anyone can’t see that the "church pastor" is an elevated position. It keeps going back to that Animal Farm "more equal" concept, or the dialectic (problem/reaction/solution): set up a clergy class, complain about the great burden of being in charge, then use guilt, fear, or pity to goad the people into keeping the pedestals shiny.

SaberTruth

Check out the results of a search on "pastor is not a profession" . Everyone thinks "pastor" is a profession, a career. And because they think that, they complain about what a tough, demanding, stressful, under-appreciated  office it is. They compare it to other jobs and whine about how little they get for what they do. But they never stop to ask whether "pastor" is ever described in scripture as anything close to a career. They never consider how much work other believers do for free and without adulation or respect, plus pay the salaries/gifts/benefits for someone who expects to make a living off them. It just defies description.

The Bible must be the invention either of good men or angels, bad men or devils, or of God. However, it was not written by good men, because good men would not tell lies by saying ‘Thus saith the Lord’; it was not written by bad men because they would not write about doing good duty, while condemning sin, and themselves to hell; thus, it must be written by divine inspiration. ~ Charles Wesley, McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict , 1990:178.

Christians are not distinct from the rest of men in country or language or customs. For neither do they dwell anywhere in special cities of their own nor do they use a different language, nor practice a conspicuous manner of life… But dwelling as they do in Hellenic and in barbaric cities, as each man's lot is, and following the customs of the country in dress and food and the rest of life, the manner of conduct which they display is wonderful and confessedly beyond belief. They inhabit their own fatherland, but as sojourners; they participate in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign country is to them a fatherland and every fatherland a foreign country… They live on the earth but their citizenship is in heaven.~ The Epistle to Diognetus, near the end of the second century.

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