Thursday, September 29, 2011


Ministers are leaders in modern church life. I'm not saying that's the way it should be..but is the way it is. So then leadership leads. But where leadership leads can be disastrous if people follow without question. Modern day ministers, as leaders, are making some huge mistakes in my opinion and I want to gently point out a few that I believe need to be examined carefully. 

Were someone to ask how huge I believe these mistakes are, My answer is..big enough to write about them and that may be because I think too many seem to be following without question.

The first huge mistake is in viewing the role of the pastor as all important. The word "Pastor" only appears once in the scriptures [Elder and Bishop however appear over forty times each.] and out of all the letters written to churches none were addressed to the Pastor. They were generally addressed to the people as the church. 

In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone in the New Testament who would think of a single person as pastor [local fellowships had a plurality of shepherds/Elders] and they certainly would never make the mistake of thinking of a single person, including a pastor, as the head of the church. That place was reserved for the Lord Jesus Himself. 

No one is disputing the need or purpose for having in the body some who shepherd the flock, but in the New Testament it was never to the point of one man/one teacher/one preacher in any gathered group. [Local Church]. That's a modern day mistake made by those who lead that way and the churches that follow them.

Where it has disastrously led us is to the unbiblical place where you can find a local body [church] having "lost" a pastor to another church. They are, thus, handicapped by being "without a pastor" and cannot function in worship or training until one is "called" and sets out his "vision" for the church.

Do you see where this is going? We may not want to call a pastor the head of the church in Baptist theology but we sure live like he is the head.

A second huge mistake made by modern day ministers as leaders is to think of political processes as the way to change a society into what it ought to be.  No one would disagree that things in America are in a mess. But attempting to change society into what it should be by legislating a particular set of Christian values and ethics through the legal processes is a colossal mistake. It would have been unthinkable in the New Testament.

In doing what I just described, Ministers/leaders are forgetting at best or even possibly purposefully ignoring the fact that New Testament believers lived under some horrible and oppressive political systems and yet never attempted to shame, condemn, change, or force their society to become what it ought to be by their Christian definition

They, rather, spent their time in obedience to their Lord, in loving their enemies, doing good to those who used them, and, rather than attacking their enemies verbally, with grace they presented the message of redemption found in the person and work of Christ who is Himself God's Son and who came for fallen human beings. Yet, by any way you choose to measure it, they turned the world upside down with that simple theology and methodology.

I think the simple reason is they never thought of the church as a business to be developed. To them, they were the church, and the scriptures always spoke of them as being a body, a bride, a temple, a holy nation, a peculiar people, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, instructed by the Word of God, belonging to God and strangers to this earth and any era.

It simply would have made no sense to them to form protest groups or establish lobbying groups to change culture or society. That lay in the realm of a returning Lord who will make right all things in its time. 

It was in their message of the gospel that the unique power of God was presented which was sufficient to change people. And it was the deliverance of that message that would not allow any other message to capture their attention or occupy their time and energy. 

More to come.....

Paul B.


Bob Cleveland said...

As Doug Snider told me 40 years ago, the church today is most like an army that's all gone home, leaving only the Generals to wage the war.

It wouldn't work there, either.

makingchristiandisciples said...

Thank you for pointing out that pastors need to spend less time trying to be congressmen and more time preaching the Word. I think we have lost our way in many ways. We need to love God and love others. God will take care of the government.

Aussie John said...


Why, oh, why do you live in the USA, and I live on the other side of the world?

How I resonate to what you have written! You probably get that, anyway.

I thank God for the experiences I've had as a "pastor", even the hurtful ones, because the latter, many years ago,brought me to the realization of the truth of what you are saying.

As you say,"...where leadership leads can be disastrous if people follow without question. Modern day ministers, as leaders, are making some huge mistakes in my opinion..".

These "huge mistakes" are multiplied down through the years because those being trained "follow without question". I did, to a degree, and you did also.

In ministry, I soon found that if one questions the status quo and the hierarchy, things can get rather rough.

In my opinion there is no one person alive who is psychologically, physically, or spiritually equipped to meet the expectations which are placed upon

I have known several who have succumbed,in one way or another, to the pressure of these expectation, even into sin, which can be directly traced to temporary depression and psychological disturbance.

That person is then labelled as apostate, heretic, not a Christian, hypocrite, etc.

The system then continues on. Why? Because we always did it this way!

Why don't those who propound the value of being "good Bereans", according to Acts 17:11, follow their own advice?

I eagerly anticipate the continuation of your thoughts.

Paul Burleson said...


And the Generals aren't marching in the right direction!


Thanks for stopping by and I agree with you here..."I think we have lost our way in many ways."

I'm going to point out a few of those ways and eventually produce some thoughts about changes.

Aussie J,

You got it right on several levels but here..."These "huge mistakes" are multiplied down through the years because those being trained "follow without question". I did, to a degree, and you did also."...I have to definitely plead guilty. It sure makes Grace more real doesn't it!

Christiane said...

Perhaps some people expect too much from a pastor . . . and want him to come 'with a vision for the Church' and lead them?

But the only 'vision' that takes them in the right direction is already in their keeping:
they must, in deep humility, call upon Our Lord for help to see the way ahead.

A thousand-year old prayer speaks of this:

"O Lord, make haste and illumine the night.
Say to my soul
that nothing happens without Your permitting it,
and that nothing of what You permit is without comfort.
O Jesus, Son of God,
You Who were silent in the presence of Your accusers,
restrain my tongue
until I find what should say and how to say it.
Show me the way and make me ready to follow it.
It is dangerous to delay, yet perilous to go forward.
Answer my petition and show me the way.
I come to You as the wounded go to the physician in search of aid.
Give peace, O Lord, to my heart. "

(St. Birgitta)

Only Our Lord Himself can 'illumine the night' for us. Even for the pastors who lead us on the way, they too must rely on Him to show them the way forward.

St. John 14:5 records that Our Lord was asked by St.Thomas, this:

"“Lord, we do not know
where You are going.
How can we know the way?”

The humble heart that is able to ask, is also able to receive the guidance of the Holy Spirit,
and with it, the 'Peace of Christ' that is the sign of Christ's unfailing response.

Rex Ray said...

I believe your post implies that some pastors think they are the only one that God speaks to and to question them is to question God.

This thinking goes back to the day of the early church as the bishop of Antioch, Ignatius, wrote:

“We ought to receive ever one whom the Master of the house sends to be over His household, as we would do Him that sent him. It is manifest, therefore, that we should look upon the bishop even as we would upon the Lord Himself.”

His statement answers the question of Paul when he wrote:

“Oh, foolish Galatians! What magician has hypnotized you? Did you receive the Holy Spirit by trying to keep the Jewish laws? ..have you gone completely crazy? For if trying to obey the Jewish laws never gave you spiritual life in the first place, why do you think that trying to obey them now will make you stronger Christians? (Galatians 3:1-3 Living Bible)

I’d describe Second Corinthians as a running gun battle between Paul and false teachers.

I believe instead of everything being rosy in the early church, their differences make ‘Baptist battles’ look like a picnic.

So how did they turn the world upside down? God can hit straight licks using crooked sticks.

Paul Burleson said...


You said..."But the only 'vision' that takes them in the right direction is already in their keeping:"...couldn't agree more.


You said..."So how did they turn the world upside down? God can hit straight licks using crooked sticks."...couldn't agree more.

You also said..."I believe instead of everything being rosy in the early church, their differences make ‘Baptist battles’ look like a picnic." quarrel there either.

No one who is familiar with fallen human nature would think any segment of the Church [New Testament or otherwise] would be without battles and struggles.

I do think theirs was more of a battle to leave the system of the old and step into the grace of the new. We, in our present day, seem to be leaving the grace of the new and trying to step back into the system of the old.

So I look at the things they were coming to believe and practice, with all their struggles and issues, as the model for what we need to get back to. Whatever their struggles or issues, they were grasping their new found grace with a passion. I want to emulate that if possible.

Every era of the Church will battle. People are involved.

All...Mary and I are doing a marriage retreat at the First Baptist Church of Lubbock Texas for the next few days and I will be away from my computer for the next 48 hours. I'll try to respond to any further comments when I can.

Kate Johnson said...


timely post. In my MDiv class on Galatians, we were discussing Reframing Paul by Strom and it occurred to me how culture has infultrated the church (rather than the other way around)and we treat the pastor as the CEO and not the shepherd. Too much power, too much responsibility.

And then in a class I am teaching on Conflict Management, the text talks about "Globally" changing thngs and taking a "global perspectve" in order to bring about peace and social justce. All the students agreed until I said "isn't bringing about peace intensely personal and individual?" They looked puzzled, and finally understood as I explained. Until each indvidual is changed in their heart and desires peace, then all the global glasses mean nothing. Peace seeking is incredibly personal. And so are our responsibilities and visions as Christians. It is not the pastor who leads but Christ.

Aussie John said...


I couldn't help commenting, having read Kate's words.

My assumption is that she is young, or relatively so, which causes me to appreciate her words all the more.

How rare it is to read someone whose mind is still their own, and understands something about the realities of personal responsibility.

How I love that last sentence! Kate seems to also grasp the fact that Christ is the head of the church.

Kate Johnson said...

Aussie Paul,

thanks for the kind words. I may be in school (actually finihing my MDiv an Min at te same time) but Iwish I could say I was young :) and in somecircles would be so. But reality is I am part of the over 50 crowd who decided to go back to school... again! I just happen to have experienced and too often see the results when we have too high a view of the wrong things. I deal with it every day in the ministry I lead.

Kate Johnson said...

and yes, my mind is sill my own :)Probably why some pastors cringe when they see me coming! Seriously! I'm not afaid to question or comment!

Paul Burleson said...


From the "for what it's worth" department...I TOTALLY agree with Aussie L. [Nothing unusual about that by any means.] ;)

Paul Burleson said...

Make that "Aussie J.] Sorry, I hit the wrong button. LOL

Kate Johnson said...

oops, Aussie John... sorry... and thanks. I don't know why, but when I type on the net, half my letters get left out and I go back over and miss so many. (I really should type, cut and paste) So I meant I am doing my DMin while finishing my MDiv (2 more classes to finish). So sorry for the typos an confusion, Paul AND John.

Again, thanks to you both.

Kat said...

I followed Aussie John's blog over here and am so glad I did. Paul, you have hit so many nails on the head with this. Nearly every church in our area is "pastor-dependent"--some more so than others, but it is sad to see pulpit worship where the messenger is given higher respect than the message.