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The First Pastor: The Good Shepherd October 4, 2010

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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In many respects the church today seems to have lost sight of the fact that Jesus Christ was the first Pastor and that He is therefore the standard-bearer for the role of being a pastor. Not only was Jesus the first Pastor but He is still the chief Pastor (1 Pet 5:4) and Head of the Church (Col 1:18). In John 10:11 Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd” and no other person qualifies as such, not the Pope, not the patriarchs of the Orthodox Churches and not “Daddy G.O.”. If Jesus is therefore the Good Shepherd what better example do we have to follow than Jesus Himself? In today’s churches however we have gone after our own way to establish man-made institutions, practices and canons concerning the role of pastors, which are contrary to the Gospel. However, it should be clear that if we need any clarification or questions answered concerning the role of pastoring then we have only to look to Jesus’ example as laid out in Scriptures. The Apostle Paul for example admonished us in 1 Cor 11: 1 to be followers of himself even as he is a follower of Christ. It is therefore Christ’s example that we should seek to follow and not man’s.

Children Obey your “fathers” in the Lord… September 27, 2010

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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How do you view your pastors? Do you put them on a pedestal and reverence them as if they were Christ Himself? Many, people in Christendom today literally worship their pastors who are held aloft of their congregations yet this is in contradiction of scriptures. Perhaps one of the contributing factors to this status quo is that today many pastors hold lofty titles such as “Most Reverend” or “Right Reverend” or more academic letters such as “Dr” compared to the early apostles. These early apostles did not demand to be reverenced by their flocks but instead they acted in “servitude” to Christ and His gospel.

This is not to say that as Christians and fellow brethren we should not respect our pastors but the reverence we show them should not be anymore or less than what we show to other ordinary brethren. By washing His disciples’ feet, Jesus showed us the example to follow in that those who lead must first serve. But in stark contrast to scripture those who lead in churches today are instead served by the congregation. They are held in high esteem and are literally carried about on a litter as if they were kings. Moreover, these ministers indeed rule their churches as if they were kings and many of the congregants run to and fro at the beck and call of these people. The question here is not whether or not one should serve their ministries and the pastor who lead these ministries but we should be seeking to serve each other as if we are indeed serving Christ Jesus. However, what is happening in many churches today is that there is a misplaced loyalty that is afforded to the pastor and the same is not afforded among the brethren. In this way many of the brethren have become somewhat of a slave to the minister and his every word is taken as law. Even if such a minister speaks in error no one dares to challenge it, because such a challenge would be deemed a challenge to his very authority as leader and head.

Truthfully the scriptures doth say we should submit to those that have been placed above us but likewise scripture admonish those in pastoral position not to laud it over the flock but to act in humility. However such humility is bereft in most of Christendom today. Seemingly pastors have replaced Christ as the head of their churches and require church members to subjugate themselves to their authority. But in truth we as Christians are to submit ourselves one to another as scripture commands, as submitting to Christ who is the Head of the Church. The status quo in many churches however lends itself to spiritual abuse by leaders and elders who have walked after their own way instead of subjecting themselves to the Word of scripture. As a result many church goers have become confused as to whether they should obey their pastors every command as failing to do so might incur curses. But the Lord would not have you walk in darkness as scripture imposes a duty on us to walk away from such false teachings and practices. Christ did not come to put us in bondage but to free us therefore we should seek to walk in the light of His truth instead of suffering through ignorance.

The Church as a Business July 6, 2010

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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One of the quickest ways to become rich today is to become a pastor and start your own church. Seriously, this is no joke! All you need to do is to declare that “God gave you a vision” to build the biggest church in Europe or America or Africa and you promote the vision heavily. You develop a seeker sensitive, purpose driven doctrine and employ church growth strategies to ensure the pews are filled. Another essential ingredient is to ensure you have a band and a choir to provide lively music and you provide a vibrant, fiery message to create a “spiritual atmosphere” and take the people on a “spiritual” high. You turn them into “spiritual” junkies so that they keep coming back for fix and they will even gladly pay for the privilege too when you make demands on them to part with their cash in the form of various seed sowing/offerings. You appoint yourself as the MD or CEO of “Your Name” Ministries Inc and you appoint your sons and daughters as members of the board. You prepare materials such as books, CDs, DVDs and you promote them in the church services by giving a taster to get the people interested and you impress upon them to buy these vital materials and get their friends to purchase them also. Thus you create a market not only in your church but across many churches. You then sit back and watch the cash rolling in and you say to yourself, “soul take thine ease and enjoy the fruits of thy labour.”

As you become richer and richer your lifestyle changes and you start to wear expensive clothing, wear expensive jewellery and drive expensive cars. Why heck, why stop here now, you may even establish an aeroplane fund to buy your own Lear jet and say it is for the church but only you and a select few confidants will be travelling in it on speaking engagements abroad. You are in high demand and you charge a hefty fee arranged prior to accepting the speaking assignment. To keep the charade going you convince the people that your wealth was solely derived from the blessing of having paid the $1000 seed or from tithing faithfully. You may even claim to pay the 90% tithe and live off 10% to encourage people to follow suit and give more, thinking they will be blessed likewise, and come to enjoy the “abundant life” too. You run the church with a strong hand and swiftly and forcefully put down any challenge to your authority as the senior pastor and head of the church. You may even misquote scriptures like, “Touch not mine anointed and do my prophets no harm” to make the people afraid of saying anything that will expose you. You may also use other scriptures to demonstrate how the people should submit themselves to the pastors put above them.

The above scenario is unfortunately the way a lot of modern churches have been established and are controlled and this is allowed to happen because the people are gullible and undiscerning. When a pastor claims to have received a vision from God to build the biggest church in an area for example, we need to ask, is God competing against Himself? Why should He give one man such a vision when in all probability other smaller churches will be in the same area? Take GODTV for example where Rory and Wendy Alec claims that God gave them this vision of building this television ministry to bring about 1 billion souls for Christ. I think in many cases, rather than having received such a vision these desires are born out of hubris however noble the intentions seems to be. Indeed it is Jesus’ wish to see the gospel preached in all the world and this was the great commission given to the original apostles (Matt 28:19-20). If we notice though, none of the apostles were given any special mandate to “win” more souls than another. Further more Jesus said wherever two or three are gathered in His name He will be there in the midst (Matt 18:20).

It is therefore not about establishing huge church gatherings because the church is simply one body (of Christ). This idea of one man getting a vision to build a church however lends itself to such a venture becoming his own private business and thus lead to spiritual abuses. It may be called church, look like a church, sound like a church but in reality it is no more than a business owned and controlled by its owners. The members are therefore its customers who pay a fee for whatever services they enjoy. This is the sad state of affairs within some organisations called churches. On literally every street corner churches like these are popping up but they couldn’t be further away from the true gospel message.

By what title do you address your pastor? June 25, 2010

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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In Christendom today it is quite customary for church ministers, pastors and certain elders to append titles to their names to perhaps signify rank and authority. For example, today we have pastor with titles such as, Senior Pastor, General Overseer, Apostle, Bishop, Archbishop, Cardinal, Rt Reverend, Patriarch, Metropolitan, Father, Abbot, Dr, etc. All of these different titles enable a system of hierarchy within the church and enables individuals to be exalted and venerated above their congregations as if they are somehow different or superior. The question I would like to ask though is whether any of this is biblical? Why have we become so besotted with lofty titles in the church? Does the Gospel support this milieu?

In attempting to answer the aforementioned questions we may note what Jesus said:

 8But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. 9And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. 10Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. 11But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. (Matt 23:8-12)

From verse 1 of the passage we note that Jesus was speaking to both the multitude gathered before Him and His disciples when He uttered these words. Jesus has made it plain here that we should not seek to appropriate titles unto ourselves as Christians but rather that we should see each other as brothers and sisters. Jesus fully well knew of man’s lust of the flesh for power and recognition and this can be seen from His description of the Pharisees and scribes in the previous verses. Are we not therefore disobeying Christ by maintaining this hierarchical system along with its associated titles? Howbeit that man’s heart has become so haughty to the point where he can claim to be a follower of Christ but blatantly ignore His position on this issue? It is interesting to note that even the disciples suffered from this haughtiness when they came to Jesus and asked who is greatest in the Kingdom (Matt 18:1-4)? Jesus’ response however was that unless one humbles himself as a little child he cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven. Jesus made it clear also in Matt 23:11 that the greatest amongst “you” would be “your” servant. It is clear then that this system of hierarchical structures and associated titles are an affront to the Gospel to say the least.

It goes without saying that in our church structures today those that assume lofty positions certainly do not act as servants but are rather treated in a lot of cases as demigods. Instead of them being servants to the church they are instead served by the church in a relationship akin to sovereign and subjects thus creating a system of government with the church. The idea of priest vs laity for example is promulgated throughout the church yet scripture has made it know to us that in Christ we are all priests (1 Peter 2:9). If we also look at the example of the early apostles like Paul, we note that he addressed the Thessalonians for example as brothers as opposed to lauding it over them as General Overseer. This was the example given to him by the Lord Jesus, and this was the example that he followed.

Peter also laid down the standard of how the elders who “pastor” the flock should conduct themselves:

1The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 4And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. 5Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. (1 Peter 5:1-5) Emphasis added.

It is clearly laid out here that pastors/elders should not be “lording” it over the flock (God’s heritage) but should instead display a sense of humility in their character. Why then has the modern church become so far removed from these examples? Have we become so wise in our conceit? I pray the church would return to the truth of scriptures concerning this area.