The Pastor: Obstacle To Every Member Functioning

This chapter was rather personal for me.  Up to this point, I had been in partial agreement with Frank Viola and George Barna, especially in their critique of church buildings.  But the pastor!

To Viola and Barna the modern day pastor is an easy target—a punching bag, if you will:

THE PASTOR. He is the fundamental figure of the Protestant faith.  So prevailing is the pastor in the minds of most Christians that he is often better known, more highly praised, and more heavily relied upon than Jesus Christ Himself!

Remove the pastor and most Protestant churches would be thrown into a panic.  (pp. 105-6, Pagan Christianity, emphasis mine)

A bit of an overstatement by Viola and Barna: The pastor is not better known that Jesus Christ Himself.  That he’s often put on a pedestal goes without saying.

Permit us to get personal.  We believe the pastoral office has stolen your right to function as a full member of Christ’s body.  It has distorted the reality of the body, making the pastor a giant mouth and transforming you into a tiny ear.  It has rendered you a mute spectator who is proficient at taking sermon notes and passing an offering plate. (p. 136, emphasis mine)

Again, this may be the case in a number of local churches.  But hardly believe this description is the norm.  At best, this is a caricature by Frank Viola and George Barna.

Are there pastors who should leave the pastorate immediately?  You know the answer.  Are there pastors who have forgotten that they are merely under-shepherds?  Absolutely!

Here’s the grind: Jesus and Paul are better critics of the pastor and his function than Viola and Barna.

But there are some good historical facts in the chapter.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Christology, Church, Pagan Christianity, Pastoral, Pauline and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

72 Responses to The Pastor: Obstacle To Every Member Functioning

  1. Darrell Deer says:

    This must be an emerging theme because I have encountered it in some other places this week (none as pointed or critical as the quotes you presented). As a pastor, I know my sins and failings are numerous. I also agree with your sentiment that some are unfit to serve. With that said, however, I don’t think any of the churches I’ve served would be better off without someone serving as pastor. Furthermore (and I offer this without fully reading Barna’s book), it strikes me as somewhat of an unbiblical concept to suggest that churches don’t need pastors (assuming that elders/overseers consisted of pastors). I wonder (somewhat tongue in cheek), who would buy all of Mr. Barna’s books if there were no pastors?

  2. T.C. R says:

    With that said, however, I don’t think any of the churches I’ve served would be better off without someone serving as pastor.

    Darrell, yes, an overstatement by the authors.

    I wonder (somewhat tongue in cheek), who would buy all of Mr. Barna’s books if there were no pastors?

    Pastors are easy targets, you see. 😀

  3. Kevin Sam says:

    On Sunday, I asked the youth what they thought church was about. One kid said “The pastor”. That shocked me b/c I didn’t expect that to come out. I had to quickly re-educate this bunch of youth. I told them it was not about me. It was about Jesus and about we who are in the community with one another in Christ. Re-education!!

  4. T.C. R says:

    Kevin, that must have been a shocker, right?

    • Kevin Sam says:

      I was downright ashamed! I wrote “Pastor” on the blackboard and put a big “X” across it just to get that into their heads. I tried to reeducate these kids that we are all equally important in the priesthood of all believers.

  5. Oh, my! How many more tortured Ministers of Music and Youth Ministers are we going to have now? 😉

    I’m at a loss to understand just what the authors think church services are supposed to be. Just because there are leaders, does that make the singing, praying, and studying the Word by the congregation null and void? Have Protestant ministers begun performing services behind a screen with their back to the congregation?

    Are the authors saying that the mutual support of fellow believers, outreach, bible studies, sunday school, children and youth minstries, etc, are all useless in churches because the big stars, the ministers aren’t involved?

    If, on the other hand, they are decrying the lack of involvement of many church members in the activities and work of their churches, the authors have a point, but that’s hardly the ministers’ fault, is it?

    The more you quote from this book, TC, the less use I have for it.

  6. T.C. R says:

    The more you quote from this book, TC, the less use I have for it.

    Chuck, for these guys the main motif is the priesthood of all believers.

    And yes, I don’t think they really understand its full import. To them its more like a buzz phrase. Proof texts of their is 1 Corinthian 12 and 12 to support their buzz phrase. But they do injustice to Paul.

  7. R. says:

    From the selectd passages I’ve seen here these guys simply sound bitter. The best thing to do when some one says something to u out of bitterness or anger is to not give them the audience. They do bring up a good point of discussion but their presentation is more about sensationalism than serious discourse. When I’m preaching we experience a heightened sense of circulation, of give-and-take. I’m always listening to the spirits of the ppl and most of all listening to the Spirit. And so the preaching is just one component of many in the service. I’m sure there are many good, pastors out there who – like Peter said “I love you” and heard the Lord say “Feed my sheep” and even those who were “kicking against the goads” before taking upon the yoke of Christ – that can relate to the unselfish (but rather self-giving) nature of that give-and-take experience when preaching. For it is “through the foolishness of preaching” as some dude named Paul said like a really long long time ago.

  8. T.C. R says:

    R,

    It’s the pastor as an office in the contemporary sense that they really take issue with, as do I.

    But as a matter of function, “feed my sheep,” taking Christ as our model, then yes.

    Viola and Barna are a bit unbalanced, however.

  9. Bryan L says:

    You know I think the best thing to do when reading books like this is to actually take a look at the congregations/churches that they think are doing things right. In the end they might not look that special or even significantly different and the book just ends up being a lot of talk.

    I remember when I was in ministry I was constantly looking for the secret right way to do church and I was drawn to authors like this. I remember one book in particular that was about changing the whole way the sermon takes place. It was to be more organic, more open to participation from the church both during the sermon and before it in the preparation. I was really inspired and fired up after reading the book from the vision I got of what the service could be like and especially the sermon time. I ended up tracking down sermon audio from this pastor from his own church and was completely underwhemed. It wasn’t much different and it wasn’t that good. I was laughing at myself because I thought this guys vision was the key for what the church service should be like, the future. It was really just a bunch of rhetoric and marketing. I was skeptical ever since of books like this that are looking to revolutionize the church in some way. Often they’re just infomercials. I say show me. I don’t want to listen to your spiel about what your “product” can do, I wanna see what your church is like and what makes it different. . . better. Then I’ll listen.

    Bryan L

    • T.C. R says:

      Bryan L said:

      You know I think the best thing to do when reading books like this is to actually take a look at the congregations/churches that they think are doing things right. In the end they might not look that special or even significantly different and the book just ends up being a lot of talk.

      Some of the criticisms are spot on, but I agree, we don’t need an overhaul.

      It was really just a bunch of rhetoric and marketing.

      Ah!

  10. Joel says:

    Great post, T.C. and greater comments.

    I just want to add, that in Fundamentalists churches, you remove the pastor, and the whole thing is cast into chaos. That’s the problem with perspectives – Barna takes his experiences and assumes everyone else has had the same.

    However, after visiting hundreds of churches over a three year stretch, I have to say that the idea of a pastor standing in the middle of the platform should be given up. Put the communion table there, which represents Christ, and put the pastor to the side.

  11. Pingback: Should we dispense with Pastors? | The Church of Jesus Christ

  12. Bill says:

    Great post, great conversation. Thanks, TC.

    I hope Kevin Sam reads Joel’s comment. Architecture speaks louder than words. On a different note, Joel, what mainline church would avoid chaos with no senior minister(s)?

    TC and others, I agree in theory that a modern day Pastor is supposed to enhance every member functioning. I have even heard tell of places where this happens more than it doesn’t. But even the best of you guys are still working hard to overcome a ‘social architecture’ that demands you continually take center stage.

    I don’t believe there’s a God-hearted Pastor anywhere who hasn’t many times lamented the inevitable sacerdotalism and congregational helplessness. But that helplessness is learned, if not subconsciously reinforced, by the clergy/laity model to begin with.

    Also, if Kevin’s story is indicative, sacerdotalism is naturally, unconsciously reinforced. That’s not a reflection on you at all, Kevin. That’s trickled down through hundreds of years. Just for one factor, the tithing/salary policy enables both of these problems. These are serious questions to wrestle with indeed…

    Again, TC, you’re doing an outstanding job so far. One point, however – when you said, “Jesus and Paul are better critics of the pastor…” did you mean to imply that “pastors” today match anything from the first century story? I don’t think our pattern has to match their pattern(s), but as a point of fact, there was no one in the NT who appears to have quite the same job description. It’s not even close, really. Would you agree or disagree?

    • T.C. R says:

      Joel,

      Yeah, I have to agree with Bill comment below about architecture. It’s part of the problem, a matter of perception.

      But Viola and Barna keep making these sweeping statements -too much, for me! That’s a fallacy in the book.

      Bill,

      I don’t believe there’s a God-hearted Pastor anywhere who hasn’t many times lamented the inevitable sacerdotalism and congregational helplessness. But that helplessness is learned, if not subconsciously reinforced, by the clergy/laity model to begin with.

      Yes! This is at the heart of the problem. I’ve always struggled with this false dichotomy.

      I don’t think our pattern has to match their pattern(s), but as a point of fact, there was no one in the NT who appears to have quite the same job description. It’s not even close, really. Would you agree or disagree?

      You mentioned what have trickled down hundreds of years, in reply to Kevin. Exactly! No wonder our pastors are wearing so many hats and aren’t able to function as they REALLY should.

      My reference to Jesus and Paul is more about relating to the flock, “feed my sheep,” and how they embodied those relational dynamics, not all the other distractions.

      Yes, the modern day pastor has morphed in to something else. So I would agree with you to some extent.

      But my problem with Viola and Barna relates to their overstatements and so on.

      Could have been more balanced.

  13. John says:

    Here is a thought…

    If, as Eph 4 states, the church was given pastor(s) as a gift, then perhaps if a church were to remove the title/office of Pastor and seek out those in the body who are gifted as pastor, then the body would be well served by a multitiude of pastors gifted by the Spirit of Christ.

    I do believe this is the essence of Viola’s chapter…the positive to the negative of removing a Pastor.”

  14. Joel says:

    I do not propose removing the pastor – especially a senior pastor – but first, putting Christ first in deed and word. (Architecture) Also, getting back to a 1st century church model, which entails a plurality in the ministry.

    Including women.

  15. Kyle Phillips says:

    There is a real issue here. The question is, what is it?

    We bring a lot of baggage to everthing, how we do church, how we read scripture, how we communicate with one another, etc., etc.

    The remarkable element is the living presence of Christ by his Holy Spirit in the midst of all our foolishness.

    As the lead elder (now we’ll have to talk about the meaning of “elder”!) I see clearly the distortion that comes because many people desire to abdicate personal responsibility to some centralized authority. That has been the structure of human community in the West for some time now. If there wasn’t a professional clergy class called “pastor,” that animal would soon come into existence by some other name because of the cultural dynamics at work.

    Is it posssible to have authentic, spiritual leadership that is Christ-centered, biblical, and spirit-filled that doesn’t come to look like today’s “pastoral ministry.” I hope so. That’s what I’m working toward, but I haven’t seen it yet. Much of what I do is simply jumping out of the well defined traditional role others place me in because that is the pattern they know and they can conceive of no other.

    Viola’s a gadfly and at times infuriating. We’re talking about him because he’s tapping into something very real. He’s got some traction. As I began this post, there is an issue here. Beyond the reality of sin, I’ convinced we haven’t gotten a hold of it yet.

    Brian McLaren, NT Wright, Frank Viola, et. al. are seeing something. In the words of the classic SNL sketch featuring Steve Martin and Bill Murray, “What the hell is that?” (http://snltranscripts.jt.org/79/79awhatthehell.phtml)

  16. T.C. R says:

    John,

    It becomes a matter of perception, function through giftedness vs function through title/office.

    Joel,

    Not a total removal but a total realignment is needed.

    Kyle said:

    Is it posssible to have authentic, spiritual leadership that is Christ-centered, biblical, and spirit-filled that doesn’t come to look like today’s “pastoral ministry.” I hope so. That’s what I’m working toward, but I haven’t seen it yet. Much of what I do is simply jumping out of the well defined traditional role others place me in because that is the pattern they know and they can conceive of no other.

    It’s a journey we must all embark upon.

  17. A. Amos Love says:

    TC

    A favorite topic – thanks.

    Pastors – Hmmm?

    In the Bible, How many people… have the title pastor?
    In the Bible, How many people are… referred to as pastor?
    In the Bible, How many people are… ordained as a pastor?
    In the Bible, How many congregations are… led by a pastor?

    Jesus warned us about making “the word of God”
    of non effect through our traditions; Yes?
    Mk 7:14

    KJV – Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition…
    ASV – Making “void” the word of God by your tradition…
    NIV – Thus you “nullify” the word of God by your tradition…

    What if “The Whole Religious system,” for the past 1700 years,
    has been/is totally corrupt?

    Corrupt – Dictionary

    1- having or showing a willingness to act dishonestly
    in return for money or personal gain.

    2- in a state of decay; rotten or putrid.

    3- debased or made unreliable by errors or alterations.

    Don’t condem the messengers just yet.

    Why was there a reformation?
    Rome was/is corrupt according to scripture. Yes?
    People wanted to serve and worship Jesus in truth. Yes?
    Any Popes as the head of “The Church of God” in the Bible?

    Why were there Pilgrims and the Puritans coming to the USA?
    Church of England was/is corrupt according to scripture. Yes?
    People wanted to serve and worship Jesus in truth. Yes?
    Any Monarchs as the head of “The Church of God” in the Bible?

    And every denomination since, tries to tweek Romes version of doing religion.

    wikipedia says there are now 38,000 denominations. Wow!!!
    Does that sound like a “tradition of men” to you?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_denominations

    Oh, you can change a few “titles,” pastors intead of priests,
    suits and ties instead of collars and robes,
    Presidents instead of Popes,
    but basically it’s still Rome
    still, “Tradition of men.”

    When did “Pastor” become a title, a profession, a paid position?

    Blessings

  18. Bill says:

    It takes a strong opposition to make anyone aware of a previously unrealized imbalance. I’m not sure this conversation gets to a productive level without the level of intensity Frank gave it, and others before him.

    Frank & George are doing their jobs just fine, imho. Balance is for the rest of us to work out.

    By the way, TC, as long as there is salary/tithing, there will be clergy/laity. One of the many things Frank is working on is a network to help transitioning Pastors find new careers.

    Not that I mean that as a hint, in all seriousness. 🙂

  19. T.C. R says:

    By the way, TC, as long as there is salary/tithing, there will be clergy/laity. One of the many things Frank is working on is a network to help transitioning Pastors find new careers.

    I say Frank is overly zealous. What of 1 Cor. 9:14, Gal. 6:6, and 1 Tim. 5:17-18?

    Let me clarify: to some extent the clergy/laity dichotomy is false. But when we consider the evidence of Scripture, we need to temper our views here.

    Jesus, not the Greeks or Rome, gave us the giftedness of pastors/teachers.

  20. Pingback: Are pastors an obstacle to the priesthood of believers? « New Epistles

  21. Bill says:

    Wow. If I was a cynical man, I’d say you quoted those money verses awfully fast, TC. I might argue their particular audiences more in context, but I won’t. 😉

    Anyway, nobody’s saying Pastors have to quit. But Paul did not take a salary and his churches functioned inside of a very different dynamic than Peter’s did. (For the record, we have no evidence of internal problems in Corinth before Peter showed up. FWIW.)

    I once heard that “God’s work done God’s way will seldom want for God’s supply.” What we have instead is professionalized career planning. That may still be alright, but anyone who *wants* to raise up and equip the body “for free” may need supplemental income at the very least.

    The question is whether Apostles, Prophets, etc were/are expected to work themselves out of their job, in any particular locality. Apostles, at least, were itenerant. No wonder they get dismissed first from modern ecclesiology…

  22. A. Amos Love says:

    TC

    Just read 1 Tim. 5:17-18.

    No pastors there just elders.

    Where does elder = pastor?

  23. A. Amos Love says:

    TC

    I have seen the dangers of “Titles,” of being known as “pastor/leader.”
    Spiritual abuse for both the “leader” and those “being led.”

    I’m not not new to “ministering healing” to those who have
    been abused by those who “thought they were pastor/leaders.”

    Folks who have been burnt, burnt out, kicked out,
    or crawled out of “the religious system.”

    With it’s leaders, spiritual authority, tithing, and
    other “heavy weights” put on folks shoulders.

    I also spend a fair amount of time with pastors,
    “so called leaders,” who can’t do it anymore.
    Trying to run the show and please so many masters.

    Trying to please the denominational leaders,
    the congregation and it’s leaders, your own family,
    and of course Jesus.
    Who is often relegated to last place. Hmmm?

    Peaching every week… and it better be good, being the CEO,
    the team leader, counciling, marrying, burying, smiley face. etc. etc.

    Serving so many masters, that’s tough; Yes?

    If “pastors/leaders” (as we see them today) are of God?
    He’s not taking very good care of His shepherds; Is He?

    This is info from a website helping burned out Pastors.

    PastorCare offers support and encouragement for pastors and their families.
    At PastorCare we care about YOU and we want to help.

    http://www.pastorcare.org/PastorCare/About_Us.html

    According to the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership (2007)
    • 77% say they do “not” have a good marriage.
    • 71% have felt burned out or depressed.
    • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
    • 40% report a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
    • 38% are divorced or seriously considering divorce.

    According to the Ministering to Ministers Foundation…
    • Over 1600 pastors in the U.S. are forced out of their positions each month.
    • Nearly 1 in 4 pastors experience a forced termination at least once during their ministry.
    •Only 54% of pastors go back into full-time church related positions.

    Think we might have a problem with “pastor/leader” TC?

    Read that again. This is not possible.
    77% say they do “not” have a good marriage.
    70% of pastors feel depressed or burnt out.
    70% Don’t have a close friend. Hmmm?

    That’s who is running the show.
    That’s who is abusing God’s sheep and being abused.
    I have been both abused and the abuser. It’s not pretty.

    1600 pastors a month, that’s 19,000 a year, leave or are pushed out. Wow!!!
    That’s a lot of broken hearts, disappointments, feelings of failure, pain, abuse.

    Hmmm? Pastor, is this a “Title” or “position” in the scriptures?

    Thank you Jesus that you’re our shepherd…

  24. T.C. R says:

    Bill,

    Don’t forget that the apostles functioned differently than the elders/pastors in those days. Also, keep in mind that Paul and the others were forging a theology/ecclesiology for a young church.

    At least, you should make an effort of explaining 1 Cor. 9:14 in context. Don’t forget 1 Tim. 5:17-18.

    It’s not about the money. It’s what the Word says. 😉

    A. Amos,

    for me, elders=pastors (see the interchange of Greek terms in passages like Acts 20:17-29 and 1 Pet. 5:1-4).

  25. Bill says:

    On apostles: Paul makes no distinction between the duties of the offices in Eph.4. The overall picture is still working oneself out of a job. And the meaning of overseer (supervisor) is not the guy in the thick of things, doing it all. In James, the Elders have to be called on, before they can perform.

    To Amos: aw, man. Just when I thought you had learned how to leave short comments. 😉

    On money: Paul never wrote to a church and said it was good for *them* to give *him* money. All three quotes are Paul supporting someone else’s need, without expectation of reciprocation. But again, what y’all do about money is your business. I got no gripes there.

  26. A. Amos Love says:

    TC – *I’m grinning*

    The comments were short only about 1/8 of an inch tall.

    There were just a lot of them. 😉

  27. T.C. R says:

    On apostles: Paul makes no distinction between the duties of the offices in Eph.4. The overall picture is still working oneself out of a job. And the meaning of overseer (supervisor) is not the guy in the thick of things, doing it all. In James, the Elders have to be called on, before they can perform.

    Bill, the apostles function wasn’t meant to be the model. We need to make that crystal clear. Can we learn from them? Absolutely!

    When we read 1 Cor. 9:14 in context, we’ll discover that this is not just situational for Paul. It’s meant to be part of the life of the church.

    We don’t need to make this about the money.

    What do you think texts like Gal. 6:6 and 1 Tim. 6:17-18 really mean?

    Even in the time of Paul, local churches had gifted leaders, who were both recognized as such, not least financially (1 Tim. 5:17ff).

    We don’t need to make this about the money.

  28. A. Amos Love says:

    Bill- sorry, still *grinning.*

    I really have seen much spiritual abuse.
    Most of it caused by pastor/leaders.
    Most just think they’re doing their job.

    TC – Let me rephrase my last question.

    Where does elder =
    Title Reverend /
    Title Pastor/
    special collar/
    private office/
    secretary/
    marrying/
    burying/
    hospital visits/etc…

    • T.C. R says:

      A. Amos,

      It’s more than clerical clothing, if you will. We all agree that titles/offices are part of the problem, but they’re only part of, not the whole.

      Here’s the flipside: where there’s abuse, you can also find proper use, right?

  29. Kyle Phillips says:

    I haven’t checked by I can easilya accept A. Amos’ statistic from my anecdotal experience. The phrase I throw around is “instutionalization.” It’s crushing God’s people.

    There’s a great scene in Shawshank Redemption where Morgan Freeman describes the effect of prsional life on inmates. Close your eyes and he’s describing church culture in America.

    I would suggest that ur whole culture is institutionalized: how we work, educate, recreate. Going to dinner usually means going to an institutionalized restauraunt with the same food you find in the same brand in every city in America.

    Calling people out of conformity to that world system is part of the challenge before us. Getting out of the business model is one aspect. Walking away from the consumer mode is another. Challenging the academic model is yet another.

    There is a lot of work ahead.

    I’ve got a question for Bill. Bill, you write, “as long as there is salary/tithing, there will be clergy/laity.” I don’t see how one necessarily follows the other. I think the clergy/laity dichotomy is more deeply rooted in the dynamics of the Fall. Lot’s of people are paid who are not “clergy” and many if not most “laity” never tithe.

    Help me out here.

  30. Bill says:

    TC – when you say, “the apostles function wasn’t meant to be the model”, how exactly do you know that? Can you write up a post on your sources and reasoning for this claim?

    TC – Yes, churches need leaders. Lots of them.

    Amos – I tend to picture you as always grinning. All that sugar. 😉

    Kyle – I agree with your assessment. I didn’t mean to imply that as a fundamentally causal connection, but I do think it is an encouraging factor. Plenty of pew sitters pay for the right to be lazy and actually have a reasonable argument that, darn it, they deserve to get their money’s worth! (Support staff included)

  31. T.C. R says:

    Bill,

    Can we learn from the apostles? Sure! But as our chief model? No!

    They had a special commissioning. They were marked by “the signs of a true apostle” (2 Cor. 12:12).

    That they occupied a special challenged in the early church is not up for any serious debate.

    Here’s a challenge: Why don’t you describe the deal church as you see it?

  32. Bill says:

    I’ll post on that soon.

    Thanks for the challenge…

  33. Bill says:

    Look here.

    You inspired me.

  34. Kevin Sam says:

    Bill said: “as long as there is salary/tithing, there will be clergy/laity…..Plenty of pew sitters pay for the right to be lazy and actually have a reasonable argument that, darn it, they deserve to get their money’s worth! (Support staff included) ”

    Bill, your statement led me to pose this question about specialization. If there is a right for trades people to specialize in plumbing, electrical and for professionals to specialize in pediatrics and accounting, then is there a right to specialize in pasturing and shepherding while making money. This might draw us back to square one again.

    TC said: “Here’s the flipside: where there’s abuse, you can also find proper use, right?”

    Then is it possible that proper use of the position of pastor can make it a legitimate position?

  35. T.C. R says:

    Then is it possible that proper use of the position of pastor can make it a legitimate position?

    Kevin, why would the function be given to the church? I’m sure the Lord who gifted the church with pastors expects them to function properly.

  36. Kevin Sam says:

    TC, yes I hope pastors can function properly. But if the other laity who are also gifted could obey God and stop warming the pews and start doing the work of God, maybe some of our pastors would not be as burnt out.

    • T.C. R says:

      Kevin, I believe every gifted member of a local church can function effectively if they’ll submit to the Lordship of Christ and the power of the Spirit.

      It’s possible. Paul wrote 1 Cor. 12-14 to insure this.

  37. A. Amos Love says:

    TC – Kevin

    “Here’s the flipside: where there’s abuse, you can also find proper use, right?”

    “Then is it possible that proper use of the position of pastor can make it a legitimate position?

    When someone takes the “Title” pastor,
    they have some challenges to overcome.

    Titles become idols and
    Pastors become masters.

    Even if the person with the “Title” has been broken and humbled
    and the “Title” is not an idol to them, it often becomes an idol to others.

    I mean, we even have Pastor appreciation day. What’s that about?
    A young believer either holds them in high esteem above Jesus
    or desires the same “Title” and postion.
    And that “Title” becomes, “An idol of the heart.”
    Ezekiel 14:1-11

    People who take the “Title” Pastor are taught they are something special, a gift.
    Along with the “Title” comes some things they might not have asked for.
    Power, profit, prestige, pride, recognition, reputation;
    all things Jesus taught against.

    Jesus made Himself of “no reputation.”
    The “Title” pastor gives you a reputation whether you want it or not.

    I’ve heard men preach, they are a gift from God to me.
    No kidding, “my elders” they really said this.
    While they were twisting the scriptures, gaining control over believers lives,
    fleecing the flock and spiritually abusing God’s sheep.
    How very very funny. How very arrogant. How very deceived.

    Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.
    Rom 1:22

    Yes, there are many sincere and fine people who take that “Title.”
    And they wind up paying a hugh price.

  38. A. Amos Love says:

    Bill

    I’m really impressed…

    A nine word comment and a five word comment. Wow!!! 😉

  39. T.C. R says:

    A. Amos,

    “Pastor” is just the Latin hangover of poimen in our English Bibles.

    If taken as a title, then we have a functional problem. That’s all.

    But the term “pastor” is fine, though I prefer “shepherd.”

  40. A. Amos Love says:

    TC

    The term “pastor” is used 8 times in Jeremiah.
    6 times God’s not happy. KJV

    Jeremiah 2:8
    The priests said not, Where is the LORD? and they that handle the law knew me not:
    the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal,
    and walked after things that do not profit.

    Jeremiah 10:21
    For the pastors are become brutish, ( beastly, carnal ) and have not
    sought the LORD: therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered.

    Jeremiah 12:10
    Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion
    under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness.

    Jeremiah 22:22
    The wind shall eat up all thy pastors, and thy lovers shall go into captivity:
    surely then shalt thou be ashamed and confounded for all thy wickedness.

    Jeremiah 23:1
    Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!

    Jeremiah 23:2
    …thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people;
    Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them:
    behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD.

    Shepherd’s are often a problem.

    Jeremiah 50:6
    My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray…

    “Leaders” also are questioned.

    Isaiah 9:16
    For the leaders of this people cause thee to err;
    and they that are led of them are destroyed.

    Isaiah 3:12
    O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.

    And “Titles.”

    Job 32:21
    Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person, neither let me give
    flattering titles unto man. 22 For I know not to give flattering titles…

  41. T.C. R says:

    A. Amos,

    I’m convinced that you’ve picked the wrong fight with the term “pastor.”

    It’s not worth it.

    So what?

    Instead, we need to encourage and pray for the proper functioning of our “pastors.”

  42. A. Amos Love says:

    You’re probably right TC.

    It’s not my fault, really.

    My excuse is
    I’ve got a Polish uncle who taught me evryting I no.

    He became a Pastor, a Polish Pastor.

    He was the
    Polish Pastor, of the First Church of the
    Pleasant Parables of the
    Presence of God.

    And he believed that,
    Proper
    Preparation
    Proceeds
    Powerful
    Performances
    so he
    Prayed
    a lot.

  43. Claude says:

    Didn’t Barna officially give up on the church only to realize that’s who he makes his living off of?So instead of ignoring it as he should,given his beliefs he tries to continue to schill to it even though he doesn’t believe in it. George, if you’re gonna leave, leave already! If you’ve already left…quit talking to us!

  44. Kevin Sam says:

    A.Amos said: “we even have Pastor appreciation day. What’s that about?”

    TC, yes Amos may have picked the wrong fight with the term “pastor”. I think the right response is not to get rid of Pastor appreciation day but to add on appreciation to other ministries in the church, e.g. Sunday School teacher, elders, deacons, usher, etc. I don’t advocate getting rid of the pastor but to enhance the other roles in the church. This levels the playing field in the priesthood of all believers.

    A.Amos also said: “People who take the “Title” Pastor are taught they are something special, a gift.”

    I also had someone say this about me. Inside, I was completely embarassed about it. In my sermons, I try to be transparent about myself and reveal my own sinfulness to show the people that as a pastor, I am not morally above them. I am just a teacher/preacher who is as human as they are.

  45. Jack says:

    I am fascinated with this thread. I found this thru a link from Dave Black online. I tend to agree with A. Amos’ thoughts on pastors.

    I’ve read most of Viola’s and Barna’s books and don’t have a problem with them. Reading Pagan Christianity alone can cause some questions and misunderstandings. You need to read Viola’s other books that follow.

    As far as the discussion of pastors, the problem is not necessarily with the men who are pastors; it’s the system we embrace. The main point I want to make without giving a dissertation is that you will not find the model that we generally operate under in the bible. That is Senior Pastors, Assoc. Pastors, etc on down the chain.

    The reason we gather is for mutual edification, not to give one man a platform to orate every week. Think about how Jesus discipled. Think about how we train our children. It’s not with homiletically correct sermons.

    I toyed with the idea of going into the “ministry” 25 years ago. I chose to stay with my profession as a pilot. In the early part of my career I was a flight instructor. If I used the current system that most pastors use to train their sheep, I would have never let my students touch the controls. But in order to become a pilot the student has to learn how to fly the airplane.

    You can learn all the theory of flying your brain can hold, but you will never become a pilot. As an instructor there are risks involved in training students to fly. You have to spend personal time with them. Sit with them in a small, noisy, hot cockpit for hours on end. It’s not always fun.

    The reward comes when you walk away from the plane for the students first solo; when they pass their flight test and go on to become safe successful pilots. As leaders, servants and overseers, we should have the same mind. Get your hands dirty.

    It’s not about being visible. It’s not about having a platform. It’s about what Jesus said in Mt 20:27 – ..whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

  46. T.C. R says:

    Kevin,

    Based on texts like 1 Thess. 5 and 1 Tim. 5, yes, our leaders should be honored. But I’m not really sure how’s the best way to go about this without that you’re more “special” than everyone else “effect.”

    As far as the discussion of pastors, the problem is not necessarily with the men who are pastors; it’s the system we embrace.

    Jack, first up, thanks for following the link and joining the conservation.

    I’m in total agreement that the contemporary pastor is not the ideal, but I have problem with the solution offered in the book. A more balanced approach is needed.

    As leaders, servants and overseers, we should have the same mind. Get your hands dirty.

    In this, we’re in total agreement. The ivory tower pastor and so on is the problem. We have created this monster. I partly agree with the critique.

    It’s the solution I’m more interested in.

    It’s not about being visible. It’s not about having a platform. It’s about what Jesus said in Mt 20:27 – ..whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

    Ah!

  47. Bill says:

    Kevin – about “honoring” folks – I suspect maybe honoring doesn’t mean ceremonially celebrating…

    TC – if you’re really interested in Frank’s offered “solutions”, Jack is right. You’d have to read his other books. Pagan is 95% critique with some implied alternatives that don’t come across very practically.

  48. T.C. R says:

    Bill – I was sharing contents with my wife todya and actually told her about his other books. She asked if I was going to read them. My answer: I don’t think so.

    I’m still not convinced that I need to.

  49. Bill says:

    Need is a very big word. I’m just saying don’t assume you’ve seen his solutions by reading between the lines of pagan. Three follow up books means the man had a lot else to say.

    Michael Spenser (iMonk) had some good things to say about one of them here. You might enjoy this one at least, for the reasons Michael mentions.

  50. A. Amos Love says:

    Honoring? Hmmm? Let’s see.

    1Co 12:23
    And those members of the body,
    which we think to be less honourable,
    upon these we bestow more abundant honour…

    24 …but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour
    to that part which lacked.

    Seems God gives the “more abundant honour”
    to those who “we think” are less hourable.

    Oy Vey! Have we been honouring who God honours. Hmmm?

  51. A. Amos Love says:

    TC

    “I’m convinced that you’ve picked the wrong fight with the term “pastor.”“

    On second thought – It’s not the term “pastor.”

    It’s the “Title”- pastor/leader/teacher – that has wounded so many.
    Those that are “led” and “so called leaders” who eventually have to lord it over.

    Pastor/Leader = lord it over = abuse = always

    It’s the “Title” and “postion” that *tradition of men* has forced on us. Not the Bible.

    My prayer has been for “abused broken hearts” to be healed (led and leader)
    and for those “so called leaders” carrying these heavy weights to build God’s Church,
    to give these burdens to Jesus for He careth for you and He will build “His Church.”

    Jesus didn’t reform “the Religious System” He established – He left it.
    And called others out of “the System” into a relationship with Jesus.
    Religion is the system, not the relationship.

    I’ve found Jesus to be 1 – the best shepherd, 2 – the best leader, 3 – the best teacher.

    1 –
    The Lord is “my” shepherd, I shall not want. Ps 23
    For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned
    unto the “Shepherd” and Bishop of your souls. 1Pe 2:25

    2 –
    For you have “one” leader “the Christ.” Mat 23:10
    Those that are “led by the Spirit,” they are the sons of God. Rm 8:19
    “My sheep” hear my voice and “follow me.” Jn 10:27

    3 –
    It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Jn 6:45
    These [things] have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.
    But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you,
    and ye need not that any man teach you:
    but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things… 1 John 2:26

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice;
    and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice.
    If Not Now, When?

    In His Service. By His Grace.

  52. A. Amos Love says:

    TC

    I guess I just have this im”poo”sible dream.

    To see and experience “The ekklesia of God”

    without

    the Commandments of men
    the Doctrines of men
    The Precepts of men
    the Philosophies of men, and
    the Traditions of men
    that nullify “God’s Word.” {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

    • T.C. R says:

      A. Amos,

      We have to same dream.

      So title of pastor and the accompanying baggage? I quite agree.

      But again, we need to encourage and prayer that our pastors function as the bible say they should with human junk.

  53. A. Amos Love says:

    Just dreaming about Jesus
    the “Head” of the body, the Church.

    To dream … the impossible dream …
    To fight … the unbeatable foe …
    To bear … with unbearable sorrow …
    To run … where the brave dare not go …
    To right … the unrightable wrong …
    To love … pure and chaste from afar …
    To try … when your arms are too weary …
    To reach … the unreachable star …

    This is my quest, to follow that star …
    No matter how hopeless, no matter how far …
    To fight for the right, without question or pause …
    To be willing to march into Hell, for a Heavenly cause …

    And I know if I’ll only be true, to this glorious quest,
    That my heart will lie will lie peaceful and calm,
    when I’m laid to my rest …

    And the world will be better for this:
    That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
    Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
    To reach … the unreachable star …

    Listen… Could this be Jesus singing to us?

    When you’re weary, feeling small,
    When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all;
    I’m on your side. when times get rough
    And friends just cant be found,
    Like a bridge over troubled water
    I will lay me down.
    Like a bridge over troubled water
    I will lay me down.

    When you’re down and out,
    When you’re on the street,
    When evening falls so hard
    I will comfort you.
    I’ll take your part.
    When darkness comes
    And pain is all around,
    Like a bridge over troubled water
    I will lay me down.
    Like a bridge over troubled water
    I will lay me down.

    Sail on silver girl,
    Sail on by.
    Your time has come to shine.
    All your dreams are on their way.
    See how they shine.
    If you need a friend
    Im sailing right behind.
    Like a bridge over troubled water
    I will ease your mind.
    Like a bridge over troubled water
    I will ease your mind.

  54. John says:

    I really like what Jack wrote yesterday:

    “I toyed with the idea of going into the “ministry” 25 years ago. I chose to stay with my profession as a pilot. In the early part of my career I was a flight instructor. If I used the current system that most pastors use to train their sheep, I would have never let my students touch the controls. But in order to become a pilot the student has to learn how to fly the airplane.”

    There needs to be a paradigm shift at the leadership level of the church that will purposely “give up the controls” to the body.

    Until then, the leaders believe they are to lead and the body believes it is to submit.

    In other words, the body must be told boldly and over and over that the church they belong to believes in a fully functioning proesthood of all believers, and then they must be willing to guide this transformation.

    As Viola states, the foundation must change from what we have made it to be to what it once was if we are to see a true change in the body.

  55. T.C. R says:

    As Viola states, the foundation must change from what we have made it to be to what it once was if we are to see a true change in the body.

    John,

    I too will like to see a meaningful change, and yes, at the foundational change.

    Yes, our churches have become too institutionalized.

  56. John,

    I like what you’re saying about giving up controls to the body. I am absolutely convinced that at half the problem, if not more, is that most Christians do not want to take the controls. Most are content to sit and watch.

  57. Bill says:

    “Most are content to sit and watch.” Absolutely, Kyle. And why not?

    By Kevin Sam’s own model of specialization, way up above, that is precisely what they are paying for.

  58. John says:

    Kyle,

    Unfortunately, they sit and watch after hundreds of years of conditioning to do so. But, to me, that is the value of Viola’s book…it explains why this happened so that those who believe this to be a problem can make changes to fix it.

    Essentially, this is a leadership issue. Until passive Christians are taught and enabled to return to a New Testament model, we can’t expect them to do so.

    On the other hand, some Christians are getting it and move out of churches that refuse to change, and that is why we are seeing such a shift.

    Ultimately, Christ is the head of the church, some are called to lead and guide, and every believer is gifted to serve the body.

    In the beginning, this worked fine, but just like Israel wanted a king, early on the leaders in the church bit by bit moved in that direction as well.

    Only problem is the king isn’t Jesus…

    Check out Ezekiel 34…Jesus is to be The Shepherd!

  59. Ken says:

    I’ve been involved from Sunday only to going three or four nights a week, Sunday evening, Wednesday evening, choir, nursery, led Bible studies, the whole gamut. I have read Frank Viola’s Pagan Christianity and Reimagining Church, and I’ll read from Eternity to Here as well.

    I think A. Amos knows what he’s talking about.

    My most recent experience with trying to be involved in ministry was having so many rules imposed on me that I dropped out. I believe that is because the church leadership is trying to protect the institution from lawsuits or obey all the 501c3 rules that the IRS imposes. I love working with kids, but they started imposing rules like ‘you can’t sit the kids in your lap’, and this all goes back to the pastor and church leadership protecting the institution. I don’t think the pastor is a bad guy. I think he’s a very godly man and does his level best to serve his flock, but he’s only one man, and not only does he have to preach, he has to ultimately manage all of the ministries in the church. Sure, he delegates, but the architecture of the institution itself dictates that the institution be protected in order to continue the ministry. That necessarily divides the pastor’s attention. And the fact it is literally impossible for the pastor to *know* everyone in the congregation makes it literally impossible for him to properly do the job of pastoring. It’s guaranteed burnout, and Amos gave the stats above. Even the best man can’t do an impossible job.

    For myself, I want to be involved and be leading the charge on something like shutting down an abortion clinic or tackling the local chapter of the ACLU, but I can’t do that job myself. I need support, and I don’t see any church committing to a purpose like that. My church won’t touch anything like that. it’s too politically dangerous. I could, however, see a group of ten or fifteen Christians (read: House Church) taking on a project like that and pursuing it to a successful conclusion. Pastor led churches just don’t do things like that, except very rarely. There are pastors on this blog, so maybe I’ll get corrected on that, but I sure don’t see any churches jumping on projects like that, and it will take that kind of thing–a LOT of that kind of thing–to take this country back.

    Bottom line: I want to be involved but the architecture of the institution kills my involvement.

  60. John says:

    Good insight, Ken.

    What does one do when one realizes that the culture has taken away the life of the church?

    I have seen small groups of Christians handle issues in their community better and with less money! Why? Because the focus can be directed to immediate needs – immediately. Also, no overhead means every dollar/hour/effort goes right at the heart of the need.

    I was on a church council once that rejoiced over a new $20,000 parking lot but cut the annual “evangelism” budget from $1,000 to $750 because “no one used the funds.”

    That, my friends, is a misguided church.

  61. If I may say..

    Learned of an interesting analogy recently—as seen in one of the ministries I referenced earlier. As said there by one kat in an article you can look up online entitled The Myth of the Institution-less Church

    As said best there:

    These days there seems to be a deep suspicion of all organisations, and in particular any structure, hierarchy and a basic resistance to anything that is an ‘institution’. And I for one, am convinced that institutions are the enemy of good practice (if I may paraphrase Alasdair MacIntyre badly).

    By this, I mean that any institution that people form in order to deliver good practice will always wrestle with it becoming so bureaucratic and concerned for itself that it undermines the very thing it seeks to deliver in the first place.

    We see this today with hospitals. Places dedicated to providing medical care to human beings can become so caught up in politics and management conflicts that the medical care they are supposed to provide becomes undermined and, in many cases, people suffer. We see the same with the church. The organisation of the church to facilitate the incarnation of the gospel quickly becomes an obstacle to the very nature and purpose of the church in the first place, and people are harmed more than helped.

    Often, in reaction, we think that, in having no programmes, no hierarchy, the removal of the institution will solve the problem.

    After all, if the institution is getting in the way of the purpose, get rid of the institution. This response is increasingly ingrained in us, such that even using the word ‘institution’ is anathema to those seeking new ways of doing and being church. But I think how ever well intentioned, this approach is naive and inadequate to the task of being Church.

    What we need is not the absence of institutions, but an articulate institutional imagination, something more than the incapacity of being ‘anti-institutional’. For if we get rid of hospitals, we might remove the problems they produce as institutions, but with it we also remove the provision of medical care from all those who had access to it before, or we restrict it to only a few who are in proximity to those who can provide it with no institutional support, or those who know how to provide to themselves. Which is what much of the ‘institution-less’ church has come to look like.

    As someone said in response to that:

    Is it really possible for those of us with a vested interest in maintaining the institutional church (i.e., our salaries, benefits, and pensions are derived from it) to imagine Christianity in its natural habitat? It would be like a zookeeper trying to embrace the philosophy that all zoo animals belong in the wild. It would not be good for his career, to say the least. In spite of all the eloquent arguments a zookeeper might muster regarding the social, cultural, and educational value of the zoo industry, it would be unconvincing to those who are strong animal rights activists.

    And as someone else said in response to that:

    You might define institutions as inherently bad, in which case use other words, structure, organisation, habitat. What I’m trying to get at, is the fallacy of the axiomatic that if we get rid of structures, programs, practices, organising, something better takes place, when often something as bad takes shape.

    Now taking the Zoo analogy, it shows us that a Zoo produces a certain kind of way life for animals very different from the wild. But does it immediately relate to church? Should churches produce christians who are like animals in the wild?

    That can sound like something more natural and organic, but it also begs the question is the church about living like animals in the wild. Even in the widl we intervene to help animals with structure and programmes and practices.

    The body of Jesus is organisaed, the NT is immediatey full of people organising their lives around Jesus together, in worship, families and work, with lots of structure. Jesus organised his ministry around 12 disciples.

    I do think the post-organisational church is a myth. It might have wonderful dreams about what church should be, and how it is not being that. But to turn a dream into reality you need to do something with others, or it remains a dream.

    We do need to re-train ourselve, into ways, patterns, habitats of conscious practice and formation of Christian identity and mission, around the vision of Jesus.

    Hearing that exchange astounded me—especially in regards to the ZOO Analogy.

    Hearing that really struck me….for it Reminds me of someone training wounded animals back into health to be released into the wild and for them to be as they were made to be. For many, due to the nature of how things are, the animals are continually kept in captivity and only allowed to move around within limited spaces/oversight—which may make the trainers feel as if the animals are safe when the reality is that those same animals are living at an “artificial” level, good for display and with the attempt to convice them that their environment is “real”…but nowhere near what they were made for, whether with caged tigers or elephants and various other creatures.

    Also, animals cannot go into the wild and be free to produce newer variations for differing environments that have never been seen before since the current state of who they are is what’s to be preserved. However, for many, it becomes a matter of destroying the wildlife habittat/range and training grounds as the solution—and that can be just as dangerous for those within that’re are not trained.

    Hence, it’s a bit of a Catch 22 where pastors in a traditional church setting feel as if they’re meant to continually protect/thus (whether intentionally or accidentally) hold on so much that there’s no real seeing organisms as they were meant to be…….with no room for “wild” thought or new/”wild” concepts being birthed. For they’re feeling as if there’re so many external dangers that wounded animals are not ready to handle and thus leaving completely would be a death threat.

    Additionally, with the Zoo Analogy, though originally applying to the ways the structures behind traditional churches are structured in their ecclesiology, I thought it could also be possibly be extended to include what often occurs when it comes to people feeling “caged” within an environment that will not allow differing concepts/forms of thought to come forth due to other instances where it was allowed and it apparently led to destruction.

    I’ve experienced circumstances when it came to certain ideas not being allowed to be discussed in church. At times it was valid, as often the result was that those doing so were acting out of a divisive spirit/factions even when having valid points on discussing areas in church that were off.

    Sadly, people reacted to that by shutting down all discussion and it felt very much like “thought police”—which I disagree with since people should be able to discuss concepts/think critically on various ideas rather than isolating themselves in their own worlds and living in a Christian “Bubble”. It has indeed been one of the things that has troubled me for years—hence, why the ZOO analogy spoke strongly to me.

    It is the reality of what occurs for many when it seems there’s the desire to be wild/organic and yet the reality that for many who did so, they went extict due to a myriad of factors which the Zoo realized were a threat, hence why it is in existence to protect others. Same with the institutional church/many of the factors in place that hinder growth—and also conversations with other camps thinking differently than others and that could lead to the realization of new ideas that could lead to growth since anything counter to how a group has always done it will always been seen as a “threat”, even when it’s with good intentions.….

  62. Bill says:

    G^2 –

    I agree with your overall point. It is indeed much harder to build up than to tear down, and yet we must find some way to do the right amount of each. Probably in each generation.

    But yeah, instead of scrapping the whole thing, it might be wiser (and safer) to scrap some aspects of things and add in others. I knew a group in PA that spent 8 years transitioning from IC to HC, one step at a time. They had a great run for another decade or so after that, which is pretty good for an experimental house church, imho.

    Of course, this all depends on who’s making the decisions in the first place. If the powers that be are merely willing to ‘add on’ (modify/innovate) without getting rid of anything that’s actually a hindrance… then there may be no other option BUT to scrap everything and start over.

    Again, however, I agree with your overall point. We shouldn’t be primarily anti in our strategies. In many cases, that actually guarantees failure.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s