PASTORS & SHEPHERDS - LOVING, FEEDING THE WORD OF GOD, ENCOURAGING OTHERS IN WORKS OF MINISTRY
We encourage, teach and support ministry gifts and members of the Body of Christ in learning about pastoring according to God's Word. Over the years we've conducted teaching sessions and sometimes classes for anyone who wants to learn what the Bible says about pastoring and shepherding. When we say "shepherding," we do not mean the error teaching that infiltrated the church in the 70's and 80's which was later repented of by the leaders who saw that damaging and hurting people. That kind of shepherding has done much to harm the body of Christ and to disable and discourage believers in terms of thriving and flourishing in God's design and calling and giftings. What we mean is people who feel God has called them to have a role in serving and caring for other believers as they grow up in works of ministry. If you care for other people in the body of Christ, this is for you. In the fall of 2016 we are planning a Fall curriculum series on the Body of Christ, and if time permits, one of the sessions will be dedicated to this. Part of learning about who God created us to be, is learning how we fit into the Body of Christ, and there are many ideas out there. Although there are some unique requirements and responsibilities, there really is no such thing as a division between clergy and laity in terms of value in the Body of Christ. There is an unholy false legitimacy (and lack of value) that's been created by religious error. There really is no clergy vs laity in the Bible, So what then is a pastor or leader?
The whole Body of believers, those who by faith have been saved and call Jesus Lord, are to be encouraged and built up to do the works of ministry. Ministry is not a paid position of leadership, but part of God's innate design for you and everyone else who loves God and believes what Jesus has done for them. And some help others in the body of Christ do just that. So our social traditions and customs and motives that are habitual often have previously defined our view of what it is to pastor and what to expect from a pastor. With a growing number of apostolic churches and ministries there is a lot of teaching on a spiritual hierarchy or pecking order. Add to that economical requirements that require a "church" to be defined some way as an economic and legal entity with employees, benefits, board members and more, and this can confuse the biblical roles and offices of deacons, elders, apostles, prophets, teachers and so on with those economic and legal roles churches submit to in desiring to integrate with society, whether by denomination or financial law. The society and its requirements and values and demands unfortunately begins shaping the organizational/business side of "church," and then it can, in turn, confuse the ideas we have about "the Church." This is the reverse transformation of what God has planned for, instead He desires that the light that believers are walking in, and the love of God, will help the world notice that those who are living in the love and agreement with God have something special, and that they are invited to join in the Kingdom of God.
If you add to it the number of people who have been damaged and wounded in so called 'Christian' settings, there's just a lot of confusion and a lot that is not of God. Given the non-Christian corporate structure and ideas have seeped into congregations and gatherings of believers, unfortunately it is not uncommon to find good old fashioned power-play, insecurity, jealousy, one-up-manship and a whole bunch of other whiles seeding their way into relationships to try to destroy what Christ is building, or at least take you down and out. [Please see the March 2013 Live Church Teaching "My Dog Is Bigger Than Your Dog... Not!" if you've recently had to deal with envy & jealousy among people you help or would like some help understanding more about how it works, and how to stop it]. So there are a lot of issues that challenge us walking in the way God has asked us to. That is why it is so important as pastors, elders, teachers, fellow members of the body of Christ, that we learn from the whole counsel of the Word of God what it is we are supposed to be doing, and in relationship motivated by love, and led by the Holy Spirit, we remain branches in the Vine, humble and teachable, if we ever expect to fulfill offices that include teaching and ministry ourselves. It's not about us, anyway, it's about Him. The excellency is in Christ, not in us. We just get to be part of it. It's about Father God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, One God in Three Persons, and His plans for eternity and our place in it today and tomorrow and any day we have breath.
Dear pastor or elder, to be encouraged in your faith, you are encouraged to go back to God's Word to study God's heart for pastoring, both old testament and new. Yes, there are some unique responsibilities, but it is not about position or status or being more spiritual, nor is it about maintaining 'distance' from the people amongst whom you minister. It's not about control or setting people in their place, and it it is not about bearing false burdens.. but it is about carrying what God has asked you to carry. If we have any bent towards narcissism or insecurity or a need for power, we better deal with that as sin issues in our own lives, or we will go the path of damaging believers who put inordinate trust in us. If God has given you insight as to 'how to set the church right' then you also need to examine your heart. For example, while occultism is waxing large in the church, the enemy is also raising up those who have religious, haughty spirits, who are puffed up, believing themselves to be bastions of correction. Mocking, gloating, putting others down, judging and condemning...none of these have love in them. If you examine the personal lives of some doing most of the "correcting" they have series of wrecked relationships for which they blame the other participants. It is very common for any of us to be trying to remove the speck from our brothers and sisters while we are dealing with some pretty large beams in our own eye. If we can't be transparent and real with each other and those we help, we are set up to falsely believe that we are somewhat "above" or "more spiritual" than others. If our ministry is more about defending an identity as a minister while stepping on the toes of others simply trying to obey God, we are on very dangerous ground with God, ourselves, and have been deceived. We who teach and minister have our own issues and problems and we need to walk in transparency and love, as we are learning and growing up ourselves in Christ. While teaching 2 Corinthians 7:1, we need to be obeying it submitted to God examining our own hearts. We also need to be submitting ourselves to one another in Christ, not out of some hierarchical authoritarian chain-of-command, but so that we are open to feedback and letting people show us our weak points. This should take place with the heart of real love and care, not a need to make people change or submit to us, especially if we are privileged to be permitted to share our observations with others about what would be helpful to them or what may be blind spots.
Dear member of the Body of Christ, It is part of our mandate to love each other and serve each other in love, and this includes not idolizing or tearing down those who care for you, it involves being willing as believers to be submitted to each other in love, make room for us all being "in process" in being conformed to the image of Christ, and for us all to take up the work set out for us to do as part of the Body. Even Gamaliel gave room for what is of God to be made manifest, and what is not of God.. he knew nothing would come of it. Some of us need that kind of wisdom when we risk dividing the body of Christ by our words of accusation, mocking, sense of superiority and criticism of others. For example, personal issues can be hidden behind righteous-sounding, religious spirit talk. We need to be vessels cleansed for the Master's use, and that's what helps us to be more useful. Each member to do "works of ministry," not for leaders only. Your pastor is a person, too, just like you - with his or her own walk out, life and challenges. We will be the first to admit we are walking out of life issues, and growing up in the same types of things we encourage other people in.
There are pressures placed upon leaders to be unnaturally superhuman in an ungodly way, and those pressures and requirements are not from God. They come when the people we help demand and expect more from us than God does, or when others who are insecure in the body of Christ, stand and divide the body by telling you that you are in error for obeying God. Paul and Peter understood this situation, but today we are so driven in the work world and in personal lives and business lives, that we take those external pressures and put them on both ourselves and others with perfectionistic and legalistic demands. We need to allow for transparency or vulnerability and the humanity and equality under the cross of those who we have come to know as 'leadership.' There is a wrong spirit that spirit that would create a different class of people within the Church, and we want to be alert to it, to fall out of agreement with it, and to not participate with it. At the same time, people who love and labor for God are expected to be and do all sorts of things to perfection, so want to burst that bubble from the get go. We can all rest easier if we just see each other as equals and equally in need of God.
As part of the Church, we need to get our thinking right and begin to be exactly what God created us to be, not what a habitual system of traditions dictates. Many pastors don't know how to get out of "the box" that they have been put in. We need to come alongside our leaders and pastors with love, support, encouragement and right relating. If you read about Jesus Christ's message early in the book of Revelation, He was very much against the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, the great divide that religious tradition uses to separate what some call "clergy"and "laity." There is no such division. We are all one, part of one another. Having an office or a gift or being a gift makes you no less or more of value to mankind, the Church or to God. We can't demand or expect special treatment. He who would be greatest among us, is servant of all. It is often the invisible ministry of people we may never hear about, I believe who will have a wealth of crowns to lay down before Jesus. We need to be doing the work to which we were called, and confirm it in a biblical way.
We believe that the body of Christ is a flat organization with one head, Jesus Christ, and the members of the body all being important and necessary. It is not a multi-level "business model" corporate hierarchy with VP's and CFO's and Directors and Managers in the sense that there is a 2nd class "laity" subservient to a 1st class "priestly caste." True leadership is servant leadership.
Instead of tearing down or murmuring, it is possible to biblically deal with our issues when we don't agree with leadership that is there to cover and love us. This also means that if we decide to be abusive, accusatory, judging and condemnatory, people may choose not to come close to us when we are acting like porcupines. What, a pastor saying no to ministering to someone? Jesus worked with those who wanted what He had to give. We also have to learn what it means to biblically learn from someone without expecting the person in that position to be perfect and without fault. That's letting the person's 'yes' be 'yes' and 'no' be 'no,' and honoring boundaries they may set. At the same time, our leaders, need to learn to be transparent and honest about sin, not just passing it off as generational iniquity not yet discerned, but taking personal responsibility for sin and iniquity and taking it to the cross. They can't do that in transparency if those they endeavor to lead are ready to cut them to shreds, and hold them to perfection standards that no one can meet. It means we all need to grow up in understanding what godly love is, and that it is not just about right doctrine, but the means by which we encourage each other in it.
People marvel at the fall of spiritual leaders, and often it is because we participate with the same mindset that demands perfectionistic performance and sets standards for conduct and activity that God himself would not -- and does not -- ask of them. It is not easy to get out of the tradition of putting a pastor on a pedestal, but if you allow your pastor off the pedestal and release him (or her) from a set of endless requirements to serve you and to meet your needs, and if you and I start learning how being all God created us to be as believers, this is how we can be part of the solution. At the same time, social custom means that there is a power differential perceived no matter how much a leader walks in or tries to model egalitarianism in the body of Christ. So you want to be awake and aware to when something is out of line, either in your own heart or in terms of how relationships are taught in the body of Christ.
There can be a tremendous expectation that a church leader be super spiritual or highly intellectual, immediately able to handle any question, serve as a garbage 'dump' for complaints, have perfectly behaved children, balance the budget, have excellent marketing and sales skills and not miss one hospital visit of the 400-500 members of the congregation, even though three people have surgery scheduled at the same time in two different hospitals, and his child has a recital that night. Not to mention keep everyone happy and pleased, be trouble free, dress right, and get a democratic consensus on all decisions. You are pressured to look good and appear super human, and it simply is not God's thinking on the matter that you fall into that role and play that scripted part. But how would we know if we listen to what people say, but don't check it out with what God has to say? Christian pastors and leaders have to take steps to stop playing the "look good" and "pecking order" roles. If we are feeding on the sheep for narcissistic and ego needs, we need to repent and go back to Jesus as a role model, and take steps to return to servant leadership.
Pastors, teachers, apostles, prophets, evangelists...These are people with lives, and families and pressures, the same as you (i.e. any member of the body of Christ. They are challenged and tempted with the same issues as anyone else, and have increased responsibilities and accountability in how they care for others. They are not superior, greater or of more importance. They are your equals in the body of Christ. They also have the same broken heart issues and damage from life's hearts as any other believer. In fact, there is no difference. Some of Christian culture has made it so that there is a lot of pressure for leaders to look good and act like they do not have problems. This perpetuates making it difficult for leaders to even want to seek help and healing because they go into denial and need to act like they are not only fine, but "have arrived." It is our experience that you can be an unhealed leader, in the process of growing and healing, and still be a very helpful leader, in fact more helpful than if you cater to an expected role of being above those you care for.
We teach periodic sessions, as a time of renewing our minds in the Word about what it is to be a pastor, what our role is in the Church, and who we are in humanity and eternity. It is a help and guide to pastors who need discernment to choose a God motivated ministry unbiased by popularity, performance, people's opinion or financial pressures. Its an encouragement for Godly burden bearing without the codependency of false burden bearing (i.e. carrying weights we were never meant to carry). If you are a pastor or other minister, do your own study on these matters -- or come to ours when we offer it -- But please don't neglect the benefit of equivalent time of study in God's Word about what you were really called to be doing.
Both pastors and those whom they care for, and with whom they minister, will benefit from learning God's heart for pastoring, just what it looks like in the Bible, and what we thought it was that it isn't. Then we can let go of false expectations and demands and walk in the truth, free from false pressures, responsibilities and the sense of failure that comes with feeling one must do the impossible.
Lately I've felt led by the Spirit of God to update this page and add scripture for those who would cause improper division in the Church:
Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
Romans 14:4 (KJV)
We can judge the fruit of another's ministry, but the Word also tells us that woe is to the one through whom offenses come, so I don't think it is wise that we, ourselves become dividers of the Body of Christ while at the same time saying we are in the ministry of building up and training up the believers. Lately I've seen a lot of mocking, pompous, gloating kind of "I know better and I'm going to set you right" talk from people who should be building the body up. It is a fine line to teach the truth but not falsely bear the burdens for it or become patriarchal in trying to make other believers behave in the way we want them to behave. When God gives anointing or gifting or office, it is easy for the enemy to derail you by taking the supernatural leading or power from God for a given task, and believe that it is you and it makes you somehow better, wiser or superior to others. Arrogance, pride, haughtiness, religiousity tempt all of us. Let's not take the bait, or if we have taken it, it is easier to humble ourselves before God and ask Him to help us walk out of it, than it is for Him to send lessons where we ourselves learn like Nebuchadnezzar. Ministry is not about putting people in their place, it is about loving people so they are supported in who God made them to be and who they really are.
When we teach on ministry and pastoring, we devote some specific time in teaching and ministry time to acknowledging, walking out of and overcoming the fruit of being wounded in the house of our friends. This is not a situation that all pastors have faced, but it is the case for the majority. Many believers get hurt in church. Hurts by religion or tradition or people holding to them are often cited as the reason people don't want to follow God. Wounded healers? You bet! Christians with broken hearts? Yes. Many people who have been called by God to pastor, to shepherd, to love and to build others up for works of ministry have been temporarily de-railed by hurts and misunderstandings and are in need of having their broken hearts healed so they can be released to love and trust again and go about being themselves without fear. If there's no honesty and transparency with your own life, how will you expect to be of real help to those around you? And we're not talking just about the "transparency for show," but we're talking about the real unhealed hurts in your life. The body of Christ is for everyone. If that's you, God knows your heart and that you are a good son (or good daughter). He is not mad at you, but He does want you to walk in what He's called you to be and to do, and there is absolutely nothing you have done or been through that requires giving up on your First Love and who He created you to be, and what He created you to do in this life. That is to say that if you've felt like giving up, there is HOPE, and you can heal and recover and be restored! Please take this time for yourself to renew your mind in the truth. Forgive others, forgive yourself, and get your joy back, truly being led by God's Spirit in your relationship with God, your family, your home, your church life and the tasks God has asked you to be doing.