Monday, September 12, 2016

Contrast Within Pastoral Leadership Part 1

Recently I was sent a list of seven points explaining why the Christian Church does not need a senior pastor. As I read, I found myself in an unusual position: One in which I agreed wholeheartedly with each point and argument made, but was also able to see why they could not be applied across the board.

As amazing or fantastical as it may sound, there actually are pastors out there that have never taken a cent from the church they lead; who have never used their "power" for the purposes of manipulation; and who genuinely perform their roles as an honest-to-God servant-leader. I know this because I have been under the leadership of at least two of these pastors, and my life is so much the better for it. As a direct result of these people, I am able to say that I know what true leadership within the Body of Christ is, because I was able to see it exemplified.

However, the points are still very much accurate for the vast majority of hyper-publicized churches around the world. This is a sad statement to make, yet it is unfortunately a true statement also. The facts, figures, eyewitness accounts, and very public self-destruction of such churches all support this statement also.

Because of this sad truth, I would like to present to you the seven points I received, and contrast these with genuine servant-leaders that I have known. It is my hope that by seeing the examples and the exceptions, you might come to recognize what sort of leader your local body sits under.

1. Power Tends to Corrupt

From the list:
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”   
- Lord Acton

This is the biggest reason why we do not need a Senior CEO Pastor. The
average human simply cannot handle power. As Abraham Lincoln observed, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Authentic power empowers others. Honest power has no need to cling to power, it releases it instead. It
spreads it out. It expiates it. It empowers others. Besides there truly is only ONE shepherd and His name is Jesus, all the rest of us are His sheep. God's Kingdom is upside down in comparison to the world's institutional model dealing with leadership. Soooo... top down authority models within the Church only create more problems.

Now, there are definitely churches that have this problem. I don't think any of us would have too hard a time of naming off some of the most visible examples, as they are in the news regularly.

However, it should be noted that there are senior pastors out there that do not utilize power with corrupted motives. I will certainly acknowledge that most of those senior pastors who have enjoyed the limelight are often there for a reason, and that not all of those reasons are noteworthy for their Christ-like qualities. With this said, it is often the pastors of small churches, with an outward focus for the community and an inward focus of service, that use the power their office has entrusted to them with humility.

So how can one tell if the pastor of one's church is utilizing power in a corrupt manner?

Well, if that pastor calls names from the pulpit, they may be power corrupt. (There is rarely a proper time for this to happen, and I personally have seen it only once in twenty years.)

If that pastor demands that people refer to them by their office at all times, in and out of church, and will publicly shame those who don't, they may be power corrupt. (It is one thing to teach about respect for a position; it is entirely different to be consumed by it to the point of hurting those that office is meant to protect.)

These are just two signs, but I believe you can see the pattern.

2. The senior CEO Pastor role just propagates the outdated power of the denomination / institution.

If anyone has ever visited an institutional or denominational church, then chances are they are very much aware of what they were visiting. However, those who attend such churches regularly, and perhaps were a part of it prior to it fitting in this category, may not realize this to be true. Thus, allow me to share from the list once again:

The Institutional / Denominational Church has followed the same structure and power hungry struggle as the 'State' (Government). The Church has become exactly like the State. The state: billions of people elbowing each other through the codependent wretchedness of hierarchical violence. The state: a propped up entity of ominous design, placating its citizens with freedom like a carrot dangling on a stick. ...Alas, the accumulation of the state has led to the erosion of individual freedom, and the Church institution / denomination has taken away the individual's freedom to be led by the Holy Spirit. A bottom-up approach toward reclaiming individual power, and thus individual freedom, should come first. But that doesn’t mean we should turn a blind eye to what must come second (if there is to be anything left to be free in at all) –a systematic collapse from the top-down. Maybe that's why there are SO many different denominations – people want to be 'free' and thus just started another.

Once more, I can understand and appreciate where the writer is coming from. More and more, I see the writing on the wall for the Western Church, specifically those with an institutional, denominational or combination approach. Allow me to be clear: I have been to institutionalized churches that have run well; that have allowed the Holy Spirit freedom to move; and that have been full of genuinely caring people seeking the will of the Lord. Unfortunately, these have been few. I have also been to denominational churches wherein the denomination's name on the sign simply informed others of what they actually believed; and within the walls of these churches I found some of the most godly, Christ-like people I've ever come across. Again, these have been few in number.

So how can one tell if one's church has reached this point of religious depravity?

If one's church has a "if you're not for us, you're against us" attitude, it may be depraved.

If one's church leadership (that is, everyone in leadership, not just the senior pastor) lords their authority over the "peons," it may be depraved.

Again, I believe you can see the pattern.

3. Holy Spirit instruction and direction trumps ALL other forms of authority.

The problem with the institutional denominational senior CEO pastoral model is that it propagates blind obedience to --- human control, rather than individual Holy Spirit control. Is there a greater chance of mistakes being made with no 'head' senior pastor's 3 step weekly sermon to follow and just relying on the Holy Spirit? Absolutely yes. But I'd rather have more mistakes with more freedom, than less mistakes because of less freedom. ...Spiritual covering comes from God – not a human leader. Real accountability comes from very close intimate friendships, which our culture, Church, and society admittedly has lost.
Once again, this list is dead on point, and the writer touches on one of my personal hot button issues: Accountability.

In a properly operating church, the pastor is accountable to the flock, just as the flock is accountable to the leadership, and all are accountable to one another. In a poorly operating church, the pastor is above (or beyond) accountability of any kind, yet holds the flock accountable for the smallest infractions. I have been in churches wherein the pastor was carrying on two different affairs with women in the church, and everyone knew about it! Yet, that same pastor had the nerve to hold everyone else accountable for their various addictions- Sexual and otherwise. Because of his brutish approach to his position, everyone within the church had become terrified of confronting an obvious issue.

In the church I attend now, our pastors hold themselves accountable to not only their flock, but also the authority which they have voluntarily placed themselves under: Specifically, our bishop. No, this is not a bishop such as those within the Catholic church have; instead, it is based very much upon the model laid out in Acts and other Pauline letters. Yes, there is a proper method of approaching a pastor on a perceived issue; but there is also a proper method for holding anyone within the church accountable, regardless of their title or position.

As pertains to freedom, a properly operating church allows the Holy Spirit to rule the service. God is a God of order, and thus we may expect a certain order of service. However, when the Lord draws someone to the church for the purpose of ministry to their specific need, the pastor must not quench the Spirit by rigidly adhering to five hymns, four hers and an hour long sermon with four collections. Instead, the pastor ought to allow the Holy Spirit to change the flow of service according to His will, not to the comfort of the pastoral staff.

So how can one tell if one's church is stuck in its ways and refusing to allow the freedom of the Holy Spirit?

If one's service can be expected from Sunday to Sunday regardless of who walks through the doors, one's church may be stuck.

If one sets aside a certain amount of money with a specific bill or check for each collection, one's church may be stuck.

If one finds oneself excited because the annual "Holy Spirit Sunday" is coming ever closer, one's church may be stuck.

Again, the pattern here should be clear for most readers.

This has been the first three of a two part series taken from these seven points. I will post again soon, but until then, I value your feedback. Feel free to share on social media, and pose comments or questions below. I will strive to respond in a timely manner.