Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Pastoral Requirements of the Local Church: Part 1

We have all witnessed it. The pastor is forced to resign or worse, he is fired. This pastor faithfully preached the Word of God week after week, and as far as we knew he visited the sick and the shut-ins sufficiently. We had heard the rumblings of the "rumblers" who had never been happy with any pastor...except the ones that were gone. Like a really nasty person who upon death is exalted to sainthood, former pastors were always better than the present one. And as is often the case, the very ones who supported him so vocally when he was "called" to their pulpit are the ones who now want to run him out of town, tarred and feathered on a rail. But what happened between "the call and the fall?" What changed so much that the pastor's former "friends" now are slandering him and vilifying him over the fires of hell? And is the "whole church," the "they" who want him out, really against him?

When I resigned my last church four years ago it was due to an argument I had had with a former attendor who showed up suddenly for a business meeting on a Sunday afternoon. He had not been coming to church for some time and now in this business meeting he wanted to start pointing fingers and accussing one of our staff. I coudn't let it simply pass. And as they say, the rest is history. The next evening I got a call from our deacon chairman and he reported that "they" were upset with how I had handled the confrontation. The "they" turned out to be him and two other people.

In a previous blog, "Why Good Pastors Resign," I pointed out what I believe is the major cause of church squabbles and pastors' resignations; Jesus Christ is no longer viewed as the "head of the church." The primary cause of church divisions, as I see it, is the man-centeredness of most local churches. Some board or committee has dethroned the Lord Jesus as head of His church.

Sometimes it is one person, the "power person" in the church who needs to control everything that goes on in "his" church. I have met this person a dozen times. Sometimes it is a "family." You know them as well. They are the family whose grandpa has a stained glass window dedicated to him, "Saint Grandpa, the Magnificent." This family has been in the church for generations and will not let this pastor "run them off." And "come hell or high water," even if it means 90% of the church leaves, they're not leaving. They can be perfectly happy with "us four and no more." And when they finally get it after running the pastor off, they are indeed once again in control and happy.

The second reason I have proposed for church squabbles and splits and resignations is Biblical illiteracy. The "God-called-man-of-God" knows when his flock is Biblically illiterate and sets out to remedy that sin. However, Biblical preaching, especially expository preaching, just doesn't sit well with them that can't sit well during the preaching of the truth. After all, they have just watched Joel Osteen before coming to church. Or they have watched Robert Schuller, jr., or that hee-larious Jessie Duplantis or any number of so-called "Christian" celebrities while getting dressed for church. The Word of God means nothing to the average church attendor (I know "attender" is spelled with an "e" and not an "o" but "attenDOR" seems more fitting to their dignity).

The former pastors whom the church feigned to love and miss these days were likely not men of the Word. One can make this judgment based on one's experience with churches across the nation that are filled with Biblically illiterate folk. We have all read enough to know that our experience with this illiteracy is not just our problem, it is everywhere. And it appears to be an incurable disease. But incurable or not, it is one that the God-called-man-of-God must address each week from his pulpit. It is "out of season" only for the illiterate and the lost, not the Bible preaching pastor.

The third obvious reason for the extremely high number of resignations by pastors, squabbles and splits is our churches are peopled by the unconverted, the lost, the folks who will not inherit the kingom of God. I realize that this may be our greatest problem as the believer sees it, but it is not the biggest problem for the average church; that is self-explanatory, isn't it? The lost church member doesn't care if 90% of his fellows are lost. That's what makes church fun. That's what makes church so open to our family members who are living in gross immorality or drunkardness (is that a word?) or are "doing" drugs, etc., etc. So who cares if a clown leads the service or a magician fills in for the pastor while he's on vacation. And who cares if the rich folks in the church don't come all summer because they are at the lake house? As long as the rich give and the lost attend, we're in good shape. We're doing well.

Is it any wonder that the Word of God repeatedly exhorts and commands believing pastors to preach the truth, the Word of God? Is it any wonder that the Word of God demands a defense of sound doctrine in the local church? Is it any wonder that the Word of God demands that we remove the leaven from our midst before it infects the entire congregation? And is it any wonder that the church continues to function in its present condition being that it is completely ignorant of what the Word of God demands?

So when a pastor is forced to resign or "asked" to resign or "feels" that it is best that he resign or gets fired, what is the church to do? What is the church doing during this process? Where are the supporters of the pastor while all this is taking place? And what is the role of the church at a crisis time like this? It is rather unsettling when one considers the present apostate condition of the local church and the control it wields over the God-called-man-of-God; the battle seems inevitably lost. The Bible preaching, Christ-loving pastor will leave eventually and we know it, but why? Why does it turn out this way too often?