Who is Leading the Church?
When the Christian Church began, there is no question of who led it. Jesus leads the Christian Church. He gathered and taught the handful of disciples, He returned to them after His crucifixion death, and He stayed with them for many days before promising to send a Helper to continue working with them. There is no doubt that even after Jesus ascended to Heaven that He is the One who led out in the Christian Church. So when exactly did we revert to dependence on men (or women) to lead the church in the way I see it today–idolizing pastors and evangelists and placing them on a pedestal rather than growing in Christ together and spreading the gospel together?
The Early Church with a Modern Lens
What you see of “pastoring” in the early church consists of mostly communicating. Paul traveled around spreading the message throughout Asia and Europe. He trained others. He continued communicating and leading through letter-writing. He followed through with the Christian mission as he went. Though many early church leaders were martyred, none seem to have been idolized as much as the living church leaders are today. We see giant churches with thousands of seats, satellite campuses, praise team albums, best-selling books, and we see success. We see the pastor weekly or bi-weekly, shake his hand and we think we’ve won.
I know people who will only come to church when the pastor preaches. Elders, lay-people, even video programs bring the message when the pastor is away, and congregants refuse to come to church. I know people who will drive three hours away to another church in the district in order to listen to the pastor preach every single week. Still, other Christians stay at their home church while grumbling that they never see the pastor. Perhaps it’s because the pastor only makes himself available on Sabbath. What gives? When did the church take on this tension and dependence between pastor and congregant, and where do we go from here?
What You Can Do…
If you’re like me, you may be tired of reaching out to an unavailable pastor. Like any relationship, communication and availability are essential. If you’re like me, you know online pastors better than your local church pastor. If you’re like me, you’re not sure how to build the bridges necessary to have a healthy pastor/church relationship while also cultivating a healthy relationship with Jesus and others in your congregation. If you’re like me, maybe you don’t know where to start.
- Start with your family. If your own faith depends on the faith of your pastor, then your faith will be shaken if your pastor proves to be less than the saint he or she is painted. Invite Jesus into your home and let faith fill your family first.
- Invite the pastor to real life events. The only way to break the pattern of only seeing the pastor at church is to invite him to other types of activities. Pastors and pastor families need socialization and fellowship too!
- Keep criticism to yourself. Building walls between yourself and the pastor also builds walls between yourself and others, dividing the church family. Instead, build bridges by finding common ground and building others up.
- Pray for the church and its leadership! Pastoring a church may be the hardest job in the church. It’s difficult for the pastor and the pastoral family. Pray for your pastor and church leadership with the same fervency you pray for your own family.