A man’s ability to consistently preach well and to privately speak wisdom into difficult situations can easily make him the recipient of an unintentional promotion to a status somewhere above the rest of us mere mortals. When we are blessed, strengthened, and encouraged by a pastor, we can unconsciously deem them as somehow different than the rest of us stumbling bumpkins still trying to figure out this hard path of life. Someone so wise, loving, kind, and compassionate surely has already attained an element of perfection eluding us.
Subtly our confidence can shift from God’s word to man’s word. We turn first to the pastor for answers, skipping the vital step of prayer and searching the Bible. We trust in the pastor’s ability to study and find the truth, relinquishing our responsibility to be good Bereans (Acts 17:11). We believe the pastor better understands the Scripture more than we possibly ever could, forgetting that we have residing in us also the Spirit of truth, Who guides us into all the truth (John 16:7-15). When this godly man drifts, we are susceptible to being carried away in the strong current of hypocrisy as Barnabas was by Peter (Galatians 2:11-13).
The potentially hard to comprehend reality is pastors are simply our fellow brothers (Matthew 23:8). Flesh and blood like you and me. They are equals. They are fallen. They hold no special status.
Other people respond in the opposite way to this phenomenon, disdaining the station and distrusting any man in it. While this also is a natural reaction in our fallen state, let us pause and reflect. Who ordained this position of stewardship and authority and means it for our good (Matthew 16:18-19, Titus 1:7)? One pastor I heard put it something like this in his sermon, “Don’t let poor examples of authority undermine the reality of God’s designed authority in church. Rejecting authority is to our detriment.” Sure, some will do a horrible job as a pastor, but what profession does not possess a number of rogues?
How do you view your brothers who open the Word every week? What extreme do you currently tend towards?
Wherever we are on the spectrum today between accidental elevation of spiritual authority or purposely rejecting it, the following books can recalibrate our thinking, protecting us from either extreme. First, an easy read recommended by a pastor I know is Why Elders? A Biblical and Practical Guide for Church Members by Benjamin L. Meekly. Second, a similar but much meatier book, which many seminary students are required to read and was recommended by another pastor I know, is Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership by Alexander Strauch.
God in Acts 10:25-26 succinctly instructs us how to view our spiritual leaders: “When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshipped him. But Peter raised him up, saying, ‘Stand up; I too am just a man.’”
Do we fight to remember that our pastors are just men? Do we consciously refrain from putting our fellow brothers on a pedestal? On the flip side, when disappointed, do we show grace to these men who constantly labor on our behalf?
Heb 13:17 the pastor will give an account to for those he shepherds to Jesus! (And if he is pointing them to a book other than Word or a philosophy or method over God and the intimacy of Christ, is pointing them to Jesus) This is where the pedestal comes from, it’s just written on heart though we might know the Scripture immediately. There is a major difference between a pastor who sins and the rest of us, he is ahead of the flock. I think there is hierarchy in the trinity as well though they are one! Thank you for the post though, it got me digging in the Word!
Thank you for your comment. Always good to get digging in the Word! Let me know if you think a phone call would be beneficial for us to talk through this more. Otherwise, glad the post made you stop and think for a second.