The job of pastor is hard enough. Ephesians 4 describes the role of pastor in the context of four other roles so that he can shoulder the weight of leadership with others. Unfortunately, however, our modern pastor/teacher role is unbiblical.
Now, that may sound outrageous, particularly to those blog readers who are pastors. Let me explain: What I mean is that nowhere in scripture are pastors asked to go to seminary, preach a weekly sermon and lead a flock of believers the way they do today (for a good book on this, read Frank Viola’s New Wineskins – if you disagree, show me different in Scripture). And because the role as it is practiced is unbiblical, pastors everywhere are set up for failure and are bombarded by temptations that help them to cope.
Here are five temptations that have corrupted our practice of church.
Temptation #1: To steward the Institution, not the people
It’s easy to mistake the institution for the thing itself. The Institution pays our bills and offers us security and even an identity, but it can’t give us life. The Institution emphasizes form over function, buildings over ministry, payrolls and job descriptions over people, process over purpose, ritual over relationship and finally, safety over sending.
Temptation #2: To skim the surface rather than model transparency
We need to get in touch with our brokenness. We need to model vulnerability. Churches need to learn from AA groups: “My name is Seth Barnes and I’m a sinner. Here’s how I’ve struggled this past week.” It’s human and normal to struggle. We need to stop teaching so many biblical principles that have no relevance to people’s every day reality and just get real. We need to let our humanity show. Embarrassment is a good thing.
Temptation #3: To prioritize teaching over intimacy & outreach
We leaders love to teach. I enjoy preparing for talks I give. But teaching is just one gift among many and teaching is safe. It can be done in the safe confines of four walls. It doesn’t require getting messy. Jesus taught, but his primary impact was thru touching. It was his intimacy and outreach that made a difference.
Temptation #4: To allow “weaker brothers” to define freedom & grace
How did this practice of abundant life that Jesus described, this religion based on grace, get held hostage to a list of rules and regulations? Most of us prefer simplicity to complexity. “Just show me what to do and I’ll do it.” Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit as our counselor and freed us to truly live. Yes, the book of Romans gives us the wages of sin, but it also gives us the balance of practicing our freedom.
Temptation #5: To confuse “the faith” with faith
I don’t know how it is that faith has fallen on hard times. Perhaps it’s because we don’t really need God for anything. In Africa when they pray “give us this day our daily bread,” they really mean it. We came upon a small hut in Swaziland. Inside was a 14 year-old orphan responsible for a younger brother and sisters. Their parents were dead. When they prayed for their daily bread, they did so earnestly. And when their daily bread arrived unexpectedly at the door, they danced for joy. God provided. God rewarded their faith. When was the last time you practiced faith like that?