I recently had a conversation with a man named John who’d been attending our congregation for a few weeks. He was puzzled by the fact that I didn’t go by the term “Pastor” and he was trying to ask probing questions that would help him understand how things worked in our congregation:
“Who’s in charge at your church?” John asked.
“Jesus” I replied.
“No,” he responded. “I mean who is the Pastor here?”
“We have several pastors. They’re called Elders.”
“Well, who is the head Pastor?” he continued.
“Jesus”, I smiled.
“But who makes the final decisions about the direction of the church?” By now John was getting a little frustrated.
“It depends on whose ministry we’re talking about,” I said. “But ultimately, the final decisions lie with the Eldership.”
“Well, I just don’t understand that,” he said. “At xyz church (a huge congregation where this man had once attended), it’s such and such a Pastor’s church and he makes all the final decisions. No one can tell him what to do or kick him out.”
“That’s a very efficient system,” I replied… “until the ‘pastor’ goes off the reservation. If it’s HIS church, getting rid of him could prove a nightmare.”
Preachers are in charge
John was troubled by the fact that I wasn’t “running” the church. I didn’t even have my own designated parking spot! But in the denominational world, that’s often how the church is governed – the “Pastor” is the “man in charge”. Almost every denomination refers to their preacher as Pastor – even the Catholics do that with their Priests – and the use of that term carries with it a lot of baggage that many in our brotherhood fail to grasp. In most denominational churches “the Pastor” is the one who makes the decisions and sets the tone of the church, because it is “their” church.
For example, I once spoke with a friend from Kentucky who attends a fairly large Baptist church there. He was telling me about how proud he was of the church’s new Pastor. Why was he proud? Because the first thing that new pastor did when came to their church was to change all the locks on the doors. Seriously. Why was that impressive? Because it put the church on notice that the new “pastor” was in charge and he was going to run things – he held the keys to the kingdom.
I explained to John that the church should never be about “who is in charge” because that idea is entirely foreign to Scripture.
“do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. (In other words, avoid titles). But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:8-12