A Cry of Exhortation
Where is the Humility?
By Chris Lawson relative
Lately we have had an overwhelming response from people who have expressed their own hurts to us as a result of being involved in imbalanced, authoritarian churches. Some emails were critical saying we are being divisive and even one accusing us of being bitter. We are not bitter and we are not trying to be divisive. That is not our intention. To be blatantly honest, our flesh does not desire to share these things at all. Our flesh would rather sit in comfortable silence without speaking one word of this, but now is the time to speak up. We have been silent for far too long. We have been slow to speak and quick to listen. We have been watching and praying, and hoping that things would get better, but sadly things are getting worse and will continue to worsen as time goes on. So, we must deny our flesh and stand up and speak as the Lord leads us. “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). It would be sinful for us to just remain quiet. It is our love for the LORD and the brethren that motivates us to write these things. It is our prayer that church leaders receive this the way the LORD would have them to.
SO, WHY STAND UP AND SPEAK OUT?
Why place ourselves in the position to get maligned and criticized? Firstly, out of obedience to the Lord. Secondly, this is an exhortation for pastors to return to the New Testament biblical model for eldership, leaving the Moses/Aaron model of church leadership where it ought to stay – in the Old Testament. That leadership model was for a specific task at a specific time. To model the leadership of a modern church in that way is dangerous, especially in light of the fact that the New Testament clearly lays out the healthy method of biblical eldership with a plurality of leaders. It doesn’t matter how lovely, humble or gifted a pastor is, without a team of godly men who stand on equal terms with him, HE IS ONLY A MAN and will fall, fail, and/or hurt others. That kind of pressure and authority should not be placed or given to any man. Even the great disciple, the Apostle Peter, calls himself a fellow elder: “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed...” (I Peter 5:1). A pastor may respond to these statements with, “I have elders – my assistant pastor and two others keep me accountable.” Really? Can these men correct you, question you, and even rebuke you without fear of losing their position and/or job? Or are the men you have surrounded yourself with easily coerced by you? Pastor, please don’t get offended and angry by this, but we beseech you to seek the Lord regarding this.
Another reason we are communicating this is because this system that perpetuates itself is hurting so many people. We have received many letters from others who have been treated badly by the leadership of their churches (who promote the Moses/Aaron model), and have had to leave the very place that should be ministering to them. How are people getting hurt by this leadership style? Here is the scenario; we have experienced this and we see and hear about it happening over and over again:
A person has a hurt or a problem with the pastor and/or the church. This person goes to the pastor and explains the hurtful situation. Instead of listening carefully to this member of his congregation, trying to resolve the problem and restore the relationship with this person, the pastor becomes defensive, using excuses and twisting the situation around to make it appear that this hurting person is the one who is at fault. Sometimes the initial hurtful situation is completely overlooked as the focus is transferred to a totally different issue, again blaming the already wounded person. This member of the flock walks away from the meeting even more hurt and confused than when they first sought help from their pastor. There may be several more meetings, with other church leaders called in, but all the while the pastor is in control of the discussion and the outcome. Some church members come away so maimed from the meeting(s) with their pastor that they will no longer step into a church again. In extreme cases, some even come away with their faith so shaken, they completely walk away from any kind of fellowship.
To shame the hurting person even more by turning the situation around on them, even blaming them for their own hurt is devastating. If this person is an elder or an assisting pastor, they may even lose their position. After the person has left the church, some pastors even go so far as to defame and attempt to destroy the reputation of that hurting person. They do “damage control,” going to others in the church and telling “their story” to protect themselves. The hurting person is viewed as unloving, divisive, judgmental, and bitter. Friends are lost, relationships destroyed, and for the hurting person, it may take years to recover if they ever do indeed recover. The hurting person never expected their trusted pastor to respond to their pain in this manner. What is this person to do? Where do they go? There is a saying: “Christians are the only group who kill their wounded.” That should not be and we need to take a stand against such behavior! Hopefully these wounded people run to Jesus, the Man of Sorrows who was rejected and put to death by His own.
THE GOOD SHEPHERD OUR EXAMPLE
The Good Shepherd would never treat a wounded member of His flock like this. Therefore, the under-shepherd (pastor) should also follow The Good Shepherd’s example. The under-shepherd should tenderly care for the wounds, asking probing questions to get to the root of the problem. He should listen carefully to the answers and determine if the person who has a concern is coming to the conversation wanting a truthful answer or just needs to “vent.” He should always be honest and give reasons why decisions have been made in certain ways. He should be sensitive to the person’s perspective and, should the person have valid arguments, the under-shepherd should delve into the situation and determine what the next steps should be, rectifying what has been damaged. The under-shepherd (pastor) should always be sensitive and humble in their interactions with the members of the flock and should never malign the person to others in the church.
WHERE IS THE HUMILITY?
In any situation regarding pastor/flock relationships, the church should be governed by a plurality of godly men, so this hurting person and their issue would be heard fairly, objectively, and dealt with biblically. But in the authoritarian-type scenario, the lone pastor feels justified in defending himself, his self-image, and the little kingdom he is building rather than listening and dealing with these “unnecessary” problems. Where is the humility? Where is the true love and compassion exampled for us in Christ Jesus? Shouldn’t pastors be approachable, correctable, and humble?
We understand that this may sound harsh or unloving on our part, but these things need to be brought into the light. There are countless thousands of hurting and struggling people who are attempting to make sense out of their pain. They need clarity and restoration, and yes, through God’s grace, they need to forgive their pastors who have hurt them. They need to see he is just a man and, as a man, prone to hurt and fail others.
This is very difficult to write about, knowing it will cause a reaction, but it is necessary to speak about. We pray and hope that pastors will receive this exhortation and implement balanced biblical eldership, that hurting people will be healed, and ultimately God will be glorified!
HE WHO HAS EARS TO HEAR, LET HIM HEAR
“Come let us return to the LORD; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up” (Hosea 6:1). As Jesus says 16 times in the New Testament, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”