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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dysfunction from Misfunction: Role of Pastor

In order to understand the “mis-function”, I wanted to understand the proper, God ordained function.  So let’s start with the definition of “Pastor”.

 

In both the Old and New Testaments the word “Pastor” and “Shepherd” are the same.  The Old Testament version means “to tend a flock”.  I found 64 references in the Old Testament and 19 in the New Testament.  According to these references, here is what I believe the role of the Pastor/Shepherd is (according to the Bible):

 

-         They are subordinate to God

o       Genesis 49:24; Psalm 23:1; Psalm 80:1; Ecclesiastes 12:11; Isaiah 40:11; Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 63:11; Jeremiah 23:4; Jeremiah 31:10; John 10:1-18; 1 Peter 5:4

o       In the sense that there is “One Shepherd” and that they are given by God (as referenced in Ezekiel 34:23 and 37:24, a reference to David as that Shepherd or more likely a reference to Jesus who is of the “House of David” – also see John 10:11,14; Ephesians 4:11; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25).

o       Under Shepherds which could be sons, hired hands, or sheep dogs (please keep a sense of humor here).

o       As “hirelings” they can lack commitment to the herd (John 10:12-13).

-         They are leaders

o       Numbers 27:17; 1 Kings 22:17; 2 Chronicles 18:16; Ecclesiastes 12:11; Zechariah 13:7; Matthew 26:31; John 10:3

o       In the sense that the sheep (we) follow them where and when they go.

-         They protect.

o       Exodus 2:17-19; Isaiah 31:4; Isaiah 56:11; Jeremiah 23:1-4; Jeremiah 52:23; Amos 3:12; Matthew 9:36; Luke 2:8

o       In the sense that they protect from predators as well as “bad” shepherds.

-         They serve the flock

o       Ezekiel 34:2-23; Isaiah 44:28; Ephesians 4:11

o       In the sense that they feed, restore the weak, tend the sick, bandage the injured, recover the stragglers, search for the lost, equip for work in God’s service and build up the flock.

o       Note: the measurement for this service is unity and maturity as measured by the full stature of Jesus (Ephesians 4:13).

-         They know the flock

o       John 10:2-4,7

o       In the sense that the flock knows their voice.  They are known by the sheep and by the Master Shepherd.

-         They can also be destroyers of people’s lives

o       Exodus 2:17-19; Isaiah 56:11; Jeremiah 25:34-36; Jeremiah 50:6-7; Zechariah 10:2-3)

o       In the sense that if they are not following THE Shepherd, they will lead the herd to destruction.

The role of shepherd is messy. Jeremiah 43:12 speaks of the shepherd scouring their clothes to rid them of lice.  The role of shepherd is 24x7.  Luke 2:8 speaks of the shepherds watching their flock by night. 

  

What is the role in our current culture and in corporate church today?

-         Subordinate?  In most cases, “yes”.  My fear and observation is however, that they are subordinate to a hierarchy of leadership within the denomination possibly before they are subordinate to God.  In this is a mis-function.  The Biblical hierarchy places them under The Shepherd – Jesus.  It is He who has given some to be.  In recent years, there has been a movement to independent churches.  In these cases, as in Biblical reference, the pastor must guard against becoming “god” and leading his people into harms way and ultimately to destruction (see references above).

-         Leaders?  This is interesting.  Our church corporation wants them to be CEO.  We want them to be responsible for budgets, for marketing plans, for programming, for product development, for the growth of the organization and its fiscal and legal wellbeing.  In addition, we want them to visit the sick, those in the hospital, marry us, bury us, counsel us, entertain us, and do it for as long as we want them to do it.  In this is a mis-function.  The leadership the Bible refers to is preparing the flock for the work of service to God.  NOT doing the work of serving God for them.

-         Protect?  I fear we are too many times inviting “predators” by our political and social pontificating.  We aren’t spending enough time preparing the flock for battle and spending too much time in commentary on the battle.  This is a mis-function.  The Shepherd’s protection keeps the bad influences out of the herd versus going looking for them.

-         Serving and Knowing?  Almost every pastor I’ve known does this exceptionally well.  Those that don’t are greedy and arrogant and are setting themselves and their flock up for destruction according to God’s Word.

 

When I started this series, I was focused on the pastoral profession as a mis-function.  I apologize for that.  In Jesus day this was a full time job, a profession.  While in our current culture, many sheep herds are shepherd-less in corporate farming.  This is largely due to the absence of predators and the presence of pens, and feeding systems.  In the church, the predators still exist and the need for pastor/shepherd’s still exists.

 

The role of pastor/shepherd is important in the church.  It is God ordained, God given, God directed, and God serving.  Its fundamental purpose is the development of the disciples and the church for the purpose of serving God and each other.  We have added many responsibilities to the Pastor that aren’t Biblical.  The consequence is the distraction of the pastor from their Biblical roles and responsibilities.  It is a consequence of the church being a corporation, a consequence of people wanting to be served verses wanting to serve.  This is the mis-function of the role and a cause of the dysfunction in the church as a whole in our culture.

 

Without well equipped disciples of Jesus Christ, unified and matured in Christ, the church will fall prey to the predatory nature of the Adversary and our current cultural influences.  Pastors are the tool God intended to help make well equipped disciples of Jesus Christ, unified and matured in Christ. 

 

Those who serve God and are true to the Bible, are deserving of respect.  They are deserving of being followed.  They are deserving of our gifts and material care for them.  Those who want the role for any other reason than God’s appointment are doomed for destruction of themselves and the flocks they lead.

11:56 am edt 

Friday, May 1, 2009

Dysfunction From Mis-Function: The Place and Role of the Bible in the Church

In my last post, I defined dysfunction as "malfunctioning" or "a consequence of a social or behavior pattern that undermines the ability of a social system".  This post deals with how we (the Christian church) are mis-functioning in regards the place and role of the Bible.

 

First, the Bible IS NOT mis-functional.  In terms of its consequences on the World’s social systems; however, it can be very dysfunctional.  In fact, the Bible is intended to create dysfunction in the world system because the “world’s way” is not God’s way (James 4:4). 

 What place and role should the Bible play in existence, governance, and functioning of communities of faith? 

The Bible is referred to as the Word of God, or the Word.  According to the Apostle John, the Word pre-existed creation.  It was through the Word that all things came into being.  In The Word is life… a life that creates a light among mankind.  Light is energy.  Light helps us see what is really there.  Light shows us the way.    It is the role of the Word to make God known to us.  It is through the Word that grace and truth come to us.  John goes on to point out that “The Word” is the person of Jesus, the Christ.  (John 1:1-18)  Jesus is a three dimensional version of God’s Word.  The Bible is a two dimensional version of God’s Word.  In content, they are the same.

 

What should we learn from this in regards to the church? 

  1. Jesus, the Word, pre-exists us.  He knows more, understands more, has seen more than we have.  His insights exceed ours.  If the Bible tells us how we should behave, we should behave that way even if we don’t understand it.  Even if it doesn’t seem “culturally relevant”.
  2. Without the Word, we don’t exist.  Take the Bible out of the church and there is no church.  Diminish the Bible’s place in our functioning and we diminish the church.
  3. Unless the Word is visible (taught, preached, practiced, lived) we are all stumbling about in the dark.
  4. Without the Word we cannot know God.
  5. Without the Word we will not know truth.
  6. Without the Word we do not have life.

If what we are doing can’t be supported by “chapter and verse” (with integrity), we should not be doing it.  A lot of energy and resource goes into “stuff” that would be difficult to support from a Biblical perspective.  If we can support what we are doing Biblically, then we may need to question its importance and priority Biblically.  For instance, Paul taught the Corinthians that there were three important things: Faith, Hope, and Love.  He went on to say that the most important of them (or greatest of them) was Love (1 Corinthians 13).  Not that we should fail to exhibit Faith and Hope but that they function best, most effectively in the context of Love.  By the way, John writes in 1 John 4 that God is love.  It is no surprise that Love is the greatest of these.

 

Secondly, the Bible sometimes gets usurped by other sources that we give authority.  Two of those things are extra-biblical writings and tradition.

 What place and role do extra-biblical writings (those not in the Bible) play?

I want to be clear about what constitutes “extra-biblical writing”.  Anything that is not the Bible (66 canonical books), is “extra-biblical”.  Here is a quick list of what we wrestle with in the Church that is extra-biblical:

            Articles of Incorporation                       By Laws

            Constitutions                                         Rules of Membership

            Theological Writings                             Bible Study Guides

            Doctrinal Statements                             Marketing Plans

            Program Operating Guides                    Budgets

            Christian literature                                 Video/Audio recordings

If it isn’t the Bible, it isn’t infallible nor is it authoritative in the sense that the Bible is authoritative.  Here is why…

 

God is infinite.  He is beyond our understanding.  His ways are not our ways.  God’s Word is unchanging.  It is nothing short of arrogance to think we can capture an infinite and infallible God in the mind and words of mortals.  We can capture glimpses of God. We can paint partial pictures.  We will always fall short of capturing God as He is.  My relationship with God and to His Word is always changing.  I mature.  I learn.  My experiences change my perspective on God’s Word.  So, while God’s Word is stationary, I am constantly in motion around it, seeing it from different aspects as I change.  This is not to say that there aren’t absolute truths in the Bible.  There are.  It is to say that God’s Word is a lot like God… perfect and infinite in how I can relate to it.

 

At best, anything I would write is a snap shot of my understanding of God’s Word at a given point in time.  The value of these writings are: shared experiences they represent, insight to God and His Word, or challenges to our thinking about God and His Word.  The “mis-function” is anytime the extra-biblical becomes more than that and challenges God’s Word for its authority in our lives.

 

Here’s an example.  The Bible shows the Church to be a spiritual entity (i.e. “Bride of Christ”, “Body of Christ”) and a collection of believers (i.e. The Church in Rome).  When we incorporate and create a material entity calling it a “church”, we create an entity that is not Biblical.  As a result of the incorporating, we create extra-Biblical materials that, in effect, are promises to the State or the Federal Government that we will adhere to certain behaviors.  What would happen if those behaviors came into conflict with God’s Word?  Which would end up governing the “Church”?

 

I find it interesting the there is extreme growth in God’s Church in places where the Church is prohibited from functioning publicly.  It was certainly true of the first century church as related in Acts and the Epistles.  If God’s message through Israel in the Prophets yields anything, it should be that He will not be second.  We cannot serve Man first and God second in anything or any way.  Which is a challenge when we comes to the topic of traditions, leadership, World systems, and culture.

 What about tradition, leadership, World systems, culture?

There is a place for tradition.  The Apostle Paul talked about passing on traditions from one generation to the next.  Paul also said in Romans 12:2 that we should not be conformed to the patterns of this world, this present age.  Our point of “conform” should be the person of Christ.  Which brings us back to God’s Word (Jesus).  We have the same issues with tradition, leadership, systems, and culture that we have with extra-biblical writings.  They can usurp God as King and Lord of our lives.

 

If we are to be “hidden in Christ” and Jesus is God’s Word, anytime we step out from within (or behind) the Word, we become visible.  Jesus (God’s Word) is perfect and infallible.  We are not.  If we are seen, apart from Christ (God’s Word), we will be seen as corrupt, fault ridden, and ineffective which may be part of the dysfunction we are encountering in the Church today. 

4:04 pm edt 


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