Truly…just thinking this morning.

the fact that i stand at odds with the current cultural model of  “senior pastor”  is pretty well chronicled.

but i gotta admit that it’s kind of intimidating…and more than a little uncomfortable… to recognize that i disagree with modern big dogs,  the likes of:  john macarthur,  bill hybels,  mark driscoll,  john piper,  chuck swindoll,  jack graham,  rick warren,  t.d. jakes,  matt chandler,  tommy nelson,  tony evans,  ed young,  david platt,  perry noble,  and the like.

and not just the current ones,  but influential pastors down through the ages,  as well.

shaky ground,  campers.   shaky ground.

but i will hold fast.

simply put,  no matter how much i read my bible  (and study church history ),  i don’t see justification for the existence of the ecclesiastical hierarchy.   i just don’t.

i see an entire system of modern church leadership build around a word that appears only once (in its current usage) in the entire new testament:

It was he (Jesus) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service…  Ephesians 4:11-12

one place.

the idea of  THE pastor…the concept of the chief-boss-director…head dude in chargepowerful…authoritative… anointed…ordained by god…the singular prophetic vision-caster for an entire church…well,  that’s where i draw the line.

i just don’t see anywhere in the bible that says that one man is supposed to be the spiritual conduit of god’s wisdom and leading of a congregation of god’s people.   i just don’t see it.

there is no question that the list of men at the top of this post represents a modern-day hall of fame for church leaders.   they are each eloquent speakers,  powerful leaders,  and diligent bible scholars  (many of whom disagree radically with each other…ahh,  the irony…).

they are influential,  courageous,  passionate,  wise,  loving,  and have each lived lives of compassionate grace for the good of the churches they lead ,  as well as the church world-wide.

this is not a shot at them.   on the contrary,  i have deep respect for them and the legacy of church leadership they will leave behind through their books,  speaking,  church reputations,  and personal lives.

(on a positive note,  my personal influence and legacy is building.   my daily readership in the great blogosphere  is expanding by at least one or two a month.   *crowd cheers*.   and i’ve now had three people ask me when i’m writing a book.   dang…it would sooo be four,  if my mom were still alive…)

i believe they are fully convinced of their biblical exposition and even more convinced of the high calling they have received.   i believe they follow the long and storied model of church pastors passed down to them from their teachers and mentors.

but i still find myself on the other side. when i read my bible,  i just don’t see the singular anointed leader role that they do.   and that most churches see,  also.   its not just the pastor who perpetuates the role…it also comes from the expectations of the people they lead.

i see the need for leadership.   i see the need for good teaching and preaching.   i see the need for people to be cared for.   i see the great need for integrity and commitment and healthy example.    i work hard to do my best in these areas.

but there is no room for a pedestal.

to the north point family:   thanks for knocking the pedestal over years ago.   thanks for my reminders to resist the urge to build it again.   thanks for the consistent lessons that i need you guys much more than you need me.

* i will be the first to admit that my personal theology of pastoring is not popular.   nor is it without flaw.   but i have arrived at it through careful consideration of the word and an honest look at the church throughout history… including what is going on in the church today.

** i think i’m going to write about food or baseball…or both…tomorrow.   too much seriousness for one week.

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10 thoughts on “Truly…just thinking this morning.

  1. You should, at some point, publish our conversation about contemporary church hierarchies and why it makes it more difficult, not easier, to run those organizations.

    Humans flock to leaders, even as we grumble about how we don’t like to be told what to do. As much as we hate authority, we hate responsibility even more. The best situation is to make it someone’s problem rather than our own. The problem with senior pastors is that they are both highly visible and very personable, leading to the impression that the person who leads the flock also acts as the chief executive of the church organization. I think the blame is not sorely on people serving as senior pastors, I think congregations have been complicit in this as well. “He’s a man of God, he should be in charge”

    Call me a heretic, but I would not have put John the Baptist in charge of anything. Moses was chosen to lead God’s people, but Aaron was put in charge of the Temple, yet both were considered men of God. I think some people look to the early church and see the Disciples running the show so they assume that those with an evangelical role should be the people in charge.

    Unfortunately, there is a lot of momentum around this and the title of senior pastor is a career move now for those who chose to work in ministry.

  2. I agree with what you’re saying in concept. Some (anabaptist) churches practice plurality in leadership, but the way they run their churches (heavy-handed) puts the Holy Spirit out of a job. Their idea of leadership is telling people how to run the minutiae of every day life. Maybe you could take the good and throw out the bad. I learned a ton from them about body life and hospitality that seems lost in the general church population.

  3. I personally love your way of “pastoring” (abbotting? 🙂 ) I like the fact that you are REAL and you’re not dictating my life through theology. Jesus is doing the dictating… well he’s trying anyway.

  4. You want to get some material for your food and baseball post we can grab some grub and catch the Colony game. I think I’m going to take the bike out for a ride and watch a little Farra ball tonight.

    1. i think i’m going to be protecting the great wolf lodge from the effects of bays boys this evening. are you letting them out of the cage tonight?

      1. You could just be in charge of Connor. That would give you material for a long time! Have fun with them.

  5. I claim to be blithely unaware of the distinctions different denominations have for leadership (except for the obvious-Catholics). I just know when I feel comfortable in a church and when not.

    Nothing like an ill-timed chuckle receiving a disavowing glare; being referred to a ‘lesser’ deacon/leader when I thought I could approach the head guy because he was…well…THE pastor; or receiving scorn for a lack of Christian etiquette–‘scuse me, I guess I didn’t read the handbook whilst in the crib!

    Subtle signs, I’ll grant you but it didn’t take a stinking degree to figure out someone ELSE hadn’t really read the bible in awhile.

    If YOU are trying and holding yourself accountable, I’m comfortable with your leadership. If you stop, I’m jumping ship.

    Too harsh? (if I click on ‘post comment’ I can never get it back, can I?) hmmmm

    1. kim, you are clearly hanging with the right people these days! our little corner of paradise here at NP is filled with people who are trigger-happy when it comes to posting. me included.

      some say it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission…even when it comes to what comes out of our mouths. i say it should just be easier to extend grace instead of judgment. except when BA is concerned. he should ALWAYS read what he writes five or six times before he pushes the button…

      i love living near grace and not on the other side of the fence…

  6. I guess I don’t really know what you’re getting at. Are you not exactly what you described in this post? Do you not describe yourself as a sheep herder? You are the singular, head, lead, whatever, pastor at North Point. The only difference between you and some of those other guys is the size of the building. We also have elders who have certain responsibilities, and then several different ministries that are led by somebody and people underneath them that follow what that leader says…sounds like a hierarchy to me.

    The part of this that I can definitely agree with is that at North Point, there is definitely no sense of “one man” being the sole conduit to God. Can’t stand that type of mentality and I’m very thankful I’m not Catholic. It seems like at North Point, every person there is just as much a sheep herder as the person standing next to them. I think that’s healthy and supported Biblically.

  7. What a great post Mike!  I too have never been able to see an ecclesiastical office of “pastor” described or modeled in the new testament. I think alot in terms of form vs. function. So, if the church’s form is not correct, how can it function the way it is supposed to?

    Ephesians 4:12 (the only verse telling us what pastors/teachers are to do) says that pastors are to “equip the saints for the work of ministry”. Here, the body of Christ actual “does” the ministry, in effect, making us all ministers (pastors included). 

    I don’t mean to suggest that there should be no full-time salaried church pastors/teachers. I think the church needs them. Could it be that church congregations have simply shirked the duties of being ministers and relied too much on others (pastors/teachers) to do it for us?  Maybe. Perhaps we have created jobs with over-the-top expectations and way too much power and influence over people. Couple that with the natural desire of man to want to influence people, the prestige that goes with the position, and maybe the vicious cycle starts to feed on itself?  Maybe.

    Could my whole view of the state of the church be a bit jaded since you could consider me a casualty of being church-hurt? Probably. 

    Nevertheless, I think we the church can find a better form than what we generally see today.  I know I’m praying for it. It’s refreshing to know that the attitude at North Point on this subject is much different than what I’ve known in the past…

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