Pastor or Pope? An Article on Pastoral Abuse

The subject at hand is extremely controversial, and the ramifications of such an article will no doubt cause me open contempt, disrespect, and possibly the label of ‘heretic.’ Despite this, I cannot stay silent. It is necessary, yea vital, to present readers with a biblical perspective on the role and authority of the Pastor, especially in light of an increase in what can only be described as pastoral  abuse.  

The Roman Catholic religion has long been known for its ability to manipulate its members through fear and threats, allowing those in leadership to effectively control the people and their commitment to the cause. The power associated with the pope is beyond belief. Masses submit to his every wish, convinced that to disobey or even disagree, is to fight against God Himself. A similar ploy has entered into some conservative churches of our land. In these settings, the pastor will exalt himself to a place of power and inerrancy, demanding the allegiance of his people instead of turning their hearts toward God and promoting His sovereignty and authority.

All Men are Sinners

It does not matter how ‘good’ your pastor or church leadership may appear; all have sinned. There are pastors today who act as if they have reached the state of sinless perfection, and therefore represent the perfect example of holiness and wisdom. This is simply not true.

The shepherd does not gain some special entrance into the presence of God; He comes before the same throne of grace as all believers, and through the same person – Jesus Christ. He may preach from an elevated platform on Sunday but that is not an indication of spiritual superiority in God’s hierarchy. Pastors who seek the praise and accolades of men are not fit to fulfil the shepherd’s role. Surely a man who is perpetually broken over his sin and who has an understanding of the holiness of God, is the only suitable candidate for leading and shepherding God’s people.

‘…there is none that doeth good, no, not one.’ Psalm 14:3

‘Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?’ Prov.20:9

‘If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.’ 1 John 1:8
 

The Church is Christ’s

‘…Christ is the head of the church: and is the Saviour of the body.’ Ephesians 5:23

 ‘And He [Christ] is before all things, and by Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church…’ Colossians 1:17-18

‘And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church.’ Ephesians 1:22

If Scriptures were not so clear on this subject, I might be confused about who has the ultimate ownership and rule of the church. The way some pastors enthrone themselves, establishing non-biblical standards, and assuming the role of ‘Pope for the people,’ is appalling, and is in total opposition to the clearly outlined role of the shepherd in the Bible. To assume a role of authority in  Christ’s church that has not been given by God, is theft. If I instruct my congregation to obey standards and practices that God has not commanded, I become the ‘master of God’s people,’ and in turn teach them to follow me instead of the Lord.

How many congregations in our land are ruled by a dictatorial, ‘my-way-or-the-highway’ pastor instead of Christ and His Word being the final authorities in their lives?
 

It is the Message, not the Man

‘Remember them that have the rule over you, who  have spoken unto you the Word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.’ Hebrews 13:7

Commenting on the above verse, John Gill writes: “Christ’s church is a kingdom, and He is King in it; pastors of churches are subordinate governors; who rule well when they rule not in an arbitrary way, according to their own wills, but according to the laws of Christ, with all faithfulness, prudence and diligence.”

 The pastor, like you and I, is a man saved by grace. He has not been imbued with some special ability (albeit there are gifts dispensed by the Holy Spirit which differ – Romans 12:6), nor does he have some supernatural power over men which is of his own energy.

The shepherd finds his authority solely in the Word of God. His counselling and preaching must be grounded in the Scriptures if he is to serve in the way that God has called him to. The pastor is a man who is to be given to prayer and the studying of the Word. I know pastors who busy themselves with all the tangible and temporal aspects of church life when they ought to be focusing on the spiritual and eternal matters at hand. The  first and most important job of the faithful shepherd is to preach the Word . He is to passionately pursue God, thereby leaving an example for his people. The following ought to form the pastor’s chief ambition and desire:

‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’ John 3:30

‘For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.’ Philippians 1:21
 

The Pastor will fail you

Nobody is exempt from the effects of sin. One of the great dilemmas in church today is the expectation on the pastor to do everything right. If the congregation is not careful to remember that the shepherd is only a man, they will inevitably and subconsciously elevate him to a place of  ‘perfection.’ This will be the great downfall of that church and will result in heartache and discouragement when it is found out that the pastor cannot meet those impossible expectations. This does not give license to the pastor to live as he pleases, but it does remove from him the unattainable standard of perfection. A humble and honest leader will acknowledge his own inability to perform his God given role, and will openly admit that he is the chief of sinners,  and unworthy of such a responsibility.

‘It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.’ Psalm 118:8

‘Thus saith the Lord; cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.’ Jeremiah 17:5

 ‘…the Lord thy God…..He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Deuteronomy 31:6
 

Conclusion

Scripture teaches that God desires a pastor to lead by example, nurturing and caring for his people. When the time comes for him to discipline, confront and challenge, his only authority is  the Word of God, and only when as it is applied correctly. 
 
May God give us pastors who love Christ supremely, act with honesty, humility and integrity, lead by example, and find the basis of all preaching, teaching and counselling  in the pages of Scripture.


An Open Letter to the Wife of the Pastor

Dear Wife of the Pastor,.

You are an unsung hero in the church! Rarely is your exceptional ministry noticed, let alone commended. I am writing to you because you need regular encouragement, and most Christians are unaware of your unique burdens, trials, and the strain that your husband’s ministry places upon you.

Please be assured of the fact that your labour is not in vain in the Lord,[1] and in due course you will be rewarded if you faint not.[2]

This personal note is written to remind you about the truths of your ministry at home and your involvement in the local church. These have been organised into five different headings so that the points are clearly defined and easy to follow.

May this letter encourage you and help your church to pray and support you most effectively. You are loved; you are appreciated; you will be rewarded.

YOU ARE THE WIFE OF THE PASTOR NOT “THE PASTOR’S WIFE”

How often have you been called “The Pastor’s Wife” despite the fact that no such title exists in the Bible? Well-meaning people raise you to a place of prominence because of your husband’s responsibilities, but they do not realise that you were never called to the ministry. 

What churches often fail to see is that the pastorate is not the responsibility of a man and his wife. In fact, the Bible has nothing to say about one who is married to a pastor except that which relates to all Christian wives. When assemblies elevate the wife of a pastor, they are unknowingly setting her up for failure because of the unachievable (and unbiblical) expectations they place upon her. She is not an office-bearer in the church and must be protected from being viewed in this position.

Perhaps the greatest danger associated with assigning an unbiblical title is that she will lose her unique, God-given identity. She is not seen for who she really is, but for what is expected of her. Her temperament, talents, and individuality are held hostage by perceptions of her ministry. This leads to great anguish of spirit and if left unattended, may result in serious mental health issues.

YOU MAY NOT HAVE THE SAME SPIRITUAL GIFTS

Sadly, most Christians expect the wife of the pastor to possess the full gamut of spiritual gifts so that she can speak eloquently at women’s conventions, organise special church events, counsel women effectively, provide outstanding food, plan and coordinate the creche ministry, be constantly given to hospitality, and always filled with joy and energy. This is simply not the case. In fact, it seems like there is greater expectation these days placed upon the wife of the pastor than the pastor himself.

You must remember that you are first and foremost a wife. Whether or not you are gifted to teach is a secondary matter, and this must be remembered by the church. Practically speaking, this means that your primary responsibility is to manage the home and be submissive to your husband.[3]

Every Christian has been given at least one spiritual gift,[4] and this includes you, but the church must be very careful that you receive the same treatment as all people in the assembly. It is important that you are afforded the privilege of discovering what your particular area of service is, rather than being shaped by the expectations of others on account of your connection to the pastor.

YOU HAVE NO AUTHORITY IN THE CHURCH

Some ladies who are married to a pastor revel in their “derived authority”, whilst others shudder at the thought of having to make decisions in the church. On either end of this scale there is a spiritual misunderstanding. The Scriptures make it clear that only biblically qualified men in the local church are conferred any authority, and this leadership has very specific commands and guidelines.[5]

YOU NEED PRAYER AND SUPPORT

Although you may not have been called into the ministry in the same way your husband was, you have been given a very unique and challenging area of service. Most of your ministry is not seen by the public, and the majority of the struggles are behind closed doors. Listening to your husband’s daily interactions, offering love and support to him when he is discouraged, and “lending” him to the church many nights each week are just some of the burdens you face on a regular basis.  By its very nature, your ministry is fraught with loneliness and often means that it is difficult to maintain close friendships with ladies in the church. On top of this, you must be ready at a moment’s notice to have people in your home who need counselling from your husband. Even date nights and time that is set aside for relaxing together can be interrupted when serious matters arise. If your husband is not fully supported by the church and outside work is required, this presents another dimension to an already complicated life which you must come to terms with.

Many people pray for their pastor and so they should.[6] However, most neglect to pray for the wife of the pastor and this is largely because they do not understand where you fit in the local church, and the enormity of your responsibilities at home. It is important that you operate with honesty and humility so that people are educated in how to support you and pray for you. This means that you must share (wisely) the burdens and struggles you face on a weekly basis with carefully selected people.

YOU HAVE A FRONT ROW SEAT IN THE MINISTRY

Most of this letter has been spent correcting misconceptions surrounding your life and ministry. At this point I would like to remind you that you have the unique privilege of a front row seat in the ministry. If you are not careful, you will paint your husband’s ministry in bleak and cheerless colours when in actual fact, it is the highest calling in all the world. To peak behind the curtain a little and to see in greater detail God’s work of sanctification in your local church is an unparalleled joy. Watching your husband- the man of God, study, pray, preach, counsel, and minister to people is a rare and wondrous blessing. To see firsthand how God changes people and to work alongside the servant of the Lord is a sacred and unique responsibility. Don’t let the burdens and hardships rob you of the joy associated with your special calling to be the wife of a pastor.

In Sincere Love and Appreciation,
 

Pastor Daniel Kriss

[1] 1 Corinthians 15:58

[2] Galatians 6:9; 2 Corinthians 5:10

[3] Titus 2:5

[4] 1 Peter 4:10

[5] Refer to 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9

[6] 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

This letter is dedicated to my wife, Jessica, who has served by my side in the ministry for many years



The Pastor

The pastor is a man at best;

Prone to sin, and oft distressed.

Juggling tasks of wider scope;

Strength from God- his only hope.

 

The pastor leads his precious flock;

Scripture’s treasures to unlock.

Often not from wealthy stock;

Sermons governed by the clock.

 

The pastor has a lonely trade;

Overworked and underpaid.

Church expectations when they hire-

Found alone in the Messiah.

 

The pastor knows a deeper pain;

The burdens are a constant strain.

A shepherd, leader, mentor, mate;

A godly life to demonstrate.

 

The pastor has a family too-

A wife to lead in love that’s true.

Called to manage household well;

Through times of ease or troubled spell.

 

The pastor must discern what’s right;

Whilst guarding soul with gospel light.

In ceaseless battle he does fight;

The Celestial City within sight.

 

The pastor is engaged in prayer;

Sunday’s sermon to prepare.

Distracted time from reading chair;

The needs of others everywhere.

 

The pastor will be judged one day-

His life, the church, and every way.

Before the Lord He’ll give account;

This weighty truth- do not discount!

 

The pastor can dejected be;

Betrayed and blamed unlawfully.

In grace and love he must respond;

The faults and sin he looks beyond.

 

The pastor has such little rest;

Personal struggles oft suppressed.

Holidays and time aside;

By circumstances are denied.

 

The pastor loves you very much;

And does his best to stay in touch.

He walks with you through grief and mirth;

He has the hardest job on earth!

 

By Daniel Kriss, June 12, 2018

(Meditations on the Ministry)

 



The Preacher’s Privilege

THE SCENE:

The antique desk is beckoning;

Old Saxon wood-fire is crackling;

A charm of magpies warbling;

Sounds and scenes converging.

 

Gum tree leaves are swaying;

Darkened sky is threatening;

The percolator is brewing;

Preacher’s mind awakening.

 

THE WORK

Sheepskin hide: a kneeling post;

Guidance from the Holy Ghost.

The lamp is lit, the quill is wet;

Heart engaged, and mind is set.

 

The gilded pages now are read;

With rays of light, the soul is fed.

Conviction falls like drops of rain;

Cleansing given from every stain.

 

Night about begins to fall;

Noise abates; birds’ final call.

The manuscript is now compiled;

Words and phrases wisely styled.

 

The paperwork is now complete;

Pow’r required from mercy seat.

Now deep into the fearsome night

The devil comes to pick a fight.

 

Sleep evades; The mind beset;

The weary heart tries not to fret.

Preacher strives in vain to rest;

Instead, through prayer, is truly blessed.

 

THE SUMMIT

Sunday morning comes at last!

The battle of the night has passed.

The time has come to pray and sing;

To preach, to lead in worshipping.

 

From peaceful scenes to stirring nights;

From spiritual slopes to lofty heights;

The long and lonesome pilgrimage;

This is the preachers privilege.

 

By Pastor Daniel Kriss (September 7, 2019)

Contemplating the many moods, tones, and scenes surrounding the preacher’s study of God’s Word.


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