I’m not, nor have I ever been an “ordained” pastor; neither has there ever been a calling on my life to become a pastor.
Nevertheless, as a witness to The Resurrection of Christ and a recipient of the Grace that comes only through Him, I’m breaking my six-month silence by sharing a few thoughts about the pastoral office.
To do this I’m going to present to you three scenarios and I would like you to tell me which one (if any) represents the “right” church…
Church Number One
Church Number One has a pastor (whom we shall name Pastor One) and a congregation of 50-200 members.
Pastor One has made his Prime Directive the task of PLEASING HIS MEMBERS as much as is humanly possible. Pastor One visits each member’s household at least once a year. Pastor One writes his sermons based on his conversations with the church board members that occurred the previous week. Pastor One NEVER addresses in any meeting those “touchy” subjects that may cause any member to “wince” or become uncomfortable or question their relationship to GOD; therefore his congregation is very nearly certain that they are all “saved” and need only wait till they die or till Jesus returns…whichever comes first.
Every good fortune is seen by Church Number One as a token of GOD’s Favor; and every misfortune is seen as an attack of the Devil.
Issues and doctrines that may be seen as “controversial” or “fringe theology” are diligently avoided and yearly church events are always upbeat and festive.
Troublemakers have long since been weeded out, and all new candidates for membership must meet the undocumented criteria established by church leadership before being given the “hand of fellowship.”
The Church budget goals, which rarely change from year to year, are always met; and funds are always available for repairs, grounds-keeping and little else. Pastor One’s salary receives a small raise each year, along with periodic gifts and tokens of the church leadership’s appreciation.
Church Number Two
Like Church Number One, Church Number Two also has a pastor (whom we shall name Pastor Two) and a congregation of 50-200 members.
Pastor Two, however, is quite different from Pastor One: Pastor Two has made his Prime Directive the perfection of every member of his church–whatever the cost may be to the member. Pastor Two, as the Vicar of Christ on Earth, rules the lives of his congregation with an iron rod (as he is certain Christ would do if the Lord Himself were present).
Unlike Pastor One, Pastor Two has no problem addressing in his meetings the infirmities and negative habits of his members, often calling members by name and rebuking then in the Name of the Lord (for the safety and security of their souls, of course).
Pastor Two has taught his congregation that their devotion to Jesus is best exemplified in their devotion to Pastor Two; and such devotion guarantees the Favor of GOD upon their lives and the Salvation of GOD upon their souls. Church Number Two has manifested this devotion in the form of a luxurious parish, two rather expensive automobiles, top-of-the-line Italian suits, and a multitude of financial gifts shared during Pastor Two’s yearly anniversaries.
From the membership of Church Number Two Pastor Two has grown and developed a small(yet profitable) entourage of associate pastors, evangelists, prophets, faith healers, elders, deacons, armor bearers, authors, musicians and singers…all of whom speak higher of Pastor Two than they do of Christ Himself.
The Church budget is…well, a bit confusing. For the church itself, you see, is always graced with the best of everything (carpeting, sounds system, software, etc.)…though there are many in the congregation of Church Number Two that are struggling to make ends meet. Very few have EVER seen the books of Church Number Two except Pastor Two and the Treasurer (who happens to be the wife of Pastor Two).
There’s not much more I can say about Church Number Two except that all the services are lively and exciting…with music, prophecies, healings and people being “slain in the Spirit” occurring on a continuous basis.
Church Number Three
Like Churches One and Two, Church Number Three also has a pastor (whom we shall name Pastor Three) and a congregation of 50-200 members.
There are actually two Prime Directives in Church Number Three: the one given to Pastor Three by his congregation, and the one given to Pastor Three by GOD.
The Prime Directive given by the congregation of Church Number Three to their pastor is simple: “Get as close to GOD as you can…intercede for us and cover us with your faith, BUT DON’T DEMAND ANYTHING OF US. We have found our level of spirituality and we are QUITE COMFORTABLE with it. You can be as spiritual as you please AS LONG AS YOU LET US BE. We are the Laity and you are the Presbytery…and NEVER the twain shall meet!”
And so, on each Sunday there is a tug-of-war between Pastor Three and his congregation. Patiently, passionately and persistently, Pastor Three tries to woo and coo his members out of their comfort zones and into a more dynamic faith; though some of the youth are swayed by the Heavenly Call, the ball and chain of tradition forged by the older members always pulls the youth back from the brink of Life into the “television series” of the ordinary.
Pastor Three evangelizes the area around Church Number Three, but he does it alone. Pastor Three reaches out to his fellow pastors to brainstorm concerts and plays and car washes, but his ideas go unheeded. Pastor Three is excited by a vision of what could be…but no one shares his child-like imagination.
Which church is the “right” one? Like in real life, the truth is that there’s no such thing as a “perfect” church in the conventional sense.
In the “ideal” church the pastor(s) and members both realize that they can rejoice in their “infirmities” with as much festivity as they rejoice in Christ’s Perfection…a Perfection that is easy and effortless, compassionate, forgiving and FULL of joy and acceptance (2nd Corinthians 11:30; 12:9,10).