"There are pastors who won't go to people's sick beds. How can people of God turn their back on the sick, poor and hungry?" James Robinson
Sunset over the Sahara-NASA
On Monday, we will look at the 20/20 story on the IFB churches which dealt with sexual and child abuse.
What has happened to the role of pastor? I think of the genial Methodist minister who lived up the street who occasionally visited our home, along with the homes of all of our neighbors, for coffee and cookies. He was often found at the local hospitals and nursing homes, visiting church members and even some locals who were not church attendees. He attended Little League games, cheering on the kids from his youth group. He attended school board meeting and gave the occasional prayer.
Our Russian Orthodox priest always viited our home. He could be seen dancing the polka at the Polish festivals and kept a similar schedule to his Methodist counterpart. Both men were known, respected and genuinely liked by the community in Salem, Massachusetts. Soon after I became a Christian, I met another pastor who was cut from the same cloth. These gentle men formed my view of the pastorate. That perception has taken a hit in the last two decades.
Today's pastor is more like a rock star. He swoops in, does his sermon, well protected by body guards on his stage, and then he is off to speaking engagements and book signings. A former member of Ed Young Jr.s church told me that he had spent ten years at Fellowship Church, led Sunday school classes and developed Sunday school and Bible study materials. He attended meetings, services, events and workshops and never ONCE in those ten years ever met Ed Young Jr. Not ONCE. Until recently, he didn't think that was unusual.
What is a pastor or minister? The basic definition says it is one who leads a congregation. Interestingly, the word minister is also a verb. We have all used the word "to minister" as we discuss our service to others. I think of a minister or pastor as one who is doing. Doing what? Well, look at the synonyms of the word found on Encarta. Link. These include " attend, look after, care, tend, nurse, wait on, comfort, aid,and support."
So what is a pastor or minister? One who cares, aids and supports. Now, think of the mega church pastors or hyper-authoritarian pastors that we write about. Do any of these verbs describe your perceptions of them? The antonym for minister is neglect. And that one word says it all.
Think about all the ministers that are high profile. Do they wait on, care for and comfort their church? I received an email from an elder at a church of a high profile minister that I had criticized for always being on the road. This church had experienced a fair number of tragedies but the pastor kept on traveling and speaking. This elder said that the pastor was not hired to "care for" the church. They had volunteers do that. He was hired to teach and they liked the fact that he was nationally recognized. I responded that he wasn't a pastor, merely a celebrated lecturer. I suggested they develop a fee per lecture. They might be able to save the church money and be able to hire a real pastor. I received no response.
Today, most pastors (clarification 4/16-I am referring to the mega pastors and many of the Calvinistas) earn salaries in the 6 figures. There is speculation that higher profile pastors earn between $600,000-$1,000,000. One man wrote me and said that his church received an application for a vacant music minister position. Said applicant spent time in one of the mega Dallas churches and he expected to start around $150,000. He was not hired.
I have read that, in certain churches, the tables have been turned and the pastors are the ones who are supposed to be waited on and attended to . The pastor exists on a separate plane from the church members because he is specially anointed and he is to be treated as a "cut above" the others. The members are expected to babysit, gratis, the preachers' kids, to wash his cars, to clean his houses and to provide regular meals. They also expect fancy gifts. Mac Brunson accepted a very expensive piece of land on which to build a house. He lives better than most of the people in his church. This scenario is played out throughout the country.
I recently read the writings of a young pastor. He confessed that he felt very inadequate when he looked at his fellow preachers (all young). They were receiving book deals and speaking engagements. He said he needed to be content with what he was doing. What struck me was his assumption that the book deals and speaking fees were considered normative for a pastor's life.
Please do not misunderstand me. There are many, many pastors who love and care for their churches. They are far more than lecturers. Many of them exist on subsistence pay and I respect them for their commitment to their calling.
However, there is the other side. An alert reader sent me the following video in which pastor trains his people in "pastoral care." However, in this sense, it means they need to take care of his family and him. He, at least, has the good sense to say that what he is saying is not found in the Bible. But he wants it anyway.
So, if you are a pastor and want free babysitters and free car washes, listen to this guy.
HOW TO BE AN EFFECTIVE ARMOR BEARER
Lydia's Corner: Joshua 13:1-14:15 Luke 18:1-17 Psalm 85:1-13 Proverbs 13:7-8