For those disciples of Jesus who want to do the ice bucket challenge to support giving to cure ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), I suggest giving to the Mayo Clinic. The Mayo Clinic is currently doing research using adult stem cells taken from living adults. They do not use murdered babies to do their research. I urge you to give to the Mayo Clinic if you want to do this challenge.
And let us pray that God gives people the wisdom to cure this horrible disease. More than that, pray for those suffering with ALS to repent and know Christ. While we should pray for a cure for ALS, let us remember that all people will die whether with ALS or not. Let us then pray for all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:1-4) and to pray for the lost to repent of their sins (Luke 13:5). The only hope for humanity is not the cure to ALS or to cancer or to AIDS but the true hope we need is found only in Christ Jesus (John 14:6).
To give to the Mayo Clinic, go here.
The ALS ice bucket challenge is making the rounds. Celebrities, politicians, sports stars, even pastors are making videos of them having ice water poured on them to support funding for ALS. While Christians certainly should support those who are suffering from ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s disease) and pray for the a cure from this disease, the ALS donations are also helping to fund stem-cell research from aborted babies. A disciple of Christ should never support any cause that advocates, promotes, or even is involved with abortion.
So what is the disciple to do?
Ironically, the ALS ice bucket challenge has become the baptism of “good doers.” Atheists have begun using the challenge to say that this is their baptism without Christ. They are pledging to do good for others despite their lack of understanding where the idea of good can come from nor how they determine what is good or bad.
Liberals are using the ALS challenge to promote their social gospel. When a church denies the Bible as the inerrant and infallible Word, all that is left is to do good for other people rather than preaching the gospel to them.
I personally don’t support any causes that don’t also preach the gospel. Feeding the poor is good. Helping people battle cancer is good. Supporting those who are suffering in this life is good. But unless you preach the gospel to the hurting, the suffering, the poor, the rich, etc., you are not giving them the cure for their greatest disease: sin. Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death. People with ALS can still be wicked sinners and still go to hell. People with cancer die every single day and they don’t know Christ nor His gospel. People living with HIV die each day but if they don’t know Christ, they will perish (John 3:18). The gospel is the only solution to our fallen world. The gospel prepares men and women for eternity unlike the temporary relief of suffering in this world.
I do think that it is good to do good (Matthew 5:13-18). Galatians 6:10 tells us to do good toward all men and especially the household of faith. Doing good is good. But let us not make the mistake of thinking that doing good equals giving people the gospel. Let us not make the mistake that doing good means that we earn God’s righteousness (Isaiah 64:6). Disciples do good because of the Spirit at work in us (Ephesians 6:10) unlike the world who do good hoping that their good outweighs their bad.
My advice then is to take the money that would be used by the ALS and give it to true Christian charities who work with ALS victims or to missions. The gospel going out is better by far. Again, many with ALS (and other diseases) need to hear the gospel more than anything else. The poor, the hurting, the suffering, the abused – all these need the gospel. Do good but preach the gospel.
For more information on charities that support pro-life positions, see this page.
When I was in my last year of high school, I was right where most high school seniors are in terms of their future. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to go to college but even that was not easy. My sister had attended a Lutheran university that was very liberal and a very sinful campus but I thought I wanted to attend there and perhaps try out for the baseball team. The other part of me wanted to attend a Bible college in Florida. In the end, because of money and time, I ended up at a local Bible college in my area (a fact I am still paying on years later!). I graduated four years later with a BA in Bible with a minor in youth ministries.
Prior to all this, I thought the youth pastor life was excellent. I mean you get to serve God in a local church, work with teenagers, play goofy games, go to concerts, youth retreats, camps, etc. all for the glory of the King. My youth pastor made it look fun and easy so I begin to pray about being “called into ministry.” In my mind, I thought a light would shine around me and I would hear the voice of God telling me He needed me in His service. I prayed and prayed for God to show me His will and to reveal to me His calling into the ministry. And finally that day came. No lights. No smoke. No glory. No voice. Just me reading 1 Timothy 1:12 and deciding that the Lord was indeed calling me into the “ministry.” When the high school year books came out, I would write some message and always sign my name with 1 Timothy 1:12 under it. This was my calling into the ministry.
They say that you must be called to preach. I have been in youth meetings where the evangelist would say that this many got saved and this many were called to preach. I am not sure how “called to preach” works other than people go by subjective experience to determine if they are called to preach. Even cessationists that I know believe that God called them to preach. When you ask them how, they typically reply in experiential terms such “Well, I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else but serving God in full-time ministry.” Most evangelical pastors will give you their testimony of their “calling to preach” and many can name the date and time when God called them to preach.
A couple of things about this. First, there is nothing in the New Testament to suggest that God calls men to preach. In fact, the Bible calls all disciples to preach (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47). The Bible says that we all have been given this ministry (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). 1 Timothy 1:12, that I used back when I believed in this subjective experience, is Paul the Apostle’s own testimony to His calling. Paul’s calling was unique (Acts 22:21). Not one person in the New Testament can be shown to having been “called to preach” unless you twist the experiences of Paul the Apostle to make them fit your own.
Secondly, as a person who now works in the “secular” workforce, I find it offensive that I am not called to preach the gospel while a full-time, professional clergy is. In fact, I would argue that people in the “secular” workplace preach more often than clergy. I get to be around lost people all the time. I get to share the gospel all the time. When I was in full-time ministry, I could go days without talking to a lost person and had no real relationships with lost souls. When I was in full-time ministry, my focus was always on Christians. Now that I am no longer called (in terms of the clergy calling), I serve God more now with lost sinners than before. The Bible is clear that we are all called (1 Peter 2:9-10). Romans 8:29 tells us that all disciples are called.
The calling to leadership is a different story in the New Testament. In fact, the leaders just lead. In Acts 14:23 we read that the Apostles appointed elders. My question is how did they know who the elders were? Notice also that they appointed elders after leaving the saints and then coming back. They didn’t preach the gospel, baptize disciples and then appoint elders all at the same time. They allowed the Spirit of God to work in the lives of the disciples and the Spirit raised up the elders. The apostles merely appointed whom the Spirit had already chosen (Titus 1:5). In other words, leaders in the New Testament Church were already doing the work of the minister without official appointment. They were serving already (1 Peter 5:1-4).
In our day, a person must have a subjective call to the ministry. They go to Bible college or seminary and then come back to serve in a church. None of this is found in the New Testament.
I don’t doubt that godly men love the Lord and want to serve Him. I just question the “call” to ministry. It seems very shaky to me, lacks biblical support, and hinders the other saints who serve God in “secular” jobs by making them feel they are not called to preach when in fact they are. Instead of disciples going out and making disciples, people falsely believe that the pastor is to build the church and we bring people to our churches for the pastor to convert them, teach them, train them, etc. This is not based on the Scriptures. Disciples serving God in every area of life is better by far (1 Peter 4:10-11).
One final point about this. I am not seeking to demean those who truly want to serve God as a pastor (shepherd). I don’t doubt that many do take serious their passion for God, for His Church, for His Word. I don’t doubt that godly men have served God faithfully in the local church. I am simply trying to help us to see that the priesthood of the saints is a vital doctrine. All of us, because of Christ, are called to serve Him and can approach the throne of God through Him (Hebrews 4:14-16). The entire church can serve God and should serve God (1 Corinthians 12:7). Christ is head of His Church (Colossians 1:18) and all of us who are His disciples can serve Him for His glory. I fear that this is lost when we place emphasis on “Christian ministry” calling versus “secular job” calling. All of us are to serve God where we are because all of us who are true disciples of Jesus are His temples (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
In my previous post I wrote on the amazing lack of leadership we see in the New Testament Church. I pointed out that the church at Corinth was full of problems yet Paul dealt with the entire church rather than writing to a single pastor (“lead pastor” in our day) or even a group or board. He wrote to the entire church (1 Corinthians 1:2). Out of twenty-seven New Testament books, only Philippians opens with a reference to leaders and that only after Paul greets the saints first (Philippians 1:1). Not one book in the New Testament is addressed to one leader other than Timothy and Titus who were not singular pastors but apostles.
My point in all this is not to deny that there are leaders in the Church. Ephesians 4:11-16 is clear that there are gifted saints given to the Church to help her. 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9 are clear about elders and deacons in the Church. In Acts 20:17 Paul called the leaders of the church at Ephesus to himself. Hebrews 13:7, 17 mention leaders. 1 Peter 5:1-4 mentions elders. It is obvious that leaders are there in the Church but they simply don’t play the prominent role that they do in the modern institutional church. In the modern church, the pastors are the leaders and they play the most prominent roles. Who’s name is on the marquee? It is not the janitor. It is not the prayer leaders. It is the senior pastor. The senior pastor casts the vision, gets the most money from the church, sets up the budgets, visits the sick, prays, preaches, etc.
By the way, in passing, the pastorate also has the single highest burnout rate. Consider the following stats:
13% of active pastors are divorced.
23% have been fired or pressured to resign at least once in their careers.
25% don’t know where to turn when they have a family or personal conflict or issue.
25% of pastors’ wives see their husband’s work schedule as a source of conflict.
33% felt burned out within their first five years of ministry.
33% say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations.
45% of pastors’ wives say the greatest danger to them and their family is physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual burnout.
45% of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.
50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
52% of pastors say they and their spouses believe that being in pastoral ministry is hazardous to their family’s well-being and health.
56% of pastors’ wives say that they have no close friends.
57% would leave the pastorate if they had somewhere else to go or some other vocation they could do.
70% don’t have any close friends.
75% report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation.
80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse.
80% believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively.
90% feel unqualified or poorly prepared for ministry.
90% work more than 50 hours a week.
94% feel under pressure to have a perfect family.
1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure.
Doctors, lawyers and clergy have the most problems with drug abuse, alcoholism and suicide.
That is pretty telling. And why do pastors feel this way? Why the struggles? Some would argue because Satan opposes them. I would concur but I would also argue that they are doing something God has not given them to do in His Word. Again, the modern pastorate is missing from the New Testament.
Biblical leadership is very different. Consider the Lord Jesus who set the example of leadership. Jesus said that He came to serve (Mark 10:45) and Jesus told His own disciples not to lord it over one another as the Gentiles leaders do (Matthew 20:20-28). Jesus’ example was service (John 13:1-17). Peter the Apostle tells us that elders are to be examples to the flock under the control of the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:3). Notice also that Peter tells the elders to shepherd the flock among you (1 Peter 5:2) and not under them. The elders themselves were part of the sheep. This was not a clergy-laity division.
I believe that we have lost the understanding that the Holy Spirit is in control of His Church. We tend to think that we need a pastor to lead us. We have a pastor in Jesus (John 10:14) and we can hear His voice (John 10:27). Jesus leads His Church by His Word that everyone can hear Him speak from (John 8:47). God is still speaking to His people (Hebrews 12:25). He speaks to all of us by His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17). While I do agree that we need godly teachers to teach us His Word (Ephesians 4:11; James 3:1), all of God’s saints have equal right to come to the Word of God and feed off it. We don’t need to wait for the Bible teacher for the Spirit to teach us. Further, the elders are our examples (Hebrews 13:7) and not as lords over us.
How radically different the church would look if elders led the saints by their examples and the entire church worked together for the kingdom of God! Imagine 1 Corinthians 14:26 being worked out in your local church. Could it be done or would the professional pastors halt it? The New Testament has 52 “one another” passages. Can your church obey those? Or is your church’s traditions (professional pastors for example) robbing the word of God of its power (Mark 7:1-13)?
My prayer is that God will raise up godly leaders who serve among us. The Lord is going great things through His Church all over the world and I rejoice in that! I rejoice that souls are being saved and the Lord is opening eyes to the truth that He can faithfully lead His bride. I pray that many godly pastors will search the Scriptures and will transition from the Catholic model of leadership to the biblical model of leadership.
For more information on biblical leadership, I recommend the website: New Testament Reformation Foundation.
In our day, pragmatism reigns. Leonard Ravenhill use to say that if you let him hear a man preach for five minutes, he could tell you what books the man had been reading. Sadly, brother Len was right. I watch as pastor after pastor copies other pastors (usually over success more than character) and they seek to imitate the latest large church growth fads. In our area, they copy the large seeker churches in hopes they their churches will someday be as large as those churches. Pastors sit and dream of pastoring large mega-churches with satellite campuses all over the city. Oh yes, they would gladly say that this is their passion for Jesus to be known and for souls to be saved but most of it is pride and money.
I know I am making some large blanket statements there. I will begin up front by saying that I am thankful to God that I get to serve Him by driving a truck. I am surrounded by lost guys. I am daily getting to know lost sinners and I long to see them saved. For me, my motivation has nothing to do with building a church or getting their money. I just want to see souls saved. I want 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 to be true of me. I pray that there are many others out there like me.
On the other side are professional pastors. I once was there myself. I worked full time in the “ministry” for just over 10 years. I don’t regret leaving it behind. In fact, I now serve the Lord better than when I was in full-time “ministry.” For professional clergy, ministry is both a blessing and a curse. I don’t doubt that many go into ministry with their hearts set on pleasing the Lord. Most, including myself, start out with pride being their biggest struggle. Over time (and many failures), they see that they better trust in Christ or their will indeed fail. Few reach the level of success that many of the seeker churches have obtained but sadly, the drive to build a big church turns many pastors toward seeker churches. Seeker churches are driven by pragmatism. What reigns in a seeker church is not the Word of God but a conviction that the church is for the lost. The seeker church is designed to attract and keep the “unchurched” coming. The “sermons” are designed to keep your attention, the music service is full of lights, smoke, flare, and shallow songs designed to keep you excited and coming. Everything rotates around the conviction that church needs to be cool and attractive. There is little to no emphasis on verse by verse teaching of the Bible, little to no emphasis on sound doctrine, little to no emphasis on creating an environment of evangelism and prayer. Instead the focus is singular: the consumer.
For quickly, a biblical understanding of the church is that the church is composed of disciples who meet to build each other up (Hebrews 10:24-25). If you read 1 Corinthians 14:26 and then consider most churches, few to none actually obey the text. In most churches, the pastors do everything. You might have a music pastor, a youth pastor, a children’s pastor, a senior pastor (or the new phrase is “lead pastor”). They do all the “ministry” of 1 Corinthians 14:26. The thought of “each one” doing this is unheard of unless you are in a small setting. A house church can accommodate this text. The church is to come together to edify each other and in turn the saints are equipped (Ephesians 4:11-16) to do the work of the ministry. The church goes out to spread the gospel (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21) and does not sit waiting on people to come to them. 1 Corinthians 12:13 is clear that only disciples compose the church. I heard one brother put it this way, “In the Old Testament, God gave the world Israel and said ‘Come and see’ but in the New Testament, He gave the world the church and said, ‘Go and tell.'” The Church is not a building as in the Old Testament where God met with His people at His chosen place (Deuteronomy 14:23) but the Church is wherever saints of God meet. It could be a house. It could be an office building. It could be a field. It could be in a prison. God is not limited by a building.
I believe the modern pastorate hurts the spread of sound doctrine in many ways. Pastors struggle with busy schedules as is and yet one man is told to build the church when this is not found in the Bible. Not one singular pastor is found in the Bible but Jesus Christ (John 10:14). Jesus is the single head of His Church (Colossians 1:18). On most churches, they oddly put the name of one person and that is the pastor. I have often wondered why they only choose one person to place on the name of the marquee. Why not other gifted people in the church? Further, where is just one pastor in the Bible? The word “pastor” only occurs in most English Bibles in Ephesians 4:11 but even there it is not a good translation. The ESV correctly translates it “shepherd” for that is the Greek word used here. Jesus is called “the chief shepherd” in 1 Peter 5:4. While it would not be a good translation, one could substitute “pastor” for “shepherd” in John 10:14 or 1 Peter 2:25 or 1 Peter 5:4 and one can see that Jesus is our pastor, He is the lead pastor.
People in churches such as this one above look to one person to lead the church: the pastor. They don’t look to the Bible per se or to the Spirit to lead them (as He did in Acts 13:2) but to the vision of the pastor. The pastor, for better or worse, leads them to where he wants to go. Some pastors do well and lead the church toward Christ and His kingdom. Others push their own agenda (or usually someone else’s agenda that they admire). What all pastors rely on is the money of the people and this can be a tough issue. Some pastors are controlled by a board of deacons or an elder board. Some pastors have a big giver in the church who controls them. Other pastors have to be bi-vocational but long for the day that they can work full time in the “ministry.”
Now let me change that all up for you. Suppose there were no pastors. What would the church look like? It would not go away as some quickly think. Consider the book of Acts. There were no full-time pastors in the New Testament Church and they did just fine. Not once in the New Testament is one pastor referred to. Only once does a book of the New Testament even begin by mentioning leaders and that is Philippians and they are mentioned only after Paul addressed the saints first. In our day, a letter to a church would always begin by addressing the senior pastor and no one would think of writing a church in our day and never mention the leaders but only one book out of twenty-seven New Testament books evens begin by mentioning the leaders. The lack of leadership is what is amazing in the New Testament books. It was as if the Spirit of God was really leading His Church.
The book of 1 Corinthians is a case study unto itself. Here is a sinful church. A church that is divided, that has much sin going on in it and much chaos. Yet Paul the Apostle never addresses the leaders. He never mentions that leaders should bring the Corinthians under their control. He never writes to pastors. He never addresses the elders. Instead, he calls the church to take care of these issues. The church as a whole is to do the work. In our day, we would expect Paul to address the senior leadership and tell them to do this or that to get the Corinthians back in line yet Paul never does this. He calls them all to repent and take care of the church themselves. In our day, we look to the pastors to do everything, to take care of problems. Not so in the New Testament Church!
This view of mine is not to scare pastors. I know some pastors will feel threatened and they fear having to go and get a “secular” job. I remember those fears myself. I actually want to free you pastors. Not a day goes by that I don’t rejoice that I am not in the ministry anymore. Yet I praise God that I work a “secular” job that allows me to serve Jesus and not be controlled be a clergy-laity system. I can preach what I want to preach and not fear that someone is going to get mad and leave. I can evangelize as I desire without fear of scarring off people who might attend. I work for 50 hours or more a week, receive my compensation for my work, and then I serve the Lord both on my job and off. I never fear of losing my position in the “ministry.” I never fear of having to make church attractive for the lost. I never worry about having to compete with other churches. I have one focus: on living a life that honors the Lord (1 Peter 1:15-16). I am not controlled by money. I am not controlled by a denomination. I want to be like the Apostles who called themselves “slaves of Christ” (Romans 1:1 etc.). A slave doesn’t expect much (Luke 17:7-10).
Traditional pastors have to worry about money. About people. About boards. About programs. About fads. About what to preach and what not to preach. About how not to offend people. About how much time to devote to family, to prayer, to the Word and yet still pastor people. About competition with other churches. About whether the small crowd this Sunday will mean less money. About how to leave the ministry and make a living.
And none of that is based on the New Testament.
For more information on all this, I encourage you to read Frank Viola’s excellent book, Reimagining Church.