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Posts Tagged ‘professional clergy

“God Called Me To Be A Pastor”

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).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/19/2014 at 12:00 PM

Biblical Leadership

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.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/18/2014 at 10:50 AM

The Levites: Picture of the NT Saints (Part Two)

In my previous post on the Levites, I noted the promises that God gave to them about Him being their lot, Him being their portion.  God Himself said that the Levites were to be consecrated unto Him (Numbers 3:11-13).  The Lord told the children of Israel that the Levites were to be His priests to approach Him on their behalf (Numbers 3:5-10).

Deuteronomy 18:1-2 was clear about the Levites and the Lord being their portion:

“The Levitical priests, all the tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel. They shall eat the Lord’s food offerings as their inheritance. 2 They shall have no inheritance among their brothers; the Lord is their inheritance, as he promised them.

When the children of Israel finally entered into the promise land, the Levites did not inherit the land as God would again be their portion.  Joshua 13:14 reads,

To the tribe of Levi alone Moses gave no inheritance. The offerings by fire to the Lord God of Israel are their inheritance, as he said to him.

How does this picture the NT saint?

First, we are chosen in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3-14).  Those who are in Christ Jesus by faith are His elect (1 Timothy 4:10).

Secondly, in Christ we are all priests before God.  1 Peter 2:9 reads,

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Notice that the disciple of Jesus is a royal priesthood.  All disciples are priests unto God in Christ Jesus (Revelation 1:6).  Through Christ we are all equally able to come into God’s presence because of the work of Christ, our faithful High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16).  As Hebrews 13:15 reminds us:

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

Thirdly, there no longer remains a special group of people who do the priestly duties.  The Roman Catholic Church incorrectly carried over both the Levitical priesthood and combined it with paganism.  The Protestant Reformers did not go further enough to not just preach salvation through faith in Christ Jesus alone but they failed to dethrone men from the pope’s chair.  In exchange for one pope, the Protestants, in some ways, now have thousands.  The modern clergy-laity system does not find its roots in the New Testament but in the Old Testament with the Levites and with the Roman Catholics.

We need to see that our faithful high priest is Jesus and He is also our faithful pastor (John 10:11).  While the Church does have leaders, Jesus is the chief shepherd (1 Peter 5:4) and He is our shepherd and guardian of our souls (1 Peter 2:25).  Leaders are not there to rule over the people of God but to serve alongside them (Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Peter 5:1-4).  There is not one NT example of one man leading one church.  There are always elders leading (Acts 20:17; Titus 1:5) but not one elder.  Furthermore, there is never named one pastor.  Ironically, what is amazing in the NT letters is the lack of leadership as compared to the modern clergy-laity driven church model.  Only Philippians (1:1) mentions leaders at the start of the letter.  Only Philippians.

I am not advocating no leadership.  Jesus said we would have leaders but His example was one of servant leaders and not worldly leaders (Matthew 20:20-28; John 13:1-20).  We are to imitate our leaders (Hebrews 13:7) and their example is Jesus and not a worldly CEO.  We are to submit to such leaders (Hebrews 13:17 and notice the emphasis on plurality).

My point here is that clergy do not have special access to God.  Clergy may know more about the Bible only because of their training but this doesn’t have to be the case nor should be the rule.  All of us are equal at the cross (Galatians 3:26-29).  We have different gifts and roles but we all are able to come boldly before the Lord because of Christ.  Christ has fulfilled the Law and the old types is now complete in Him (Hebrews 10:1-4).  We have a new covenant in Christ Jesus (Hebrews 8:13).  This new covenant enables all of God’s people to come before Him now through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.  We don’t need a priest or a special place to worship God (nor even a special day as opposed to Sabbath keepers).  We can now worship, adore, praise, proclaim, and exalt the one true God at any time and any place.  He will never leave us nor forsake us for He is our portion and our delight.

Preparing to Leave the Ministry

I wanted to write toward traditional pastors who perhaps are considering leaving the full-time ministry.  How do you begin to do this?

I read a statistic today that 80% of traditional pastors are discouraged and 50% would leave the ministry if they could.  I am one of those who has left the ministry.  I have not left Jesus.  I have not left true ministry (and I am actually doing more now for the kingdom of God than when I was a full-time traditional minister).  I strongly believe in the fundamentals of the gospel and I would stand with my traditional pastor friends in defending orthodoxy.  I believe that we all need to be biblical disciples who love the Word of God and test all things (including our traditions) by the Word of God (1 John 4:1-2).

For now, let me state some basics for leaving the ministry.  Let me begin by pointing out that I am not talking about walking away from Jesus nor from the Church.  I am talking about moving out of dependence on the money of the church toward a “secular” job and away from working in a traditional church.  Let me offer my own insights.

1.  Be Willing To Work

I was not afraid of “getting my hands dirty” when I left the traditional ministry.  I was ready and willing to work any job to provide for my family.  I am the type of man who will do whatever it takes to provide for my wife and children.  Obviously, I am not saying that a man should be sinful in work to provide (selling drugs for example or compromising the gospel to earn money) but I am advocating willing to do any job to provide.  Don’t be so smug as to think that because you went to Bible college or seminary, you shouldn’t have to work at a fast food restaurant or drive a truck for a living.  Be willing to do all things to the glory of God (Colossians 3:17) including dirty jobs.

2.  Be Willing To Wait

My first job out of the ministry was with Coca-Cola.  I had no clue when I got that job that it would open the door for other truck driving jobs.  I left Coke to work for Pepsi (I know they are competitors but it cut my personal vehicle driving in half!).  I left Pepsi to work for US Foodservice.  I left US Foodservice to work for Golden State Foods (GSF).  Along that way was years of waiting.  I would work my jobs (and some with pain more than pleasure) and wait on the Lord to open the next door.  In each case He faithfully guided me and led me every step of the way.  I struggled at times to know His plan or His ways but I trusted Him.  Several times along the way I tried to make jobs work out on my own but the Lord closed those doors each time (I tried to buy a Fed Ex Ground truck route and tried to get a Little Debbie route but failed at both).  I praise God for His faithfulness and for His providence in leading us.

3.  Be Willing To Worship.

No matter where you find yourself after leaving the traditional ministry, be willing to worship God.  We are not saved by going to Bible college or by preaching or by reading theology books or blogs.  We are saved through a living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9; James 2:14-26).  I have found that my prayer life is now stronger because I don’t carry the burdens of the church.  My Bible study is stronger because I am reading and studying the Bible with an eye on the Lord and not on me or the people.  My witnessing is better because I am not always surrounded by disciples but now with unbelievers.  I feel I am a better man, a better husband, a better father, and a stronger disciple of Christ after leaving the ministry.  I like to say that I left the ministry for the true ministry of the Lord.

However, wherever you find yourself in life, be willing to worship God.  Be willing to worship Him when you have no money and times are hard.  Be willing to worship Him when you get that job promotion and the Lord opens the door for success.  Be willing to worship God in whatever state you find yourself (Philippians 4:11-13).  Worship Him when you feel discouraged.  Worship Him when others doubt your decisions to leave the ministry.  Worship Him when others ridicule your faith in God.  Worship Him when you are struggling to just make ends meet.

4.  Be Willing To Wrestle.

By wrestle I don’t mean physical but spiritual.  Be willing to wrestle in prayer.  Leaving the ministry was the best decision I ever made.  But at first I had to pray a lot.  I had to just pray for food (Matthew 6:11) which was a good thing as I look back.  I had to pray for the Lord to open doors for jobs.  I had to pray for money to come through.  Yet I rejoice that the Lord was using my struggles to help me learn to pray (Luke 11:1).

So often when leaving the ministry, men try to make things work on their own.  Don’t do that.  Depend on the Lord.  Show this in prayer.  Praise Him for the small victories and for His leading.  Pray to Him who knows what you have need of before you ask Him (Matthew 6:8).  I prayed for many things after leaving the ministry including Him moving us away from the area we were in.  He did this and more.  I prayed for Him to open doors for us and close doors for us and He did.  It was not always as I dreamed it would be but He was faithful every step of the way.  Don’t be afraid to pray to our sovereign God and trust Him through it all (Matthew 7:7-11).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/27/2014 at 11:11 AM

House Churches and Leadership

One of the most common arguments I hear from traditional (or institutional) churches is that house churches are opposed to leadership.  One blogger put it this way, “House churches want to play church instead of being the church.”  Traditional churches pride themselves on their clergy-laity division, that they have leaders in place whereas it is assumed that house churches oppose any thought of a leader telling them what to do.

Well this is partly true.  First of all we hold that Jesus is the head of His Church.  As did the New Testament.  As do all evangelical churches.  Colossians 1:18 says, “He is also the head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything” (NASB).  Ephesians 1:22 echoes the same thought.  Jesus is the head of His Church.  Not a pastor.  Not a pope.  Not a priest.  Not any flesh but only Jesus is Lord over His Church.  Therefore it is true that we in the house church movement oppose someone telling disciples what to do or think since Jesus is the Lord of His Church.  We need to heed the words of Christ as found in the Scriptures above the creeds and confessions of human beings.  We believe that leaders in the church are not to lord it over others faith but be examples of true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Peter 5:1-5).

The ironic thing about reading the New Testament is that you find not a lot of information about leaders in the church.  Only one letter in the New Testament even addresses the leaders from the outset and that is Philippians (1:1).  All of the New Testament letters are addressed to the saints when it would be assumed by modern traditional churches that leaders would first be addressed since the professional clergy set the tone for the local church.  The clergy set the agenda, the vision, the purpose, etc. for the local church.  This is not the case with the New Testament.

Leadership is addressed in the New Testament.  Jesus spoke about leadership in Matthew 20:20-28 but He contrasts the worldly leadership that the Jews had seen with true servant leadership that He called for and demonstrated with His life and death (Mark 10:45).  Leadership is addressed in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9.  Ephesians 4:11 speaks of gifted people who God gives the Church but for a reason: to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry (vv. 12-16) and not to pay someone else to do the work of the ministry.  Leaders are mentioned in Hebrews 13:7, 17 and 1 Peter 5:1-4.  Elders are mentioned in James 5:14.  You’ll notice how important elders were to the New Testament Church.  What you will not find is the idea of one professional pastor serving over a church with a deacon board or a group of elders helping the pastor lead the church.  The word pastor appears only in our English Bibles in Ephesians 4:11 and the ESV correctly translates it “shepherds.”  Jesus is the true shepherd of the flock of God (John 10:1-16; 1 Peter 2:25; Hebrews 13:20).

So what does leadership look like in a house church then?  First of all, we have elders.  A biblical house church should have a plurality of elders (Titus 1:5) who lead the house church.  Their purpose is not to be over the people of God but among the people of God (1 Peter 5:2).  The elders are to fit the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.  The elders are not professional Christians although they could receive some money as a gift from time to time (1 Timothy 5:17-18).  No where does the New Testament call elders to abandon the “secular” for the “ministry.”  Elders are to lead by example and not as professionals who dominate the local church life (Hebrews 13:7, 17).

Secondly, leadership in the local house church is often consensus based.  In Acts 13:1-3 we see the Holy Spirit leading the church in Antioch and He does so through the people of God.  Notice that the people of God were seeking the Lord for Himself (v. 2) and it was during this time that the Spirit called Barnabas and Saul for a specific work (in this case to be apostles or sent ones; see verse 4).  The church didn’t quickly say okay but again they fasted and prayed to come to a consensus about this call.

In Acts 15 we find another example of consensus.  Here the church meets to debate the relationship between the Law of Moses and the grace of Christ.  The church comes to a consensus after much debate (Acts 15:22).

1 Corinthians 11:2-16 is another example.  Here Paul is addressing an issue among the Corinthians about head coverings.  His point throughout these verses is that the church needs to come to consensus over this issue as he states in verse 16.

What this looks like on a practical level is that house churches often move slowly.  Unlike the traditional churches who vote on issues all the time and are building buildings and doing this or that, house churches are slow to act and instead seek God for His wisdom, to study Scripture, and to come to a consensus over issues.  Some issues are quickly solved while others must be handled with much prayer and wisdom from the Lord.  Keep this in mind, however, that Jesus is the Lord of His Church and He is faithful to His Church.  We need only to wait on Him and obey all that He has taught us (Matthew 28:20).  No matter the issue, Jesus should be the main focus and His glory is to our aim.

Lastly, the priesthood of the believers is vital to the local house church.  Each person can study the Scriptures and can speak for God (1 Peter 4:10-11).  All of us are called by God to glorify His name and to proclaim Him.  All of us can hear from God in His Word (John 8:47).  All of us have the Spirit of God living within us (Romans 8:9) and all of us can be led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14) and He is able to speak through us.  We should be open to all disciples of Jesus sharing from the Scriptures or giving a teaching since we are all priests unto the Lord (1 Peter 2:4-11) and all of us can give input into the kingdom of Christ (1 Corinthians 14:26).  Elders are not to be the only ones teaching the Bible.  Elders certainly are to keep the house church sound doctrinally (Titus 1:9; 2:1) but elders are not to dominate the house church meetings.

Leadership in the house church is important and should not be rejected.  God raises up elders to glorify His name through their passion and examples.  Elders are not to dominate the people of God nor are elders to be professional Christians but they are to serve as servant leaders of God’s saints.  We need godly leadership in the local church but what we don’t need is more of the CEO-type leadership that we find in the traditional churches.  Only Jesus is truly head of His Church.  Let us exalt Him for His leaders while He Himself is our true leader.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/28/2012 at 12:07 AM

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