The most used term in Christianity is ‘pastor’, whose usage can be likened to a manager in any corporate organization. Can anyone, therefore, use the term ‘manager’, when referring to a church leader? If not; why? What is the meaning and significance of the term ‘pastor’ in a Christian organization? Traditionally, to most people, the answer is obvious. A church cannot function properly without a pastor. This is just as any organization cannot function properly without a manager.
While the term “pastor” is mentioned only once, in the Bible (Ephesians 4:11), it carries the role of shepherding the flock, who in this case are the converts. The term Pastor is a Greek translation of a Shepherd. But, here is what I find to be most frightening, in view of what was declared by Jesus:
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen t o my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:11-16) (ESV).
If Jesus declared himself as being the only good shepherd, also announcing: “so there will be one flock, one shepherd” (verse 16), what is the role of those church leaders, calling themselves pastors, today? I suppose the fairest question to ask should be: How do our good pastors, as known today, fit in, when considering that Jesus is the only good shepherd?
This implies that Church leaders, representing Catholics, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Adventists, splinter groups, etc; cannot be the representatives of the only good shepherd. Who can argue with the fact that the above statement authenticates Jesus as the only good Shepherd?
According to Paul, God’s Church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Jesus being the chief corner stone (Ephesians 2:20-22). The whole structure includes those called later and those to be called in our era. But, keep in mind that Jesus established Himself as the only good Shepherd (John 10:11-16).
Considering that deception is inevitable, it is imperative that a true convert starts by carefully analyzing everything said by Jesus, the founder of His Church. “For many shall come in my name saying I am Christ, and they shall deceive many” (Matthew 24:5).
Many, not few, are obviously fulfilling what Jesus also said in Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few (ESV).
Obviously, the issue is about the inability to appreciate the authority of Jesus. But I would be naïve to assume that what I am saying here can be gladly received in established orthodox Christianity, today? But, certainly, on several occasions, Jesus gave hints on the question of leadership in His Church.
If leadership is critical today, it was viewed similarly by His apostles who were just as human as we are. On one of these occasions Jesus addressed this, as He probably must have envisioned that it would potentially come to poison His church, after He had left:
“An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. But Jesus knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side and said to them, ‘ Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great’” (Luke 9:46-48) (ESV).
To cap it all, in His final days, Jesus issued a very strong speech against the established traditions, among which the issue of leadership was addressed:
“But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” Matthew 23:8-12) (ESV).
But, just in case someone is still confused, as hooked into believing that human leadership is necessary for a Christian organization, let us consider what Jesus said before his ascension. Obviously, when a leader leaves the scene, he is very clear on who takes over. Otherwise chaos cannot be avoided; left for anyone to claim leadership, in that organization?
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you…..Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. (John 14:18-24)’
“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you……… When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you……” (John 16:7-15).
The churches of this world are left to engage in what they consider to be right, instead of sticking by what Jesus taught. I personally do not think that it is necessary for me to worry about those pursuing advantages for the sake of their own benefits.
But I take comfort in that: Whoever has His commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Jesus. And he who loves Jesus will be loved by His Father, and Jesus will love him and manifest Himself to him (John 14:21).
The Comforter that Jesus promised to send provides Spiritual gifts, as shown in scriptures like 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:11 and Romans 12:3-11. Among such spiritual gifts, why is ‘Pastor’ held with high esteem, as Christianity highlights it more than the rest? While it may not be possible to break the embedded leadership tradition, I just hope that through this post, God will reveal to a few, identifying with what Jesus taught.
My own understanding is maintained in that a Christian cannot be handled in the way that ordinary people are handled in the corporate business world. Jesus indicated that a Christian is greater than John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11). If that is so, why do Christians need leadership, when their junior—John the Baptist, was only led by the Holy Spirit? (See False data stripping)
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.
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