Mystery surrounds pastoral idolization in Christianity. Tradition appears as carrying blame—in developing such confusion? Though another instigator may be fame—when receiving adulation from the general public. But truth remains in that Pastors are not superhuman. Christ refused to be treated with honour—also instructing his disciples to behave likewise:
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28) (ESV).
This instruction was not necessarily directed to Pastors, but also to ordinary disciples—including those to become disciples later. According to Jesus, Christianity is the only institution that takes away categorization of humans according to class. Each Christian is as important as influenced, or used by Christ at any given time.
The problem of human idolization was significant in Paul’s time, but continues to be significant, even in our time. It caused division in Paul’s time (1 Corinthians 1:10-17). That division continues today, as characterized in denominationalism. Nevertheless, time has come for total elimination of the confusion. See [The phenomenon of denominationalism in Christianity]
Exerting pressure on Pastors is unnecessary—when observed as unable to meet expectations of ordinary laity. Someone posted the following observation—for social media circulation. This reveals common Pastoral problems:
“Pastors have a tough job. They get more kicks than kisses. If a pastor is young, he lacks experience; if he is grey-haired, he is too old. If he has five kids, he has too many; if he has none, he is setting a bad example. If his wife sings in the choir, she is being forward; if not, she is not dedicated enough. If he preaches from notes, he is dry; if his words are impromptu, he is too shallow.
If he spends too much time in his study he is neglecting his people; if he makes home visits, he is not a good time manager. If he is attentive to the poor, he is after public approval; if he attends to the wealthy, he is ingratiating. If he suggests improvements, he is a dictator; if he doesn’t, he has no vision. If he uses too many illustrations, he neglects the Bible; if he doesn’t use enough stories, he is unclear. If he speaks against wrong, he is legalistic; if he doesn’t he is a compromiser.
If he preaches for an hour, he is windy; less than that, he has nothing to say. If he preaches the truth he is offensive; if he doesn’t he is wishy-washy. If he tries to please everybody, he has no convictions. If he preaches tithing he is a money-grabber; If not, he is failing to develop his people.
If he receives a large salary, he is a mercenary; if he doesn’t, it proves he is not worth much. If he preaches on a regular basis, people get tired of hearing the same person; if he invites guest preachers, he is shirking his responsibility. Wow! And you thought your pastor had an easy life! How would you like to change places?” (Author unknown).
Apparently, the author of the above text may have truthfully observed the unfair treatment of pastors, regarded as shepherds. This worrisome viewpoint was also prophetically highlighted, as depicting the Israel’s shepherds. Instead of limiting this to ancient Israel, this prophecy appears as relevant in our time:
“A message came from the LORD for me, and it had this to say: 2 “Son of Man, prophesy against Israel’s shepherds. Tell those shepherds, ‘This is what the Lord GOD says:
“Woe to you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves and not the sheep. Shouldn’t shepherds feed the sheep? 3 You’re eating the best parts, clothing yourselves with the wool, and slaughtering the home-grown sheep without having fed the sheep! 4 You haven’t strengthened the weak, treated the sick, set broken bones, regathered the scattered, or looked for the lost. Instead, you’ve dominated them with brutal force and ruthlessness.
5“ Since they have no shepherd, they have been scattered around and have become prey for all sorts of wild animals. How scattered they are! 6 My sheep have gone wandering on all of the mountains, on all of the hills, and throughout every high place in the whole world, with no one to look for them or go out in search of them.
7 “Therefore listen to what the LORD says, you shepherds: 8 ‘As certainly as I’m alive and living, my sheep have truly become victims, food for all of the wild animals because there are no shepherds. My shepherds did not go searching for my flock. Instead, the shepherds fed themselves, and my flock they would not feed!’
9 “Therefore, you shepherds, listen to what the LORD says: 10 ‘This is what the Lord GOD says: “Watch out, I’m coming after you shepherds! I’m going to demand my sheep back from them and fire them as shepherds. The shepherds won’t be shepherds anymore when I snatch my flock right out of their mouths so they can’t be eaten by them anymore.”’” (Ezekiel 34:1-10) (ISV).
In the advent of Christianity, Jesus became the only good Shepherd, to whom everyone should look to. With that understanding, there would be no need for pastors to even go through such tribulations—as highlighted by the unknown author.
The same chapter of Ezekiel’s prophesy—from verses 11 to 16—reveals Jesus’ works, eventually delivering His enslaved sheep from the stranglehold of the castigated shepherds. At this time, may I request the reader to take time to look at what is in [Pastor—The centre of all confusion in Christianity]?
However, what could have been the significance of Jesus’ emphasis on Peter to feed the flock? (John 21:15-19). It takes an analytical study to understand the significance of bestowing Peter with Jesus’ responsibility. Notice that Peter had to love Jesus more than the rest—for him to then appreciate the significance of that responsibility (verse 15).
While the unknown author, seeks to show readers how daunting pastoral responsibilities entail, this excludes those sincerely loving Jesus. Such people cannot be pleasers of people. They may actually be viewed as unpopular, among believers. This is just as Jesus was considered unpopular with religious people, of His time. But Jesus also declared:
“Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-29) (ESV). This instruction is not just for pastors, but for all believers.
Among other responsibilities of Jesus, the pastor is regarded as most essential in Christianity. This is buttressed by the fact that Jesus had to emphasize this reality, three times on Peter to feed the flock (John 21:15-19). However, pursuing everything taught by Jesus more than analysing instructions given to individual apostles is what counts.
When following Jesus’ instructions, obviously, it is wrong to treat pastors as if more important than those with other Christian responsibilities? However, this is what was wrongly adopted as to remain to be a mistake of all ages in Christianity. See [Each Christian carries pastoral responsibility]
All Christian functions embrace Pastoral responsibility—as applied by Jesus—just as the entire work of Christianity belongs to Jesus. But, specifically, one does not have to be a Pastor, if not bestowed with that responsibility by Jesus. The same applies to various other functions, as summarized in Ephesians 4:11.
A Christian should not necessarily be regarded as individually carrying burdens of Christianity. Whatever is done in Jesus’ name, would be performed by Jesus Himself. No-one should be evaluated on the workings of Christ, as that would be just as foolish as evaluating Jesus Christ.
Ordinarily, Pastors are viewed as superior to other Christians. But that viewpoint has caused the degeneration of Christianity, ever since Jesus left the scene. It is either, Christ works in an individual, or that the individual works harder in order to impress others. Yet, impressing other people has got nothing to do with Christianity, as clearly revealed by Jesus (Matthew 6:1-4).
The tribulations of Pastors, as revealed—is unnecessary, for those allowing Christ the liberty to do His will in their lives. Ezekiel’s damning prophecy could apply to today’s pastors—only when such pastors fail to appreciate that Christian ministry is solely Jesus’ responsibility.
The starting point is in appreciating who Jesus is: [Revealing the Christ in Jesus]. Most of this confusion is compounded by inability to differentiate people being used by Christ and Christ Himself. This is what causes Christians to be categorized according to class, abilities and educational achievements, according to worldly practices.
Pastors—including various other ordinary Christians—unnecessarily put themselves under pressure to meet expectations of fellow believers. The transformation towards becoming Christ-like implies submission to Christ—rather than human effort. See [Christianity serves to invalidate God’s Kingdom].
Pastors cannot be condemned for failure to work hard, but, possibly for failure to appreciate the significance of Jesus. All Christians are expected to allow Christ to operate freely in their lives, if truly converted. Any good, or even possibly considered bad actions—as long as committed in Spirit—have little to do with the character of those concerned.
There is no doubt that, on face value, Pastors appear as carrying more responsibility. This is just as Jesus bestowed Pastoral responsibility on Peter—ahead of the rest of His followers. Pastors serve to defend the flock from vicious spiritual predators. In conferring pastoral responsibility on Peter, Jesus appears as gripped with the possibility of this reality:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go,” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me” (John 21:18-19) (ESV).
In Christianity, responsibilities are not similar, as revealed in the parable of Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). This parable shows that Talent holders cannot be treated as if superior or inferior to others. The measurement of talents given to each, is allocated by the Master, for reasons known only by Him.
Christ works according to His will, when allowed to do so, on each of those talent holders. Others may appear as carrying more responsibility. “To whom much is given more is expected” (Luke 12:48). But their reward for such work is futuristic, than to be presently enjoyed.
But all are expected to allow Christ to do His will in each of their own lives—whether in small or big way. Those tormented by what concerns the unknown writer at the beginning of this article, reel in ignorance. Christ suffered and died for our sins once and for all. It is His responsibility to use whoever he chooses to use, for whatever reason, at whatever time.
Those coming aboard ought to know one thing: The purpose of Jesus is to serve humanity. Receiving healings and other benefits can be appreciated, just as also appreciated during Jesus’ time. But, on deciding to be part of His calling, Christ said there is need to count the costs (Luke 14:25-33).
It is unnecessary to be concerned—as highlighted by the unknown author, who simply reveals one of many misapplications of Christian principles. It is also unnecessary to bear Jesus’ burdens, which remain His—though using whomever He prefers to use, at any given time.
If truly converted, all Christians ought to appreciate that Christ expects them to allow Him to use them according to His will. Christian work moves smoothly—if each individual Christian behaved like Paul, who stated:
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20) (ESV).
There is no truth in assuming that Pastors carry more responsibilities, as to deserve being treated highly. It is Christ who remains solely responsible for all Christian activities. The burdens are simply carried on Christ’s behalf, whether pastoral, or any other, as long as advancing His work.
Other Christians ought to know that their being Church members entails service, when allowing Christ to work in their lives. Christianity is about total surrender of one’s own life, for Christ to take over. This takes away any feeling of superiority. See [The only way through is going through].
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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