For a man will take hold of his brother
in the house of his father, saying:
“You have a cloak;
you shall be our leader,
and this heap of ruins
shall be under your rule”;
in that day he will speak out, saying:
“I will not be a healer;
in my house there is neither bread nor cloak;
you shall not make me
leader of the people.”
(Isaiah 3:6-7 ESV)
In other words leadership is so scarce in the land that if a guy even looks like he could pose as a leader he is called for the job. That’s like giving some dude a badge, a gun, and a nightstick just because he has a bushy mustache. Paper leaders are often a sign of God’s judgment. Specifically judgment for trusting in indispensable leaders instead of the God that creates these leaders.
I sure am glad that we live in the New Testament era and we would never struggle with something similar. You probably picked up on my sarcasm there didn’t you? If you did, it is because you have been in a church that has crowned a guy youth pastor just because he seems to relate to students and has a couple Bible verses memorized. Or you have witnessed the church call a man to be a deacon (or elder) simply because he is vocal at a few business meetings.
Within many churches, service and leadership is so scarce that if someone even shows a faint resemblance of a leader they are immediately propelled into a position of authority. Often, even foundational offices are selected more by what sucker will volunteer than any semblance of calling.
Pastoral Idolatry and Discipleship
Is it possible that just as in the days of Isaiah God is displeased with our churches? Specifically, that he is displeased with our leadership idolatry and so he has stripped us of leaders. And perhaps He has done so in His grace, knowing that if we had a church filled with solid leaders that we would trust in their wisdom instead of trusting in the Lord Himself.
Is it possible that one of the reasons why churches look eerily similar to Isaiah 3:6-7 is because we have placed idolatrous trust in a CEO model of pastoral leadership? Is it possible that we’ve somehow convinced ourselves that the church has two heads. One of course, being our head nod to the Lord Jesus and then secondly our real leader the CEO pastor? I think Paul Tripp is right, “if Christ is the head of his body, then everything else is just body, including the pastor…”
Maybe our lack of leaders is a direct result of the unbiblical pedestal that we have placed pastors upon. Maybe pastors become spent on being CEO of an organization and are never afforded the time or energy to actually do the work of pastoring and equipping saints for the work of ministry. Yet, we know that we have to have somebody in these positions. We rightly tell ourselves that the pastor and his staff cannot do everything. So, we look around and find a few people that carry their Bible and make them Sunday school teachers. Yet, we continue to have our pastor as CEO and give him only a scant amount of time to actually be about the work of ministry.
When your pastor is predominately a fireman don’t be surprised if people are not being discipled. At its most basic form discipling someone is teaching them to obey Jesus while you obey Jesus with your life in front of them. When the pastor is only putting out fires what do you think his “disciples” will be learning? They certainly will not be learning how to go disciple someone else or how to become a fisher of men. They’ll learn how to serve church problems. Not how to draw deeply from the well of Jesus.
Let’s not make our pastors so indispensable that they become idols. It’s dangerous for them and for us.*
*As an associate pastor I’m part of the the “them” and the “us” in that sentence.