Pastor, have you ever asked the question, “Who am I, and what do I spiritually need?” Or have you ever thought about your pastor and asked, “Who is my pastor, and what does he need in order to remain spiritually healthy and to grow in grace?” Does it seem right and healthy to you that in many churches no one gets less of the ministry of the body of Christ than the pastor? Does it seem best to you that most pastors live outside of and above the body of Christ?
If every pastor is in the middle of his own sanctification, shouldn’t he receive the normal range of essential ministry from the body of Christ that God has ordained for every member? Is there any indication in the New Testament that the pastor is the exception to the normal rules that God has designed for the health and grow of his people? Is it possible that we have constructed a kind of relationship of the pastor to his congregation that cannot work? Could it be that we’re asking something of our pastors that they will be unable to do? Is it biblical to tell pastors that they won’t be able to be true friends with anyone, that they must live in isolation that we would say is unhealthy for anyone else?
Blind Leading the Blind
You only need to take seriously what the Bible says about the presence and power of remaining sin to know the great danger in allowing anyone to live separate from the essential ministry of the body of Christ. How much greater is the danger, then, for the person who is charged with leading, guiding, and protecting that body as a representative of Christ? If Christ is the head of his body, then everything else is just body. The most influential pastor or ministry leader is a member of the body of Christ; therefore, he needs what the other members of the body need. A intentional culture of pastoral separation and isolation is neither biblical nor spiritually healthy.
Let me suggest one passage, which I have written about before, that powerfully reinforces this point. It is Hebrews 3:12-13. “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” This passage gives a critical warning and an essential call that together reinforce the presence and power of remaining sin and the need for the daily ministry of the body of Christ.
I don’t know if you noticed, but the warning in this passage pictures the progressive steps of the believer’s heart hardening. (The greeting, “brothers,” tells us this passage is written to believers.) The warning reads like this: “See to it that none of you has a evil—-unbelieving—-falling away—-hardened heart.” It is a picture of what sin does if undetected, unexposed, and unforsaken. Pastor, could it be that many of us are progressing toward hard-heartedness and don’t even know it? Could it be that we spend so much time warning others that we fail to heed the warnings ourselves? Could it be that there are subtle places where you have already fallen away? Could it be that even in your heart as a pastor there are pockets of unbelief?
So, pastor, here is the critical question: have you taken this warning seriously? Do you properly observe the presence and power of sin that remains in your heart? Does this cause you to live and minister with a personal sense of seriousness and need? Does it drive you to daily seek the forgiving, rescuing, transforming, and delivering grace of Christ? Does it lead you to seek, participate in, and submit to God’s instruments of grace readily available in the body of Christ? Or have you attempted to do alone (your walk with God) what was designed to be a community project?
In columns to come I will unpack both the necessity in the life of a pastor of hearing the warning and pursuing the call of Hebrews 3:12-13.