clergy

Three Myths about Ministry

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I have just finished a tremendous book on pastoral ministry called “The Pastor’s Justification” by Jared Wilson. Over the next few weeks I will reflect on the ways this book has challenged my view of ministry and leadership.

Wilson has put into words ideas which have burned strongly in my mind for the past few years.

“Books and podcasts and conferences from the leadership cult bid us to believe that pastoral ministry is a technology, that our churches are businesses, and that our flocks are customers.” – Jared Wilson

Let’s break down the three failures of the “leadership cult” mentioned by Wilson in the quote above.

1. Pastoral ministry is NOT a technology!
Granted, many of the “creative” leaders who emphasize secrets to growth would not claim ministry is a technology. Nevertheless, their practical theology is evident in their strategies for success. These leaders boldly proclaim that God wants all churches to grow… the problem (they claim) is we have not discovered the secret to breaking through the next “growth barrier.”

There is not a magic formula that can cause churches to grow. Sure healthy things DO grow… but so does cancer!

Pastors – labor faithfully, pray fervently, minister lovingly – but trust the growth of your church (numerical & spiritual) into the hands of God. He alone gives the growth (1 Cor. 3:7).

2. The Church is NOT a business!
Is there a business aspect to a church? Definitely. My undergraduate degree is business administration. I believe pastors would be greatly helped through a better understanding of the business side of the church. That being said, the church is NOT a business!

Successful business are led by CEOs that often domineer over those in their charge. The Church should be led by self-denying and sacrificial leaders modeling their leadership on the Great Shepherd – Jesus himself. The Kingdom of God does not emphasize CEO-style leadership… rather it is a call to die daily for the good of others. It is the responsibility of every pastor to become the servant of those under his care.

3. The flock are NOT customers!
Many church growth gurus emphasize studying our communities and then offering a product that meets a felt-need. Here’s the problem – the Scriptures teach that all outside of Christ are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1).

Let’s be real – it would be a little insane to go to a cemetery and take a poll to determine what the rotting corpses would enjoy for entertainment!

If we seek to serve felt-needs we will subvert the Gospel by elevating attractional models of ministry over the blood-splattered Messiah. The Gospel itself is INCREDIBLY offensive. The cross of Jesus implies the following about everyone on earth:
— We are wicked beyond imagination.
— We are unable to respond to God in our own power.
— We are not special; matter of fact, we are objects of God’s wrath.
— The Son of God was brutally murdered because of us.


Even if you are not in formal leadership in a church, I highly encourage you to spend some time praying through 1 Corinthians 1:18-25. Pay attention to the paradoxical nature of the cross. 

What are some other “ministry myths” you would add to this list? Let me know by leaving a comment!

Sue Jensen had this to share in the comments and it was TOO good for me not place on the main post!
“I know we call a lot of people volunteers at our church but I think the belief that the church is a volunteer organization is a myth. As volunteers, people believe they can do as little as possible and say they are part of the church. However, the attitude in scripture calls us to be soldiers and servants and we should take our roles in ministry seriously.”

Clergy Aren’t Respected Anymore… Is That Good?

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Those who hold the title of clergy have been experiencing a fall from popular culture. The image of a pastor has transformed from a caring individual, dedicated to bringing hope and restoration into a community to a televangelist bent on stealing money from the poor through the prosperity gospel.

This seems like a new phenomenon.

It’s really not.

This utter lack of respect for clergy began in the early 19th century. Nathan O. Hatch mentions this time of transformation by quoting from the 3rd Epistle of Peter… at least that’s what it was called. Alexander Campbell mocked professional clergy with this fake letter. In it, “Peter” instructs ministers to “live well, wear the best clothes, adorn themselves with high-sounding titles, drink costly wine, and fleece the people.”

This destructive seed which was planted in the 19th century is now coming to full bloom in the 21st century. As a member of the so-called clergy, we can respond to this in two ways.

One way is to get angry. I mean REALLY angry. This is how many of the pastors in the 19th century responded.

This doesn’t work.

Pastor, you do realize that we serve a crucified Savior right?

Have you forgot Matthew 10:25?
“It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul (or Satan), how much more will they malign those of his household.”

The Gospel will be administered under the shadow of the cross. Ministry is not a call to respectability but to death. The Apostles themselves were treated as the scum of the earth, why should YOU be treated any better? This leaves us with the second option…

Pastor, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us…” What if instead of getting mad at those who accuse us of fleecing the sheep, we laid down our lives (and time) sacrificially for those who malign us? What if, instead of bemoaning the lack of respectability for clergy, we loved the very people that hate us?

The ministry is one of crucifixion.

You will receive a crown… but not from the culture.

You will experience resurrection… but not from those who don’t know God.

The rewards you will get for faithfully fulfilling the ministry God has given you far outweigh every negative word, unfair rumor, and false accusation you will ever experience.

Pastor, keep your eyes on Jesus… He is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. He is the Prince of Peace. He is the Chief Shepherd – minister from HIS strength and power – not your own.

Why all the denominations?

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People are often puzzled by the incredible amount of denominations in Christianity – especially in the United States. Many of these denominations began in the 1800s as people began to apply the principles of democracy and personal freedom to religion. As people exercised what they believed to be God-given reason and logic, it fostered a movement full of schisms.

According to Nathan Hatch in his book “The Democratization of American Christianity“, one of the primary reasons this happened is, “They denied the age-old distinction that set the clergy apart as a separate order of men, and they refused to defer to learned theologians and traditional orthodoxies.”

It this a positive or negative concept?

My answer is YES!

1. The concept of denying the distinction between clergy and lay-people is extremely positive.
As the church became institutionalized around the time of Constantine, Christianity became powerful. It was recognized as an official religion and Constantine devoted a vast amount of wealth to create buildings and memorials to the faith.

This also encouraged Christians to pattern their churches after the Roman government. Rather than being led by servants following in the example of Christ, the church was led by powerful leaders intent on exercising militant-like authority towards those in their charge.

Eventually the Scriptures were chained to the pulpit and the “common people” had to rely on the priests to mediate the Word of God. This resulted in spiritual abuse, domineering leadership, and the twisting of Scripture. Thankfully the many reformations led by men such as Luther, Calvin, Erasmus, Zwingli and others brought the Scriptures to common people.

Nevertheless, there was still a distinct class difference between clergy and lay-people. The Scriptures teach that it is the job of the pastors and spiritual leaders in the church to equip the people for the ministry (Eph. 4:12). In other words, the model that the “paid professionals” do the work of the ministry while everyone else sits in a pew and critiques the work is deeply flawed and began to meet its demise in the belief that there was no distinction between clergy and laity.

2. The refusal to defer to learned theologians and traditional orthodoxies was negative and fostered heretical movements.
These first American Christians practiced what C.S. Lewis called “intellectual snobbery.” They believed that their own reason and logic trumped the labor put in by faithful followers of Jesus throughout the centuries. Through such statements as “No Creed but the Bible” the people were ironically led into heretical movements such as Mormonism!

The irony is that there are numerous creeds in the Bible itself!

When Christians, especially Christian pastors, refuse to study church history they are exercising arrogance. In pride they believe that their conclusions, arrived at through searching Google, are more sound than the hours of labor put in by faithful saints throughout the ages. As Christians, we desperately need to understand and defend sound doctrine against those who have shipwrecked their faith by listening to the teaching of demons (1 Timothy 4:1).

This means we need to enter into conversation with Christians of other centuries through carefully reading ancient texts and Christian classics. These writings have stood the test of time for a reason – they have something substantial to say which still applies to the 21st century!


Have you ever studied Christianity in the early United States? What are some concepts you noticed which have shaped our understanding of religion today?