GETTING ALONG WITH YOUR PASTOR
BY RAYMOND A. SIRSTEAD
“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17).
One of the foremost reasons modern-day Apostolic churches struggle with continual growth is the relationships between saints and pastors. There are some people who just cannot get along with any pastor no matter what his name. However, no doubt it is true that the majority of saints desire to foster good relationships with their pastor.
As is true with so many facets of life, concepts and attitude are of primary importance. A scriptural understanding is paramount from both perspectives. We must see it as the Bible sees it. God has underscored in unmistakable terms what pastoral-saint relationships ought to be. It is not our place to question, we must accept.
Now, there are many different types of pastors as there are saints. This makes for a very complex situation. But simple principles derived from scripture settles all issues. If we follow God’s directions, whether pastor or saint, with a submissive acceptance, we will be able to create healthy pastor- saint relationships. God has set down in His Word proper attitudes for both sides.
Before I direct your attention to a particular scripture, allow me to state this observation. The term “pastor” appears just nine times in the KJV of the Bible, once in the New Testament (Ephesians 4:11), and eight times in the Old Testament, all in the prophet Jeremiah’s book (2:8, 3:15, 10:21, 12:10, 17:16, 22:22, 23:1 & 23:2). However, the Hebrew word translated “pastor” in Jeremiah is generally translated”shepherd” elsewhere in the Old Testament. Likewise, in the New Testament, the Greek word “poimeen” translated “pastors” in Ephesians 4:11, is used often and is always translated “shepherd” elsewhere. It is clear that God meant pastors to be shepherds.
Further, as used by Jeremiah, the term “pastor” did not have reference to the priests, but rather to the prophets, whose primary obligation was to stand in the counsel of God and by inspiration, proclaim boldly God’s word to God’s people! When Jeremiah used this term, he generally indicted the false mercenary prophets who, by self-imagined visions and proclamations, were causing the people to go astray.
Of utmost importance by both pastors and saints is an acceptance of the truth that God, not man, designated the pastor to the position as shepherd, and the saints as sheep. Natural responsibility, and, as such, authority and attitudes of the shepherd-sheep relationships are precisely the same as in the pastor-saint relationships. Problems develop and trouble erupts when either pastor or saint steps over the boundary lines established by God. Without taking a lot of spaceexamining the overall view of scripture on this subject, let us turn our attention to one particular passage. Psalm 23 is a beautiful and graphic portrayal of the pastor- shepherd and his sheep and the relationships.
Here are just some areas of concern:
1. The pastor-shepherd knows and understands his relationship with the chief shepherd and with the sheep.
God sets a pastor in a church to develop and produce health and promote growth. God gives him responsibility and authority to rule (Isaiah 40:10-11) in His behalf and in His stead. The flock is God’s, not the pastor’s. At the same time, he is responsible, he is in charge and he does make the decisions. His rule is an extension of Christ’s (2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 2:15).
The sheep follow their under-shepherd as they would Christ. The sheep submit to pastoral leadership and places his confidence and trust in his pastor. He obeys his pastor because God has invested leadership authority in the pastor. The saint follows the pastor even though he may not understand his decisions and instructions.
2. The pastor-shepherd feeds the flock.
There are many scriptural references which support this proposition. “To feed” means “to tend, to herd, to lead, to pasture.” In everyday English, “to feed” is to be able to transmit to the flock the mind of God in a clear, simple manner.
If the pastor is to feed, then the sheep are to accept and eat. Natural sheep willingly are lead to green pastures and they feed there, not some place of their own choosing. The same must be true in the spiritual.
Following the analogy further, let me state: Sheep do not choose their shepherd, shepherd’s choose their flock. If we would follow the scripture analogy, put there by God, then it would seem right that sheep should stay with a shepherd until he decides it is time for them to move on…
3. The pastor-shepherd gathers and tends his flock.
Without a shepherd the sheep are scattered. So the shepherd gathers and retains ownership and possession over the flock. He is jealous over them. In the natural, the sheep are owned by the owner/shepherd. He cannot just walk off and leave them to shift for themselves. This is anti-scriptural. If it is time for the shepherd to leave, then he chooses who he transfers ownership to.
Sheep should not pasture-hop. Sheep follow the shepherd to his choice of feeding places. Trading saints rarely works! Sheep need to submit to the rulership of their shepherd. When loving care is administered by the pastor, saints will respond with faithfulness and loyalty. Incidentally, in the natural, it is against the law to steal someone else’s sheep.
4. The pastor-shepherd leads the sheep.
Jesus himself said in John 10:4-5, “…he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him.” Psalm 23:2 says “…he leadeth me beside the still waters.” The shepherd has a responsibility to go before and lead. He must have a definite sense of direction. The pastor is to point direction and then move in that direction himself. He cannot preach to his people one thing and completely disregard it as pertaining to himself.
The sheep follow the shepherd. This seems to be very simple, but, in reality, not everyone immediately follows the shepherd. But, the truth is, every worthwhile sheep really wants a shepherd! Saints will follow someone they can trust, someone who will accept them, love them, and value them.
5. The pastor-shepherd must protect the sheep.
Sheep are perhaps the most helpless and harmless of all of God’s animals. They have no fangs or claws. They are not fast or agile. They cannot climb trees. Because they do not blend well with the environment, they cannot hide. Natural sheep are commonly known as being dumb and easily led about. Sheep need to be protected and tended! It is the shepherd’s duty to see that the sheep are well cared for and looked after.
The enemy’s purpose is to destroy and poison. He poses as a shepherd (pastor or angel of light) or another sheep (in sheep’s clothing), but he is an imposter! He does not love the sheep. The imposter looks for weakened and unprotected sheep upon which to prey. He is not God’s mouthpiece! He is a deceiver who is filled with lust and greed. After he has fleeced the sheep, he moves on. “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy…” (John 10:10).
A cantankerous sheep may consider the “fence of the pasture to be too confining and restricting, but the shepherd knows the protection it provides from the sheep’s enemies. The saint must surrender his will to the will of the pastor. The pastor has the oversight and responsibility to protect the sheep from false doctrine and false prophets who will surely attempt to lure the sheep into a vulnerable position. The pastor even has the spiritual leadership when it comes to a question of advice from well-meaning family and friends. Once the sheep wanders outside the jurisdiction of the shepherd, he is easy prey for the predators who seek his life.
6. The pastor-shepherd gives his life for the sheep.
“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. As the Father knoweth me, even so I know the Father: and I lay down my life for sheep.” (John 10:11&15). The true shepherd gives his life for the sheep. This means he gives his life in exchange for the comfort, happiness, and contentment of the sheep. Their welfare is foremost in his mind. His own interest and self needs are laid aside in favor of the sheep. He is guard and watchman. Often he lays his health, reputation and sometimes, his hopes and dreams on the line in his determination to see to the needs of the flock. The pastor is a minister, one who serves. You can get along with your pastor!All it takes is a clear understanding of your position to the man of God. God has set (placed) him in the church, and particularly in your life, to be your pastor-shepherd. His is a tremendous responsibility. If you will humbly submit yourself to his authority (rulership), given to him rightfully by God Himself … you can get along with your pastor!
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