How can we reduce the “poimacide” rate (read Part 1) in modern church life? In Avoiding Poimacide (Part 2) I suggested two areas churches must seriously and urgently consider to do so. In this installment I offer three more.
3. Markeplace mentality. The church-at-large must confess and repent from a systemic addiction to a marketplace mentality. Instead of a community of other-Kingdom exiles, the church has become a business or brand with customers to attract and appease. Generally speaking, much of the church has followed the social, entertainment and “spiritual” trends of the world. The church has considered herself a competitor rather than a community. Market share and advertising rather than souls and proclamation.
Churches baptize what is popular and attach the gospel like a motorcycle side car. The gospel and Christian life appear to be an exciting, smiley journey with people just like me (cowboys, wild game hunters, homeschoolers, DINKS, urbanites, etc.). But, that is not gospel living. The gospel is a joyful cross-bearing life with people I would never think to (much less be able to) love were it not for Jesus. That’s the burden most of Paul’s letters to the churches bear: getting Jews and Gentiles to enjoy Christ’s peace together. Every NT church was a small, struggling community of faithful people. They had no time to debate music style or choreograph worship. They spent their time making peace with one another in love and proclaiming Christ as Lord. Perhaps a good dose of persecution would help us toward more biblical faithfulness.
This marketplace mentality forces pastors to be clever entertainers, savvy entrepreneurs, slick salesmen rather than knee-bent, soul-weathered, tear-stained shepherds. Pastors have to keep the customers coming with the next big thing. The church expects very little soul care as long as the pews or box seats are regularly filled. We celebrate inflated numbers and appearances rather than mundane perseverance and substances. We trick people into thinking we’ve “done church” when all we’ve probably done is glorified entertainment.
This mentality perverts both the nature of the church and the pastoral office. He is not charged with finishing the race with the most amount of people. However many he finishes the race with he is to make sure they are truly Christ’s (Heb 13.17).
Pastors pressured to improve the brand will only last so long in one place. They will ride the wave until that wave crashes. After exhausting their bag of tricks they move on for another three year campaign down the road. And the church starts the cycle over again. Local churches must radically change how they view the church so their pastors last longer than the latest gimmicks. This leads me into the next consideration.
4. Prophetic responsibility. Our pastors have a prophetic (small-p) responsibility to us. They preach the word (1 Tim 4.1-5; 5.17f.). Week-in, week-out they reprove, rebuke, exhort and patiently instruct. They are to be gentle, peace-loving, courageous truth-tellers. They are fearful, trembling men who have one message: Christ crucified so none of us get the big head and we all enjoy the power of God in salvation (1 Cor 2.1-5).
Maybe he’s not a great storyteller, snappy illustrator or mesmerizing communicator. That’s not his job. He is to keep us in the way of grace so that we see, hear and run to Christ in every waking moment. He is not commanded to be a master of one-liners, but of the gospel. We don’t live on cute quips and catchy zingers. We live on every word that proceeds from God’s mouth.
Our pastors are not our event planners, ego-strokers or stand-up comics. Don’t expect them to always be “on.” They are a means of God’s grace to us. They bring us the unrestrained gospel so that we don’t believe what we see and trust what we don’t.
5. Brotherly kindness. Last but certainly not least is the simple command to be kind to one another, which includes our pastors (Eph 4.32). We have all been to sporting events where a stadium full of people treat some zebra-striped men like they’re refuse. Obviously, none of us have ever done that. Make the wrong call and there very well could be death threats. Would we ever think about yelling at them like that at dinner or at our children’s musical? Would we ever call anyone the names we call them? They aren’t animals but regular men with wives, children, grandchildren, churches and perspectives. It’s like we assume our paid attendance entitles us to treat referees any way we please. They really woke up that morning intent on insulting us by their incompetence and making our lives miserable. Are we that self-righteous? Yet, many of us assume the same about our pastors.
There are names I’ve heard pastors called or called them myself that leave indelible wounds. It’s as if churches declare open season on their pastors, assuming the liberty to call them whatever they want. Make the wrong call, say the wrong word, make the wrong application of Scripture and he becomes fodder. And he is often expected to take it because he is compensated clergy, after all. It will take no time for criticism to snowball into abject hatred (see Mk 15.11). It is a stage-4 cancer that soon becomes inoperable. Crowds are easy to incite because we all love a good scandal. Rarely do we hear about churches conspiring toward peace. We are to be very careful about running our mouths about our pastors and to be skeptical about those who do (1 Tim 5.19). We don’t pay pastors to be our sanctified punching bags.
Jesus’ “Golden Rule” is enough to restrain us. We would never want anyone degrading us publicly or privately. We would never want groups of people gathering in complaint sessions about us (which almost always get back to the pastors). Therefore, we should never do that to other brothers and sisters in Christ, especially our pastors. We should treat them like we want to be treated. It’s that simple. Be about brotherly kindness with one another.
Poimacide is on the increase. It will continue to do so until we as churches seriously and radically confront at least the issues I’ve suggested. Sunday is coming. Let’s be better church members. Jesus is worth it and we’ll get better pastors for it.