Breaking the Pastor
By Dr. Joe McKeever
What wears pastors down, ages them prematurely, and uses them up too quickly?
Betrayals. Disappointments. Constant conflict. Second-guessing everything you say. Griping. Negativism.
Like herding cats.
It takes a toll.
Most church members have no clue that the constant murmuring (the KJV’s favorite word for it) among the flock is offensive to the heavenly Father and burdensome to the shepherd He has sent.
Moses is a great case study for us. For forty years–think of it!–he gave faithful leadership to the people of God who, far from appreciating him, were relentless in their eroding, grinding, burdening, undermining, questioning, and outright opposition. Scripture gives a reason for this: among the flock was a group of strangers, aliens to the faith.
They were the main problem.
Scripture says when they left Egypt’s slavery, “A mixed multitude went up with them” (Exodus 12:38). Some translations call them “rabble.” Since the Hebrews were not the only slaves of Pharaoh, when God threw off the shackles it must have been like a massive jailbreak. All who could flee the country did so. And since this Moses fellow seemed to have a glorious destination in mind, with no other place to go, many of the “mixed multitude” decided to accompany the Hebrews.
This bunch became the source of a thousand problems for Moses.
We read, “now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving, so the children of Israel also wept again…” (Numbers 11:4).
Don’t miss that. The rabble started complaining and the Hebrews followed their lead. It was like a mob scene where a few malcontents gripe and soon everyone else is caught up in it.
Imagine the task given to Moses: give lessons in walking and living by faith in an unseen God to a massive following. But do it with the added burden of many among those people not believing in your God, accepting your leadership, or having a clue what you’re talking about.
It’s bad enough that they don’t get it, but they also belly-ache and complain and criticize and thus undermine the confidence of the real people of God.
You’ve got the wheat and the tares together. You’re trying to teach the things of God to the wheat but without culling the tares. (The imagery is from Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. Jesus said, “Let both grow together until the harvest…” vs. 30)
You see it with our Lord.
In the New Testament, when the Lord Jesus laid out His kingdom principles, He was heard by people of faith and those of no faith. Some “were waiting for the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25) while others can only be described in the words of Philippians 3:19, “whose god was their belly and whose goal was their pleasure.”
Teaching spiritual things and encouraging a congregation to live by faith is the work of every pastor and most church leaders. But when the people you’re trying to teach are without saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, this is not going to happen. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
Pity the pastor who has among his leadership those of no faith in Jesus Christ. It’s bad enough that they are members of the church and have a vote in how things are done, but for them to be leaders making key decisions is a burden no pastor can bear.
Every church should have in place a plan for working with everyone presenting themselves for membership. We should do all we can to make certain that every member is born again and thus teachable, leadable, and spiritual.
When the carnal become the rabble–that is, when the “outsiders” begin griping and undermining the spiritual, God-appointed leadership, the godly and mature leaders should step up and deal with them. The spiritually mature must support the embattled pastors. They must not allow the Lord’s work to be taken hostage by those who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ.
Many a church has been destroyed by the faithless having their way over the fearful. When God’s people passively sit back and allow bullies to control and ultimately destroy their church, the devil gains a great victory.
The simple fact is a person without faith can no more understand spiritual realities or produce spiritual fruit than a Delta farmer can grow soybeans on a Walmart parking lot. Our text for this is First Corinthians 2:14. The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God…
Not going to happen.
No pastor gets to choose his members. We have to deal with those who are in place when we arrive.
Godly members must learn to look for evidence of God’s presence and His working in those being considered for places of service. That evidence would include humility, teachableness, a hunger for righteousness, sorrow for sins of the past, and the big one: love for the brethren. (John 13:34-35).
I’ll close with a little three-legged prayer I used to pray when I was pastoring:
Lord, please send only the people to this church you want here. Keep away anyone who should not be here. And if there is anyone here who needs to leave, please lead them away.
It’s a prayer He answered time and again.