“Rather, we were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children. With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the Gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us. …As you know, we treated each one of you as a father treats his children, exhorting and encouraging you and insisting that you conduct yourselves as worthy of the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory”
(1 Thes 2:7b-8,11-12).
The story of the church is the story of the sheep and the shepherd. It is the story of the pastor and the pastored. It is the story of the congregation and the clergy.
Remove the people and you have no church. Indeed the foundation of the church as laid down by Jesus is where two or three are gathered. So, when we look at this critically, we soon discover that the church can exist without a shepherd but the shepherd cannot exist without the sheep.
It is because we have the sheep that we can talk of the shepherd. The shepherd’s primary duty is to lead the sheep to green pasture. But the sheep can go scavenging for pasture without the shepherd. The consequence of that is that the sheep would eat anything it finds along its path,
So where does the sheep stand? Where does the shepherd stand? How does the shepherd comport himself where the sheep are. And what is expected of the sheep.
For a start it is important to understand that Jesus is the good shepherd. He stated that much in his word.
“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. John 10v11
But then he is also the chief Shepherd. Peter alluded to this when he said, “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. The chief Shepherd in this context is Jesus.” 1 Peter 5v4
But then our concern here is the shepherd. The pastor. The man that sits on a congregation as the founder or that stands before the people as the leader.
Here we are concerned about the day to day running of the church and the symbiotic relationship between the congregation and the clergy.
In many instances we have seen cases of pastors behaving like Lords of the manure. They are the alpha and omega in their church. The members literally don’t have a life of their own. Apart from coming to church to listen to them preach day in day out, they seem tied to the appendage of the pastor who tells them when to eat, when not to eat, when to travel when not to travel.
So the question that readily comes to mind is how does a shepherd behave before the sheep? Should the pastor of a church control the lives of his members in a somewhat curious way in the name of caring for them? To what extent can the pastor interfere in the lives of his members? Should the pastor play the role of the Holy Spirit for his members? What exactly is the duty of the pastor to his members?
In Africa, we have seen horrible cases of pastors treating their members as pawns in a chessboard. Some churches are more of occult setting where the pastor gives out rules and regulations for members to abide with. The rules are things that have nothing to do with their spiritual lives and if they have to do, they are weird rules and regulations that makes one wonders if the members are in a cult or a church.
There are pastors you don’t talk to standing up. You have to be on your knees or you stoop while talking to them. It is called giving honour to whom honour is due. Is anything wrong in this? Not in the least. But it should not be what is demanded, it should be earned. For some pastors they have refused to earn such open display of humility.
There are churches where members have to be on their feet immediately their pastors come around. Again, is anything wrong with this? Not in the least. But it should be earned and not commanded.
The point that should sink is that the role of the pastor is purely to point the congregation to Christ prayerfully. Paul labored and travailed for the people he preached to, so that Christ would be formed in them. It is a onerous task. But then that is what is expected of the pastor. He is to tend the sheep and nurture the sheep with the word of life. He is not permitted to take advantage of the sheep. He is not permitted to manipulate the sheep and make undue demand from the sheep.
Jesus the good shepherd and our ultimate example demonstrated great love for the sheep while on earth. He gave his life for the sheep. He had compassion on them. He shared in their pain. He did not fleece them but rather he provided for them. He did not discriminate against them. He gave attention to one person the way he gave attention to the crowd.
In Jesus’ crusade he fed the crowd rather than take advantage of the crowd by asking them to bring offering. Is it not curious that we hold public evangelical meetings and we raise funds in the public space where all kinds of characters are? Our goal is not to have them saved but rather to get their money. This is sad. The moment an evangelist raises money from people that are yet to accept the gospel message and taught the word, it puts the evangelist in a position of compromise of the truth.
We see this every day. The man comes into the public bus to preach. He preaches quite well and arouses the interest of the people. The next minute he is asking for the support of God’s work from the people he just shared the gospel with even when it is not clear they have given their heart over to Jesus.
By the way however, Jesus’ idea is that the leader should be the servant. But Jesus called them aside and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their superiors exercise authority over them. It shall not be this way among you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave” Matt 20v25-27
There is no place in the Bible where the pastor is permitted to Lord himself over the people he pastors. The command of God for the pastor is to feed the people with the word. Jesus said that much when he told Peter to “feed my sheep” Unfortunately, what we have today are examples of pastors whose pastime is to fleece the sheep.
Also read:The work of God…what is the work of God?https://churchtimesnigeria.net/work-god-work/
There are one thousand and one cases of abuse going on in the name of church. There have been reported cases of pastors who stand on people in their congregation to preach. Some ask their members to carry them and not allow their legs to touch the ground while they pray for them. Some have gone to the point of controlling the finances of their members. There are cases of pastors who make undue demands from their members using manipulation and devilish scheming. Many who were one time millionaires have been reduced to shreds because they placed their lives on their pastors.
But what example did Paul show. He says in 1Cor2v13 ”When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I decided to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling”
Peter in 1Peter 5v1-2 says, Therefore I exhort the elders among you…not yet as Lording it over them…not yet as Lording it over those allotted to your charge” This clearly shows that the Apostles demonstrated great humility and understanding in their pastoral roles.
So we see that the pastor or the shepherd’s role in the life of the sheep is to feed them with the word, nurture them with the word and watch them grow in grace. By no way should he take the place of God in their lives. His tutelage too should not be forever. If a member can’t pray by himself without calling his pastor after a long period of teaching, can’t stand alone and can’t dissect the word, the pastor perhaps have done a poor job.
There is absolutely nothing wrong in joining one’s pastor to pray and agree on issues. But there is everything wrong if at the slightest challenge the pastor is the one to call rather than to go on one’s knees in prayers. A pastor who enjoys receiving prayer requests calls from his members sometimes think he is helping the members. There are pastors who insist their members must call them when they have any challenge.
The point is: The pastor is not God. The congregation should know that much. What the congregation owes the pastor is to encourage him by living out what he had preached. It will be the joy of the pastor to see the people he is pastoring living out the life of Christ. His joy would know no bound if members of his church are raising the dead and casting out demons. He will be happy if after a few years of pastoring members of his church are beginning to replicate him in another city.
The congregation should also reciprocate the gesture of the pastor by blessing him with material things. In 1Tim 5v17-19, Apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to ensure that the elders who rule well be considered for double honour especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. In Mathew 5v10 Jesus says the worker is worthy of his wages. In 1 Cor. 9 v3-18 Paul made a case for the support of preachers of the word stating that those who sow spiritual things deserve to reap material things.
The essence of going this far is to establish that the congregation also has a reciprocal role to play in the church. He is also to pray for his pastor and also support him. The church and the pastor are encouraged by scripture to maintain a symbiotic relationship and not a servant Lord relationship.
By Gbenga Osinaike