Who Died and Left You, Lord?

April 21, 2013

A meeting that I had in the doctor’s office while I was receiving my vitamin I.V. inspired tonight’s message. There are a lot of folks that come into his office that are open about their faith. A lady receiving her first ever I.V. was sitting across from me. I found out after she left that she had been very nervous about it, but my keeping her engaged in conversation made her forget about it until it was time to remove it and then it did not seem so bad. Sometimes being a ratchet jaw is a good thing. C];-)}|>
She shared with me that she and another couple had been hurt in the church she had recently attended. It seems that the pastor and his wife seem to love to have the preeminence in the church and put people down all the time. You cannot leave town unless the pastor condones it neither can you buy a car unless he approves it. She related some other things that even if exaggerated prove that pastor is way out of line and has no concept of pastoral love and the limits of the authority of his office. It appears that he was called to primp, and prance and not pastor.
A pastor friend of mine shared with me that there is a “church” in the area where the pastor claims the first night right of English kings when a woman marries. This is absolutely ludicrous and it is obvious that the group is a cult. Why people submit to that kind of nonsense has always amazed me. Man, change the rug color in a Baptist church and people will leave. The good side of that is that they may not ever drink Kool-AidÓ in a South American country. I worry about the folks in the two groups that I just described.
We do have some folks like that among Baptists. I had a deacon once tell me that “If the preacher tells me that white wall is black, I’ll believe him.” I asked him what his favorite flavor of Kool-AidÓ was and if he had his plane ticket. The pastor of that church loved him. That pastor had little spies that would sneak up on you while you were talking to someone to see if you were speaking ugly of the pastor. He also loved to preach “Touch not God’s anointed” or “Don’t go up against God’s man” sermons. Eventually, the congregation matured and he was gone, but many folks were hurt and that church’s witness and ministry was hindered for many years after.
I learned a lot of what not to do at that church. In my soon to be twenty-five years of new life in Christ, I have seen a lot of the “what not to do” things in pastors. Don’t get me wrong. I have made my own mistakes, for sure. Fortunately, by running into some of these lads kept me from making the same mistakes that they made.
Of course, congregations can breed some of these guys. There are two prominent trains of thought in congregations about pastors. The one that makes the little dictators is that the pastor can do no wrong philosophy. He is placed up on a pedestal so high that he needs an air tank to breathe. Consequently, when you are that far up you cannot help but to see your congregation as such small little creatures who cannot possibly survive without your unique and endless wisdom.
The other is what I call the BountyÓ dishtowel philosophy. The pastor is the lad you bring in to clean up whatever real or perceived mess. If he is successful, and sucks up all the junk and becomes burned out in the process, you just wad him up and chunk him in the trash can as you tear off a new one. Inmost cases, the mess is so big that he ends up torn and dirty in the can still leaving a mess for his successor or should I say the next victim?
These views tend to have an equal share of the churches. Forty-nine percent hold the first and forty-nine percent hold the second view. Only two-percent seem to hold the biblical and balanced view. In these churches, the pastor is neither elevated nor abused. He is seen as what he really is, a brother with a calling and the pastoral gifts. His authority is in his office and not in the man. That authority is only enough to provide some order in the church that it may effectively fulfill its mission. He is the first line supervisor or the team leader if you please, but he is not Lord or Lackey.

1 Tim 5:1 Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; KJV

1 Tim 5:19-20
19Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.
20Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. KJV

If that pastor abuses his authority, he can and should be cal led into account. You would be amazed how few people seem to know about 1 Tim 5:19-20 in the preacher can do no wrong churches. Likewise, in the dishtowel churches few seem to know about 1 Tim 5:1.
While they may appear to be in conflict, they are speaking to attitude and protocol as well as two different situations. If you are having an issue or problem with an elder/pastor then you are to go to him with the same kind of respect that you would show your father. Now, in these days this is not understood since parents receive little respect from their children, so let me illustrate this.
The words translated as rebuke are two different Greek words. In 5:1, it means to chastise and upbraid verbally. This means that when he steps on your toes you don’t kick the door into his office and give him the tongue lashing of his life and that little piece of your mind that you have left. Instead you intreat him or ask him to further explain his position in more depth or clarity. It might be best for you to go home first. Search the Scriptures, pray, and cool down. A biblical discussion is always better than having heated arguments. Stay in your SAFE zone preacher, and member.
Now in 1 Tim 5:19,20, you have a Matthew 18 situation going on here. You actually have a complaint or criminal charge against the elder/pastor. This is serious. It took the matching statements of two or three witnesses to condemn a man to death under Hebrew law. This is church court. You are allowed to rebuke if he is guilty. Confute, admonish, and convict are all suitable renderings here. The old boy is guilty of heresy or something and needs to be rebuked in public as a warning to other elders. You have the right “go up against God’s man” in this case and if needed touch His anointed as you remove him from the premises. I still strongly suggest that you stay in your SAFE zone.
Now, as Paul says in Hebrews 6:9, “but beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.” Let us move into the text that describes just what an elder/pastor is to be like.

1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
If you have ever spoken to a group of preachers, you know they can be a tough crowd. Peter is establishing his credentials to these folks. He is an apostle by the fact that he was a witness to Christ’s sufferings having spent three years with Him. On the Mount of Transfiguration, he also got a peek at what we shall be like when we are glorified at the Rapture or first resurrection of the dead.
However, he uses that to show his experience and not as a method to elevate himself. He first presents himself as one of them. I am an elder/pastor as your are. I identify myself with you. I know what you face each day because I face it also. In fact, “also an elder” could be translated co-elder or co-presbyter. Both terms refer to the office of pastor. He was speaking to them as equals not as subordinates though in experience and revelation they would have thought of themselves as subordinates. Brother Tim always treated me as a peer, but as Senior Pastor and responsible for the church I always called him, Boss.
All good elders/pastors identify with their people. Isaiah did not say, “Lord, here am I a hardworking, faithful priest in the midst of a hardheaded faithless people.” He said, “Lord, I am a man of unclean lips amidst a people of unclean lips.” When Israel was enslaved and the temple at Jerusalem was in ruins Nehemiah prayed, ” I and my father’s house have sinned.” He had not been born when Israel sinned and ended up in captivity. He could have asked for freedom for his generation since it was not their fault, but he identified himself with family and the nation. Thus, Peter says to the elders, I am one of you. I am not here to beat you, but to identify with you.

2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;

They are to feed the flock. The concept is of a shepherd. It also conveys supervision and rule over the flock. Before the little dictators jump up and shout, let us look at what that supervision consists of and how it is to be exercised. Taking the oversight thereof is to look diligently after something like a shepherd looks after his flock. Jesus said that the good shepherd gives his life for his sheep. (John 10:11) The hireling flees and the thief and robbers come to steal the sheep or in the case of the pastor steal from the sheep. (John 10:12,13)
You are to willingly take a shepherd/pastor position. Mom and Dad should not be the deciding factor nor should another preacher. A man they admire or a Mom’s desire often coerces people into ministry. Any Christian service and especially a pastorate cannot prosper if the one doing it is browbeat into it or does it by guilt. It must be God’s call to you and not yours or another’s. His call and your willing obedience will bring the fruit and fulfillment to the calling that He deigns for you.
When I announced that I was not a candidate for the pastorate of this church I was asked if it was because the salary was not high enough. Sadly, in our society that is a valid question. Some would look at salary as a primary motivator for taking a specific church. When I graduated during a recession in 1982, I was told that one of the reasons I had so much competition was that many who left the ministry were looking to return because they had lost their secular employment. A man has to eat and feed his family, but what a rotten reason to go back to a “ministry” in which you obviously did not sense a clear lifelong call to serve. Indeed, it is filthy lucre.
As I write this, I wonder if one of the underlying reasons that I am looking for a bivocational church is because I do not want to be accused of doing it just for the money. From the time I was saved, all I have heard from lost folks is that preachers are only in it for the money.  That is funny because most of the preachers that I have known over the years have not been wealthy. Some were near poverty. Some were comfortable. I only know of one pastor that I would call rich. When the elder board stated, “We must remember as we grow we must see to it the pastor is comfortable” that I looked around his house, saw his stuff, and his wardrobe that I figured the only way he could get any more comfortable was to go to Glory. Most were like their congregations just making it from payday to payday. I reckon that it is only the non-Baptist preachers that are rich and in it for the money. C];-)}|>
A man must take the pastoral oversight of the flock with a ready or eager mind. It could be translated as breathing hard after it. It must be his passion to care for God’s flock. Paul called it a lust in1 Timothy 3.

3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.

He must have the heart of a pastor-shepherd not the heart of a dictator. He is not to exercise dominion over God’s heritage. Here is where I get the title of this sermon. A heritage is an inheritance. To get an inheritance someone has to die. Jesus did not die and give the inheritance to the pastor. Jesus is Lord over the flock, not the pastor.  People who die normally do not come back to reclaim their belongings. Jesus died and rose again to claim mankind as His heritage. When we are mad at some one we might say, “Who died and left you Boss?” Jesus died and was raised to be Lord over the Church. Preacher, no one died and left you Lord.
You are to be an ensample to the flock. You are to be a model for the believers to imitate. Your imitation of Christ should stand out to them as a scar that cannot be hid. I do not see a way to exercise Lordship here when you are imitating the Lord who became a servant unto death. Yes, you must administrate and supervise things to ensure growth and godliness to His glory. This does not mean you treat your charge and fellow priests as your personal resources for your glory. (1 Peter 2:9)
As much of a cowboy that I am, when it comes to ministry I have to put the spurs away. God gives his pastors a rod, a staff, and a sling but not a cattle prod and a whip. A shepherd leads. A cowboy drives. As God’s under-shepherds, a pastor leads by love and example. The staff is to be used only for loving correction and guidance. The rod to protect the flock from the enemy. The sling is a last resort.
A shepherd can use the sling to break the leg of a sheep that continues to wander into danger. He then splints the leg and carries that sheep around his shoulders as he nurses it back to health. After all that personal care and contact with the shepherd that sheep never again wanders.
I believe that only Jesus can use the sling properly. An under-shepherd is to only know what it is and understands its purpose when he sees a sheep the Lord had to use it on. Too many pastors only use the sling to vent their anger and frustration. Instead of the enemy, they use the rod to beat their weak lambs. Instead of loving guidance, they use the staff to try to yank a sheep back into their line. This results in choking, bruising and at times a broken neck. They are neither good shepherds nor cowboys. They are only big bullies. They are not imitating the Good Shepherd Jesus.

4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. KJV

As an under-shepherd, the pastor must realize that some day the Chief Shepherd will appear. He will be brought into account of his stewardship. If he has not loved the sheep and been faithful to the Word it will not be a happy meeting with the Boss. However, Brother pastor, if you have been faithful and loving and still abused by the sheep you will receive a crown of glory from the One who was also abused by His own.
Though pastors who have always had success and good congregations appear to have crowns, those crowns fade. Many pastors are forgotten after they retire or leave the ministry due to illness. The folks that once counseled with them or Amened their sermons find others to counsel with and to Amen. This is part of the natural order of things to some degree, but we should be ashamed that we forget or leave anyone alone because of age or illness. Yes, temporal crowns of glory fade, but one is coming that will never fade away. Keep on leading, loving, praying, and obeying, my Brothers. The Chief Shepherd will be here soon and a well done from Him is worth more than all the accolades this world can give.
To the ones who love to dominate and dictate I repeat, who died and left you Lord? How dare you trifle with the Lord’s heritage and treat them as your lackeys? Jesus loves His people and He will repay. Repent now and be the under-shepherd He called you to be or get out of the ministry. Touch not His anointed priesthood.
To my brothers and sisters in Christ, I ask the same question. Who died and left you Lord? The pastor is not your lackey either. You do not own him. He does not own you. He is serving the Lord by serving you. If he is being true to his calling and loving the flock then follow him. If not follow the proper procedures to remove him or remove yourself. If your selfishness and ambition is harming the flock then you are touching God’s anointed priesthood and in as much trouble as Pastor Preeminent. Be careful, the Chief Shepherd will also have a few words with His sheep when He returns.
Let Jesus be Lord of the flock and it will be grow in strength and numbers. I leave you with a double benediction.

Eph 3:20-21
20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen KJV

Jude 24-25
24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,
25 To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. KJV





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