You want to know why your church is so small, it is because we stopped loving people and started loving judgment. When I was a kid my dad used to get so mad at us, it was kind of humorous but tragic at the same time. He was sure that the reason we didn’t pick up the piece of paper on the kitchen floor was to personally offend him. We didn’t clean our rooms in an effort to offend him, we didn’t cut the grass, so that he would be offended, we didn’t get an A in math, just to upset him, we wore that shirt with a stain, just to make him angry. We left a drinking glass on the table when we were clearing the supper dishes, because we were personally attacking him. Some preachers are the same way. That family missed Wednesday night just to make me mad. That man is growing a goatee just to contradict me. That woman is wearing pants because she is rebellious against her pastor. That teen got a cross tattoo because he hates me personally. All of them are backslidden, all of them hate God, all of them are going against the man of God! We love to judge, but what happens when our judgment is false? Our churches are small, our ministries are small, our mindset is small, our influence is small (that is not a bad thing) and in reality our faith is smaller than a mustard seed.
Do those ingrates not realize that I am to be obeyed; do they not understand pastoral authority? Do they actually think I do not know what is best for their lives and that I am an authority in all things, in all seasons? Do they not know that I am THE MAN OF GOD? Of course, once again let me stress that not every IFB pastor has this mindset, but far too many of them do.
Our churches are small because we give glory to men not God. When I was a youth pastor, I saw a visiting evangelist (small “e” evangelist) point to my pastor, who was sitting on the platform, and say “That man right there, sitting in that chair, he is God to you. He is not God, but he is God to you. He represents God, therefore he is God to you on this earth.” WOW! Guess which college this dude graduated from? It starts with an “H” and ends with a “yles.” To my pastor’s credit, he bowed his head and shook it softly signifying his humiliation and disagreement with the evangelist. (little “e”) In my opinion he should have stopped that blasphemy right then and there, sat that little “e” evangelist, publicly, and immediately, correct his heretical error and never invite him back. That is what I would have done. Then again, perhaps that is what my pastor wanted people to think; he is God to us. To my knowledge my former pastor never corrected that error, even though I waited anxiously for
it. I will not judge his decision not to correct the error, maybe he just forgot about the satanic utterance from the little “e” evangelist, maybe he thought everyone knew better than to believe that, then again, maybe he did not really mind it at all. Pastor, Evangelist, Missionary, you do not deserve the credit for what God has done. Now we all play the false humility card and claim that it is not me it is God, but our actions betray our words. We gloat, we crow, we brag, we puff and pound our little chests and in our hearts we shout “I’m the king of the world.” The character that made that line famous wound up sinking into the black of the North Sea. Long live the king.
Many preachers have developed an US against THEM mentality; this is another reason our churches and ministries are small. A man became sick with an aggressive form of cancer and died a few weeks after he was diagnosed. Some might say this was the mercy of God. Others claim this man was judged and killed by God. This man had served as a deacon in his church for many years. He was a solid fundamentalist, a real man of God and great faith. He saw his church, the one he loved, and for many years personally cared for, being dismantled from the inside by the new pastor. He brought his concerns to that new pastor, who ignored him, became offended at the suggestion he was doing anything wrong, and huffed and puffed and pouted around the church. You see the pastor saw the deacon’s criticisms as a personal attack. He saw them as rebellion. He saw them as an attack. Where in the bible does it say we are not allowed to disagree with the pastor? Where does it say that disagreement with the pastor is rebellion? The deacon made a painful decision to leave the church in which he had invested much time, and given much money. Three months after leaving his home church the deacon died. That pastor claimed, and would claim to this day, that God killed that rebellious man. Yep, God killed him dead.
If God killed that old, emphasis on old, man then I should have died a thousand times over. When that old deacon died, the church in question was running almost 500 on Sunday mornings. Now it is rare for 150 to be in attendance Sunday morning. The pastor in question seems to have made it his goal in life to run everyone off and destroy a once strong, and even great church. “People just aren’t concerned about the things of God anymore.” His attitude towards the members is suspicion, he deals with them based on an unknowable formula of favoritism, he is a little man who thinks he has big power. In reality he is a little dictator without power, no love for people, and no desire to do anything but watch his little empire fall to ruin.
Here is an interesting personal anecdote. When I was a teenager, I withstood my pastor in a public fashion. Dr. Bill Bennet, a gracious and truly wonderful man of God, decided to change the name of our church. I didn’t like it, I instigated other teens to join me in voting against the name change. On a Sunday night business meeting, with about 500 in attendance, we voted. All in favor signify by raising your hand…hands everywhere, the motion obviously passed, all opposed please stand to your feet…BOOM, I shot up so fast I burned the back of my legs on the front of my chair. (to my great distress my little brother beat me to the punch and was the first teen standing in opposition to the pastor) Me and about thirty other teens stood to our feet in direct opposition to the pastor. Allow me to quote Eddie Vedder “I’m still alive, yayeee uh-huh-ahh!” My “rebellion” against the man of God was public and even boisterous. I had gathered to myself about 30 others to withstand him publicly. So God will kill a man if he privately confronts a pastor, but when you publicly confront one you are in the clear? Would you like to know what that pastor said to me? NOTHING. One of the deacons in the church cornered me the next Sunday before Sunday School and put me in my place. He explained to me why I was wrong and told me in no uncertain terms that I had sinned against God and against the pastor. I later went to the pastor and asked his forgiveness. Dr. Bennet told me he forgave me and that what I did showed leadership, even though it was wrong. He encouraged me not to quit being a leader, but he cautioned me to pick my battles. He pastored me, he did not berate me, he did not threaten me with death from above, he pastored me.
The nameless pastor of the nameless fundamental church has worried and fretted about silly things. He does not care about the Jones family and their money problems, he could care less about the recovering drug addict who used to sit on the front row, but now, due to neglect and mistreatment, will not even shake his hand. His attention is not Mrs. Smith’s desire to serve God and help in any way she can, no you see, Mrs. Smith is a nut job, she talks too much and causes trouble. She and the other ladies are conspiring against the pastor and his wife. They gossip, they get together for scrapbooking and talk trash about Mrs. Pastor, so we have to put an end to scrapbooking in the church. We must stop all the fellowships, we have to keep people apart or they will talk trash about the pastor….newsflash pastor, if this describes your leadership style do the world and God a favor and resign. Go back to working in the auto factory, or selling shoes, or flipping hamburgers, or whatever you did before, and leave the work of God to men and women who actually love people and want to see them spiritually thriving.
False judgment is as bad as no judgment. I firmly believe we, as Christians, are supposed to judge with righteous judgment. We are not supposed to judge a person unfairly or with guile in our hearts and minds, but we are to judge. This is a tricky proposition, but we used to be able to pull it off. Take for instance a drug addict. He has been to prison, he has stolen money, cars, and other valuables. Now he is clean and sober for two years, do we let him serve in the church? Righteous judgment says yes we do. Righteous judgment says not to let him be the church treasurer, but find a place to plug him in. God has not put him on the shelf, and neither should we. All too often we take the opposite approach, we put that man or woman on the shelf. The drug addict has messed up in the past, and so he will mess up in the future. He is a drain on society and on the church. The best thing for this offense to humanity to do is die. We do not talk to him, we ignore him. We do not use our supposed expertise to counsel, mentor, and disciple him, we shun him. Only those who are perfect, with a perfect track record are fit to serve…unless. Unless they are from some other fundamental church and they are ticked at their pastor, then we let them serve with no background check, no references, no call to the former pastor, because happy sheep do not seek other pastures. We let them work in Jr. Church or VBS, or with our teens. This is exercising no judgment. Are you fairly and righteously judging, or are you guilty of false judgment and no judgment?
We must be careful, and seek the mind of Christ. We must put on mercy, and have grace in our hearts. We must love and truly pastor the sheep God has put us in charge of, while at the same time realizing that we are just sheep ourselves. We are prone to sheepy things, we are susceptible to sheeply behavior, we are apt to do dumb sheep things. Mercy, grace, and love, the mind Christ.
Pastor, Evangelist, Missionary, quit being a little man. Realize you have no power. Look at those you have an influence with and love them, have mercy on them, exercise grace with them, and while you are at it, with your fellow ministers too.