North Church - Albuquerque, NM


Profile of a Bad Pastor #3

Jesus reserved his harshest criticism for religious leaders. The bigger their influence, the stronger his words. Few leaders were more powerful than the Pharisees and scribes. And Jesus let them have it in front of everyone. 

They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. (Matthew 23:5-10)

Jesus gets beneath the surface in exposing the bad pastors of his day. He shoots straight for the heart. He uncovers motives. These leaders were supposed to worship God and serve people. Instead, the Pharisees and scribes worshipped themselves and used people. They played God and everyone lost. 

Jesus uses these bad shepherds as bad examples. Jesus’ followers aren’t to play God with each other. Jesus is the only titled Rabbi and Instructor. God The Father is the true father of his spiritual children. Leaders in Jesus’ movement must submit first to God then to one another because according to Jesus, “you are all brothers”.

The bad pastor leads without submitting. He brazenly places himself in a position reserved solely for Jesus. He then demands and wields authority over others in a way Jesus despises. Inevitably, the bad pastor dishonors God and damages disciples by demanding a divine role. 

The desire to have authority that isn’t mine runs deep in me. It is ugly. While being interviewed by an elder council about my proposal to plant a church, one man asked me, “And what will you do if we tell you we won’t approve your proposal?”. It was a good question. And I gave an evil answer. I said, “Then, I would have to move forward without your approval.” Sadly, I meant what I said then and said what I meant. The bad pastor leads without submitting. I was a bad pastor.

I can imagine some pushing back now. Someone has to take charge and lead, right? I don’t disagree. But that same leader also must submit to Jesus and to others. The Apostle Peter, surprisingly, is a very good example of how this should look.  

Peter was the leader of leaders among Jesus’ first disciples. He made the first clear profession of faith. He initiated the replacement of Judas. He preached the first sermon on Pentecost. He is listed first when the disciples are named. Peter is considered by many to be the “first among equals” in the early church. But far too often today we stress the “first” and not the “among equals” in our distorted understanding of leadership.   

Here are two examples of Peter’s “among equals” experience. First, Peter is confronted by his fellow leader Paul for hypocrisy in front of everyone at Antioch (Galatians 2:11-14). There was no organizational structure to obstruct this exchange. Nor was Peter’s office so high that Paul couldn’t climb the ladder to get in his face. This was simply an example of brothers being brothers. Which is exactly the way Jesus said it should be. Second, when Peter exhorts local church elders in an inspired epistle, he does so not as a superior, but as an equal. “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder” (I Peter 5:1).  Peter is an elder among elders, a brother among brothers. Peter is leading the Jesus way.   

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He is the Rabbi and the Instructor. He submitted himself to The Father (Philippians 2:5-11). He also submitted himself to flawed human beings in the form of his earthly parents (Luke 2:51).  The healthy pastor will do the same. He submits first to God and then to others. He leads and he submits.