This week we have been looking at Five Scary Trends that Could Shipwreck the Church. As I have stated often I am very excited about what God is up to in the American Church and I think the proclamations of gloom and doom in the blogosphere are dead wrong. At the same time in an age of instant reporting of every move a leader makes on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube we have to be incredibly diligent.
Don't be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what's good. Throw out anything tainted with evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:21,22 The Message)
So let’s finish with what I believe is the scariest trend of all.
I come from a long, long line of pastors. Every relative on my dad's side of the family is either a pastor or married to a pastor. All of them, all the way back to my grandfather. And over the past few years working at Seacoast, Leadership Network and most recently Saddleback I have had the opportunity to meet hundreds of pastors of every size church, from small to giga. My overwhelming feeling about pastors is that most would do anything to see people come to know Jesus, and they are blown away that they get to do what they do. There are egos and bad motivations in the mix, just like any subset of society, but almost all of the pastors I’ve met are good men who have given their lives for the advancement of the Kingdom.
But there is a very scary trend I see in some churches; treating the Senior Pastor like a rock star. Sometimes this is led by well-meaning church leaders and sometimes it comes from the pastor himself. Tony Morgan wrote a great blog post about what he called the Culture of Honor describing this trend. Unchecked I think this path will lead to disaster for many pastors and churches in America.
The royal treatment takes various forms: private parking garages for the pastor and his wife, live in personal assistants, entourages housed in luxury suites wherever the pastor travels, a personal security team that shadows the pastor wherever he goes on campus. In extreme cases every whim of the pastor is immediately tended to so that he never has to pour his own drink, drop off his own dry cleaning or fly on a commercial airline.
I don’t want to just throw stones; I know there are good reasons, at least in the beginning, for many of these perks. And as Tony Morgan said there is certainly a biblical mandate for honoring our leaders. Where it falls apart for me is when I see Christian leaders allowing themselves to be treated in a way that Jesus wouldn’t have tolerated. I can’t imagine Jesus demanding his favorite drink be chilled and available at all times, his scroll be carried by an intern, or his security team swarm the instant a crazy started a scene. (Imagine what “guest services” would have done with the Gadarene Demoniac.)
Security is an example of the pastor as rock star trend that is out of whack. After some high profile and horrifying incidents of gunfire in churches, pastors all over the country have employed their own private protection squads. While it is imperitive to make sure the pastor and the congregation are safe, this trend has gotten a little whacky. If Jesus had had some pastor’s security teams he wouldn’t have had to die for our sins. But when Peter tried to play bodyguard Jesus told him to put away his sword and he fixed the damage Peter had done. My guess is that more pastors die every year from shark attacks than from gunfire, but churches spend almost nothing on clergy shark protection. Let’s do a cost versus benefit analysis and be good stewards of what God has given us.
For anyone who wants to chime in about the evil of Senior Pastors, that the Bible doesn’t say anything about authority in the church and that all big church pastors are just ego-maniacs, you’re on the wrong blog. I love pastors and I believe strongly in authority and honor. All I’m saying is that we all need to look in the mirror and ask if we’re living a lifestyle that accurately reflects the attitude of Jesus. Anything that smacks of worship of anyone but the King of kings has to be rejected.
Wow, I’m glad I got that off my chest. Now let’s join arms and get back to pointing people to Jesus.