The Pastor

Worse Than Sodomy

We live in a world where immorality, worldliness and decadent living are prevalent, and as children of God we are expected to resent such sinful behavior. For most of us, one of the worst forms of immoral behavior is homosexuality, with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as clear examples of God’s judgment against this sexual perversion. Yet scripture portrays the rejection of a minister as more abominable to God than the sin of homosexuality.

According to the word of God, a homosexual has a better chance on the day of judgment than a Christian who despises and rejects a divinely commissioned minister of the gospel. Jesus told His disciples that “…whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when you depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.” (Matt. 10:14-15). Though often ignored by most Christians, this solemn truth and stern warning demands our careful examination in light of the present day assault on the ministry.

It is apparent that many do not fully understand what Jesus meant when He said, “He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.” (Lk. 10:16). It is not merely the ministers whom men accept or reject, but rather the Lord who sent them. Men of God receive their instructions from God and woe to the people that spurn their message. Scripture warns, “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” (Ps. 105:15). It is a scriptural fact that God will render judgment to everyone who rejects and despises His servants. (Mt. 23:34-35). The book of Revelation declares a time of godly rejoicing at the destruction of a system that has persecuted and martyred men of God throughout the ages. It states, “Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.” (Rev. 18:20).

Old Testament Ministry

The Old Testament reveals various ministerial offices such as the Patriarchs, the Prophets, the Levites and the Pastors. It seems that the most significant was the Prophet. He was the watchman and messenger of God who gave warning to the nation of Israel from God. God told Ezekiel, “Hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.” (Ezek. 3:17).

The Prophets had specific messages from God to the nation of Israel. The rebukes and warnings of Samuel to Saul, Nathan to David, or Elijah to Ahab are some good examples of men with divine commission. Kings and nations witnessed the hand of God on these men. Consider Moses, for example, who was not afraid of the most powerful king of his time — the Pharaoh of Egypt. This massive empire collapsed as a result of rejecting the message from an appointed man of God. The message of Daniel, a Hebrew slave in Babylon, brought about the conviction and repentance of Nebuchadnezzar, one of history’s most powerful monarchs. It is no wonder that the world was not worthy of these messengers of God. (Heb. 11:38).

The office of the priesthood was sacred and any encroachment upon it was punished with death. Nadab and Abihu were killed for offering strange fire on the altar. This is sufficient reason why the uncalled should not attempt to occupy the pulpit. King Uzziah attempted to function as a priest and was stricken with leprosy. (2 Chron. 26:16-20). King Saul was sharply rebuked by the prophet Samuel for offering a burnt sacrifice, which was a clear violation of the commandment of God. (I Sam. 13:9-14). Jeroboam offered a sacrifice of his own and ordained priests of the lowest of the people. (1 Kings 12:33 and 13:33). Hananiah claimed that he was sent from God with a message of premature deliverance from captivity for the children of Israel but it was a lie. The unfortunate aspect of these rebellious actions is that people love to have it so. (Jer. 5:31). The sad fact is that for many churches today the pulpit is a place for entertainment rather than enlightenment.

In the book of Ezekiel, we find God’s condemnation of the shepherds that were feeding themselves and not the flock. “And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered.” (Ezek 34:5). ‘Beasts of the field’ are not literal lions and bears, but an evil, beast-like system that includes worldliness and false religion.

The Pastor

In our times it seems that the most profitable ministry gift is that of the local pastor. Pastors are expected to remain in one location for long periods of time and are responsible for the daily welfare of the Church. Unfortunately, this has a tendency to make them so common that they are taken for granted. Many Pastors suffer spiritual ‘burn out’ because of a lack of loyalty, faithfulness and respect from elders and saints alike.

To be called to the ministry is one of the highest honours that God can bestow upon a man. In God’s word, a minister is described as an ambassador, a steward, a watchman, a shepherd and a messenger. None of these offices are self-attained or self-appointed, but divinely commissioned. But the work of those who were never called to the ministry should be viewed like any other secular profession. They are the ‘uncalled!’ Scripture says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved…[but] how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” (Rom. 10:13-15).

Divine calling is not the result of theological learning or license from the State. Men of God speak by God’s authority and in His name. A man cannot ordain himself to the ministry or receive it by inheritance and it should not be treated as other pursuits in life. Bible history reveals that for 400 years, from Malachi to Matthew, there was no true prophet even though there were many religious teachers. Jeremiah warned against men who prophesied without God’s commission saying that, “…they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord… I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied… I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the Lord.” (Jer. 23:16, 21, 32).

Although the work of the pastor is absolutely essential to the spiritual maturity of the saints, it is the most misunderstood and criticized office of the ministry.

The Price

The old saying, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread”, has some truth as it pertains to the ministry. J. Oswald Sanders, a famous Christian author wrote, “No one need aspire to leadership in the work of God who is not prepared to pay a price greater than his contemporaries and colleagues are willing to pay.” The cost is incalculable and involves a lonely life that stands only on the word of God. It offers hope to those who often oppose themselves and warns sinners to repent because of the impending wrath of God. A man must be tested and tried before he is qualified for the ministry. When God is finished with him he is emptied of personal ambition and pride.

Moses, a captain in the Egyptian army, had to be re-groomed, and God used his forty years in the wilderness of Midian to transform his Egyptian thought pattern. Paul, an outstanding Pharisee, counted his qualifications as dung before God was ready to use him. His years of rejection and isolation from the Church at Jerusalem contributed to this working of God in his life. Jesus said, “If any man come after me, let him deny himself and, take up his cross and follow me.” (Mt. 16:24).

The Need

Scripture states that God, “spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son…” (Heb. 1:1-2). It was clear that the men of God in the Old Testament were God’s representatives and to reject them was to reject God. The New Testament era is no different for God is still speaking through His appointed ministry. A minister stands in Christ’s stead, and therefore, to accept him is to accept the Lord. (2 Cor. 5:20).

Paul exhorted the saints to “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” (Heb. 13:17).

How we relate to our pastors is important . First, we must receive them as God’s gifts to us as Scripture declares, “…to you they are given as a gift for the Lord, to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.” (Num. 18:6). Failure to receive our pastors as ministry gifts will affect our process of sanctification for they are used of God for our spiritual development. The value placed on a man’s person will ultimately determine the value placed on his words. As the word of God commands, we must “esteem them highly in love for their work’s sake.” (1 Thess. 5:13). Saints must have a deep sense of respect for the pastor, his personality, his way of doing things and avoid unfair criticisms of his ministry.

A pastor needs ‘armour bearers’ to stand in his defense and to protect his credibility. If we reject his person, and build a wall against him in our hearts, his words will be unprofitable and meaningless. Paul said, “For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” (I Cor. 4:15).

Secondly, we must develop a closer relationship with the pastor. Paul told the Philippians, “Those things which you have both learned, and received, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” (Phil. 4:9). We must try to understand his thoughts. The more we know a person the better we can relate to him. To better relate with the Pastor we must first accept his teachings and instructions. The Apostle Paul said, “Be ye followers of me, even as I am of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them unto you.” (1 Cor. 11:1-2).

Thirdly, pray for him and support his ministry financially. Scripture tells us “Let him that is taught in the word communicate (share) unto him that teacheth in all good things.” (Gal. 6:6). The way to do this is to pay our tithes and give in the offerings. Do not make a habit of frequently missing services or take jobs that will affect our attendance to services.

Fourthly, we must give him time to pray and wait on God for us. He will not be effective if he has to take care of the natural side of the work of God. By this I mean he should not be ‘serving tables’ or running around doing the work of a building superintendent. Solomon observed that often “folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place. I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.” (Eccl. 10:6-7).

The scriptural account of Elisha serving Elijah, Joshua following in the footsteps of Moses, and Timothy being faithful to the Apostle Paul, are good examples for us to emulate.

Let us become sensitive to the pastor’s cares and concerns and avail ourselves to assist in the needs of the work of God. We should offer our assistance even before we are asked to do so.

Finally, we should not try to intimidate him, but remember that he does not bear the sword in vain. He is a messenger sent from God to prepare us for everlasting life. Pastors are a vital part of God’s divine plan of salvation and this sacred office should be treated with much reverence. The scripture says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things.” (Rom. 10: 13-15).