You are not to be called Rabbi – Church Politics 102

If you have felt frustrated, held back, or like your gifts and talents are unappreciated in church, then you need to read this! If you are a pastor who has felt stuck in helping people grow, then you need to read this. But fair warning: There is truth in this post that is going to be very hard for many people to take. So if you are going to read this, please read it all the way through or don’t read it at all.

Whereas the politics of church organizations have hurt so many, I thought it wise to bring some clarity to what church is really about.

I’m an ordained minister, and as such, I know that it is not a full-time job, it’s a life long calling. However, that in no way means that it is the job at which I make money and support a family. On the contrary, I have a job in the secular world and do not get paid for the ministry I do (Freely you have received, freely give). In fact, there are way more pastors making a living being pastors than there should be. They should get out in the real world and do some good where it really counts. From one ordained minister to another, I warned you that this would hurt. Pastoring was never meant to be a career, but a calling.

Now, people keep telling me that I should start a church, but why should I? Jesus is the one who “started the church.” The church isn’t a building, or even an organized group of people with a leader who is called a pastor or reverend etc. It is not an organized institution or structure. It developed into an organized institution in the Middle Ages, but that is not what it is. The church is everyone who places their faith in Christ. People today who “start churches” are really just creating another hierarchic STRUCTURE from the church (local group of believers), with themselves on top. I know that most of them do not intend it that way, but that’s what ends up happening because eventually, in the subconscious of the congregations, the pastor is more holy, or somehow more in touch with God. That’s a load of crap. people don’t grow the way they need to in our modern church structure because of this mindset. Hence the reason we don’t need more “church structures/institutions”

Does that mean that church institutions and pastors are bad? Of course not. But a good pastor will help you grow to their detriment. What I mean by that is that, they will help you grow so much, that at some point you don’t need them anymore, and can fly in your faith on your own through life in whatever you do and wherever you go. You will be able to help others grow to soar on their own, too. You will be able to do this because that pastor helped you do one very important thing. Get closer to Jesus.

It’s the same principle as “give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Most pastors don’t want people to leave their church structure because they like a lot of bodies in the pews and a lot of money in the offering, so they keep feeding you the fish, but neglect to show you HOW to fish. As long as you feel that you somehow need them for spiritual guidance (fish), you’ll be sitting in their pews, and you’ll be paying their salaries. But here’s what Jesus says about pastors and teachers: “but you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher (Jesus), 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.” (Matt 23:8-10)

Most of the “fish feeding” pastors feel threatened by those who grow too much. Maybe it’s because they feel that the rest of the congregation will want that person to be the pastor instead. This is yet another reason why pastors, wittingly or not, hold people back in their spiritual growth. They want you to grow, just not more than they do.

Here is what most of the “fish feeding” pastors won’t tell you: Your job is to get to know Jesus the Christ. He is your guide, your pastor, your teacher. If you don’t know how to get to know Him, it’s simple but not easy. You have to take time to read the bible and talk to God while also trying to listen to what He’s saying to you. God speaks in many different ways so it probably won’t be audible words you hear (but He might choose to speak that way too).

That’s it! You see that it’s simple to explain but not easy to do. Therefore many people don’t do it. Instead they choose to take the route of going to church once a week to feel like they are doing their spiritual duty. Other than that, most people do little more to get to know Jesus.

But Jesus jealously longs for you! He wants a personal relationship with YOU! Not through a pastor, but a direct relationship where you talk to each other. If only His church really knew this!

When Jesus describes what will happen at the end of the age He also gives us insight into what is eternally important. “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you, depart from me you workers of lawlessness.'”
Matt 7:21-23

You can do all sorts of good works, but if you don’t have a real relationship with Jesus you’re in big trouble! I find it fascinating that Jesus didn’t say “YOU never knew ME” but “I never knew YOU”! (emphasis mine). It’s important that you are totally open and honest with God about who you are, so that He knows you. That necessitates opening your heart all the way for Him to see even into the little dark corners and cracks that you are afraid to think about.

So if you want to get closer to Jesus, one of the best ways to start is by opening your heart and letting Him see the good and the bad, and say “Jesus, I want to know you more, but maybe more importantly, Jesus, know ME!”

In conclusion, it’s about you and Him. Church is good, but it is only meant to help guide you closer to Jesus.

About Jesse Walker

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  1. I think pastors also contribute to this hierarchical system. They tend to LEAD churches, have their names on a plaque or board like it’s their church. Yet the bible tells us God gave some to be teachers, some evangelists, some pastors, etc. No rank here, but all are to use their gifts in church. In the NT model we see a plurality of elders, never one man leading. Its a shame we have gotten away from that to where there is a separation of clergy/laity. The congregation was never meant to be passive.

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    • Agreed. The church we currently attend sets a good example. We have the hierarchy on paper for legal purposes, but I got to see the approach first hand when I came on as Youth Pastor and also heard how my friend became an elder. Those of us who are pastors have specific training on top of the calling. Elders only need the calling from God and Church, fitting with Scriptural demands for leadership (for both pastors and elders). As leadership, we make decisions for how the church functions in our community, but big decisions are run past the congregation. This is what grants the trust in the smaller decisions. No one person is solely responsible, and we all bring different perspectives. If the majority of the congregation does not agree with a decision, a right. If all elders and pastors are not in agreement, it does not move forward.
      Again, this is about the big decisions. Within ministry, we have much autonomy. For example, they let me decide how the youth ministry is run in the day-to-day, what lessons look like, and so on. Pastor Paul runs two ministries reaching out to ex-cons and the elderly. He has teams of deacons who help and are given freedom to minister in various ways.
      I fell in love with this congregation watching them in the process of moving to the area and interviewing with the leadership and meeting people. No one says “I go to Scott’s church.” They all say “My church …” They offer advice and time and energy and resources, because they want to. When they voted to welcome my wife and me to start the youth group, it was from already getting to know us and knowing their church leaders had vetted us. Many have said they like our leadership and that we will not let them get away with merely attending, but we hold them accountable, encourage involvement, and gently (but firmly) guide them through Scripture and in Spirit to grow. I have rarely seen a church so focused on discipleship as this one. I am thankful to now be a part of it!

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