“HEY, PREACHER, IT’S ALL ABOUT …
At the risk of being impolite or seeming to be downright rude, I have a strong and stern ‘Bible inspired message’ for pastors for 2023. The Church has gone through a transitional period over the last thirty years in an apparent effort to remain or to become ‘more socio-politically relevant’.
Social norms have changed dramatically over the last fifty years, and sadly, instead of leading this change, the church has adopted the ‘new social normal’.
I’d like to present three Bible mandates as expressed by Jesus, that demonstrate that the model of the church, as taught and presented by Jesus Christ, are no longer being followed by most mainline Christian denominations. The time of His Coming is short, and we have to get this right. Here are three example of the main failures that must be correctly in 2023.
#1. Coming to Serve and not to be served.
#2 Teaching Beliefs and Practices;
#3. Making Disciples of the kind and in the likeness of Jesus.
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28
You are not to be a visionary. You are not to be a CEO of a 501-c-3 religious organization. You occasionally fill the role of an elder, a preacher, or bible teacher, you are a pastor, first and foremost. And above all, do not act like a ‘hireling’ or a ‘gleaner’. The Old Testament describes a “hireling” simply as a hired laborer, perhaps a mercenary, or someone who hires oneself out to earn wages.
The New Testament, however, contrasts the “hireling” with the Shepherd. See John 10:11-13
“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep.”
There are those who tend to the sheep for commercial purposes (such as for a paycheck or for recogntion) . Their intentions may be good and they offer a good service. But, they, too, are nothing more than “hirelings”.
Jesus says, in John 10:14 “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.”
Jesus’ use of the word “shepherd” could be used interchangeably for overseers, pastor, elders, and presbyters. But the role of a pastor is specific and unique.
The tasks of a Near Eastern shepherd were to watch for enemies trying to attack the sheep to defend the sheep from attackers to heal the wounded and sick sheep to find and save lost or trapped sheep to love them, sharing their lives and so earning their trust. This is an apt description of a pastor.
During World War II, a shepherd was a pilot who guided another pilot whose plane was partially disabled back to the base or carrier by flying alongside him to maintain visual contact. This, too, is an apt description of a pastor.
Many “hirelings” like to use the moniker of pastor. Such a title may bring them status, respect, influence, income or even power over others. But, these kinds are just “hirelings”. Beware. Wolves are also lurking under the cover of such names.
Remember, unlike a “hireling”, Jesus tell us He requires we complete His Works as His servant as the cost for being His disciple, among His sheepfold. Besides the benefits, there is a requirement.
Don’t be fooled, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.” Flee from the “hirelings”.
Leviticus 19:10 says to the vineyard or landowner, “Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God.”
We see that a “gleaner” is someone who picks up, or gathers up or collects. The Bible describes them as the “needy and the stranger” and not part of the family of the landowner.
The book of Ruth tells us of an account of Ruth, a Moabite, the widowed daughter-in-law of the widow Naomi. To prevent starvation, Ruth gleaned the fields of Boaz: “And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, ‘Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.’ Naomi said to her, ‘Go ahead, my daughter,’” (Ruth 2:2).
Ruth was a widow and had no husband to provide for her. She took the initiative and went out into the fields to take care of herself and Naomi. She made this effort as a foreigner among Naomi’s people.
In Chapter 4 of the book of Ruth, we read that Boaz takes Ruth as his wife. She is no longer a “gleaner” but is now part of the family, entitled to all Boaz has. The contrast between being a “gleaner” and a family member is stark.
The Bible says that you and I were once like the “gleaner”, not part of God’s family. Gleaning what we could from generosity of others.
There are many in the church and Christian organizations going by the title of “pastor” who are actually little more than “gleaners”. They are not like Ruth. Their mind is set to get what they can get from God and from others, whether it is material goods, money, recognition, status or influence.
GLEANERS ARE NOT GOD’S “CALLED OUT ONES”
You can tell the difference. “Gleaners” focus on themselves and their needs . They feign interest in others, but, cannot actually humble themselves before God or others. They aren’t sure how. They don’t consider “repentance” as an ongoing matter for their own lives, and they tend to pursue the “spiritual gifts” over spiritual disciplines. They usually don’t witness (tell or teach) the Gospel, and are usually unwilling servants.
They can act humble but crave recognition and leadership roles. The tip-off is how they act if they cannot get what they want. They may get angry and become manipulative. They will marginalize people who do not agree with them or will not follow and obey them. And at times they will criticize them as being ‘rogue’ our ‘lone ranger christians’, among other things.
A Believer and Follower of Jesus can also be identified by their behavior. A disciple of Jesus is a son or daughter in the family of God, a brother, sister and friend of Jesus. A joint-heir, entitled to all God has for His own children.
You cannot be a “hireling” if you are truly to serve God and feed His Sheep.
Be kind to “gleaners”, just don’t BE a “gleaner”. If you are going to come near to the House of God, stop acting or behaving as if you are needy or a aloof stranger. Become a child of God and a Joint-Heir with Jesus Christ and brother and a pastor to God’s flock.
Here is a short video of pastor John MacArthur on the subject of “The Good Shepherd and gleaners”.
TEACHING BELIEFS AND PRACTICES. A survey by Ligonier Ministries and Lifeway Research, reveals some not so-surprising results about the state of churches in the United States which springs primarily from the behavior, attitudes, beliefs, teaching and preaching of thier pastors:
64% of Americans agree that “God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam.”
- Only 52% agree that “the Bible alone is the written word of God.”
- Only 58% agree that “God is the author of Scripture.”
- 65% agree that “everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature.”
- 44% agree that “the Bible, like all sacred writings, contains helpful accounts of ancient myths but is not literally true.”
- 51% agree that “the Bible was written for each person to interpret as he or she chooses.”
- Only 47% agree that “the Bible is 100% accurate in all that it teaches.”
- 59% of Americans agree that “worshiping alone or with one’s family is a valid replacement for regularly attending church.”
- Only 45% agree that “churches that do not preach from the Bible should not be considered a Christian church.”
- Only 49% in churches agree that “sex outside of traditional marriage is a sin.”
- Only 49% agree that “abortion is a sin.”
- 42% agree that “the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior doesn’t apply today.” 38% agree that “gender identity is a matter of choice.”
- 45% agree that “modern science discredits the claims of Christianity.”
- 52% agree that “by the good deeds that I do, I partly contribute to earning my place in heaven”
- Only 60% agree that “Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.”
- Only 52% agree that “it is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.”
- Only 54% in churches agree that “only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.”
From the Pew Research Center Survey among Christians, when asked, “Do you believe in God”. (Pew Research Center on belief in God)
||Believe in God; absolutely certain
||Believe in God; fairly certain
||Believe in God; not too/not at all certain
||Believe in God; don’t know
||Do not believe in God
||Other/don’t know if they believe in God
Pew Research on casual sex among professing Christians Half of Christians say casual sex – defined in the survey as sex between consenting adults who are not in a committed romantic relationship – is sometimes or always acceptable.
- Six-in-ten Catholics (62%) take this view, as do 56% of Protestants in the historically Black tradition, 54% of mainline Protestants and 36% of evangelical Protestants.
- Among those who are religiously unaffiliated, meanwhile, the vast majority (84%) say casual sex is sometimes or always acceptable,
- including roughly nine-in-ten atheists (94%) and
- agnostics (95%) who say this.
- The religiously unaffiliated, also known as “nones,” are those who describe themselves, religiously, as atheist, agnostic or as “nothing in particular.”
From CNS News A study released by the Rasmussen Reports polling firm on Good Friday found that only 64% of Americans believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
From the Cultural Research Center – George Barna Research Today, 176 million Americans claim to be Christians—69% of the population. Yet, only 6% of U.S. adults—which is 9% of those identifying as Christians—possess a biblical worldview, believing the Bible to be accurate and reliable, among other convictions. That’s according to a new study by researcher George Barna and the Cultural Research Center (CRC) at Arizona Christian University in Glendale, Arizona. Large majorities of self-identified Christians also report many beliefs “not in harmony with biblical teaching,” according to the survey. These include:
- 72% argue that people are basically good
- 66% say that ‘having faith’ matters more than which faith you pursue
- 64% say that all religious faiths are of equal value
- 58% believe that if a person is good enough, or does enough good things, they can earn their way into Heaven
- 57% believe in karma
Many if not most Christian pastors and preachers are getting a failing grade in the teaching of the Gospel! By contrast, the survey cohort termed as Integrated Disciples—a small subset of those claiming to be Christians—are noted as being consistent in their beliefs and integrating those convictions into their behaviors.
- 99+% believe that God is the all-knowing, all-powerful and just Creator of the universe who still rules the universe today
- 99+% believe that the Bible is the accurate and reliable words of God
- 96% claim that every moral choice either honors of dishonors God
However, Barna’s survey finds that even some believers classified as part of this highly discipled cohort hold to some views that “challenge biblical principles.” Those “shocking” beliefs of Integrated Disciples include:
- 52% argue that people are basically good
- 39% contend that the Holy Spirit is not a real, living being but is merely a symbol of God’s power, presence, or purity
- 33% believe in karma
“There is a remarkable level of self-deception (even among) born-again Christians,” said Barna, commenting on his recent worldview research. “It represents a huge educational challenge for those responsible for biblical worldview development.”
Many postmodern churches are teaching a type of gospel that does not conform to the Bible and, in fact, reveals many of the traits and teachings of Paganism. Likewise, a majority of people claiming the name of Christian may not be Christians at all. Many postmodern Christians don’t fully believe the Bible and practice aspects of Paganism.
THE OUTCOME? Look at the history of the Church since… AD 1 The Church of Jesus Christ, The Body of Christ, had no buildings, little money and no wealth. The Church was a Movement. Matthew 16:18, says,“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. verse 19. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” verse 20. Then He gave the disciples strict orders that they were to tell no one that He was the Christ.
Jesus said to make disciples; collect no money except to make your journey.
Although the penalty for becoming a Christian was often death. The Church grew exponentially.
AD 49. The Church expanded into Greece. The Church became a philosophy to many. The Church grew and size and influence.
AD 313. The Church expanded into Rome and it gained recognition. It grew in power and popularity. It obtained wealth, buildings, property and influence. It became an institution.
AD 380. The Church expanded into Europe. It was becoming a worldwide phenomenon. It grew in wealth, stature, power and influence. It had become a culture.
AD 1607. The Church reaches America.
AD 1681. The Church became corporate. It had became a business and incorporated. It became regulated by the government. The Corporate Church grew. It needed money to support growth and expansion, which meant the Corporate Church needed more people.
AD 1777. The state of Virginia granted tax exemption to houses of worship.
AD 1894. The corporate church was granted tax exemptions by the Federal Government.
AD 1954. The Federal Government regulated what a church could and could not say in order to retain tax exempt status. The church continued to grow, and in order to attract more people the Corporate Church lowered its membership and doctrinal standards. More people became ‘members’ and gave more money to support more growth.
The Church corporation is complete with leaders, boards and membership and a business model. Local churches compete against one another for members (customers). The church is selling itself in “three line slogans”.
The Church members now have choices and have become religious consumers. Church people can shop around for the religious brand and standards that best suits them. (2 Timothy 3)
The Leadership (pastors and preachers) have become CEOs, disciples have become church leaders, growing their 501(c)(3) business models.
Record numbers of pastors quitting because of stress, burnout or are being fired by their congregations (some stats say 1500 – 1700 leave “the ministry” each month).
Church debt in America soars; church foreclosures soar.
AD 1968. The church ordains homosexuals as clergy.
AD 1972. The United church of Christ ordains homosexual clergy
AD 2010. The Lutheran church ordains homosexual clergy
AD 2012. The Presbyterian church ordains homosexual clergy The Episcopal Church in the United States and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) have also allowed ordination of openly gay and lesbian candidates for ministry for some years. Internationally, churches that have ordained openly lesbian or gay clergy include the Church of Scotland, the Church of England, the Church in Wales, the Church of Sweden, the Church of Norway, the Church of Denmark, the Church of Iceland, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, the Evangelical Church in Germany, the Methodist Church in Britain, the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, the United Protestant Church in Belgium, the Swiss Reformed Church, the United Protestant Church of France, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Anglican Church in Canada, the Old Catholic Church, the Czechoslovak Hussite Church and the United Church of Christ in Japan.
Millions of people (approximately 52 million) “attend church” in one of the 300,000+ churches in America, at least once a week each month. However, when people were asked the topic of the “sermon” they heard after 24 hours, only about 10 percent could tell you. When asked to cite the most important lesson they received, most just shrugged. An estimated 1.2 million hours each week
(1) are spent in sermon preparations; it takes about another 300,000 hours in delivery of these sermons
(2) at a staggering potential cost of over $750 millions dollars nationally, each week
(3). Yet, only 5% of those hearing these sermons, remember anything about them after 72 hours.
BUILDING MORE AD 2021. The church is losing and has lost influence. The church in 2021 is losing members and adherents. (George Barna research; Pew Research)
AD 2022. Much of the church is teaching and living a different Gospel than that of the Apostles.
MAKING DISCIPLES. The Church is failing to making disciples of the kind and in the likeness of Jesus and this often falls on the pastor. Go into just about any Christian church, (or any Christian church website), and look for any evidence of discipleship training and you will either find no mention of disciple making or you will likely find a heavy emphasis on learning about various subjects or things such as ‘music ministry’, learning-luncheons, senior citizen outings, soup kitchens, but you will find little-to-no actual practical ‘disciple making’. These may be ‘good things’ but, it is not what Jesus taught and commanded His disciples to do. According to Jesus and the Bible, what is Disciple Making? Here is an abbreviated but concise example of the steps Jesus uses to make disciples:
JESUS SAYS THE WORDS TO HIS DISCIPLES – Pastor, do the same. “Now when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. And He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. “Blessed are the gentle, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in this same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
JESUS SUMMONS HIS DISCIPLES – Pastor, do the same.
Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.
And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.
“Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets; and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.”
JESUS SHOWS THE WONDERS TO HIS DISCIPLES – Pastor, do the same.
“Jesus was going about in all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness among the people.
“And the news about Him spread throughout Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and severe pain, demon-possessed, people with epilepsy, and people who were paralyzed; and He healed them. Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and Jerusalem, and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.”
JESUS SENDS HIS DISCIPLES – Pastor, do the same.
“Jesus summoned His disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every sickness. Jesus sent them out, instructing them, as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with leprosy, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is deserving of his support.
And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. As you enter the house, give it your greeting. If the house is worthy, see that your blessing of peace comes upon it. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. And whoever does not receive you nor listen to your words, as you leave that house or city, shake the dust off your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment, than for that city.”
Jesus’ ‘discipleship training’ is a necessary evidence that a person has become a practicing Christian – not a gleaner and not a hireling – but an actual devoted follower of Jesus. It was not optional then and it is not optional now. Upon calling one man to follow Him, the man replied, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, come and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say goodbye to those at my home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
These sound like, and in fact are, harsh words which reflect the seriousness, the urgency and the importance of the role of being a pastor and a disciple of Jesus and of making disciples. But they are no harsher than whipping men and turning over tables in the temple, calling Peter, ‘Satan’ or allowing Oneself to be crucified for the sake of all who would believe! There is only ONE WAY to get this done. In fact, the Word Of God tells us this very thing in many ways.
“I am the way, the truth and the life”, (John 14:6).
“Be careful to do according to all the Law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may achieve success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will achieve success.”, (Joshua 1:7-8).
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”, (Ephesians 2:10).
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”, (John 14:15).
Pastor, you should focus on emulating Jesus as the perfect balance between justice and judgement, peace and travail, love and enmity, acceptance and rejection. Submit yourself to Him now, before the coming judgment. Accept and emulate His perfect love while He is the Lamb of God, for soon He will return as the Lion of Judah!
This is the model and method of Jesus’ command, for pastors to get out of your ‘comfort zones; let’s leave your self-imposed postmodern pastoral roles and “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you.” THIS IS YOUR METHOD AND WAY.
It removes all the 501(c) (3) and organizational stresses and puts you on the adventure you have been looking for!
Your Brother and Friend,
(In the Bonds of Christ – Together)