NEITHER PUPPET OR POPE
Jerry D. Locke
several months I have had this title for an article in my files. From
time to time I have said to a preacher here and there, "I am going
to write an article, 'The Pastor -- Neither Puppet nor Pope.' "On
those occasions I have had favorable responses encouraging me to tackle
the task. Only after several months of consideration do I feel
comfortable enough to handle such a dangerous subject.
the past eighteen years I have had the privilege of pastoring five of the
Lord's churches in the state of Texas. They have ranged in size from less
than 20 to more than 200. Each church has had its own unique challenge and
each church has made its own profound contribution to my life. Also, while
pastoring God has allowed me the honor of traveling in the southern states
preaching in many churches for revival meetings, youth rallies, summer
camps, and Bible conferences. During this time I have quietly observed
two diverse concepts regarding the role and responsibilities of the
one hand, there are churches that believe the pastor's primary
responsibility is the preaching of God's Word. A
certain group in the church, usually the deacons, are in complete charge
of the church's affairs when it comes to policy and finances and the
pastor is little more than a puppet.
the other hand, there are pastors who think they are above and beyond the
people in the church and are accountable to no one but God. A well-known
and respected fundamentalist preacher, Curtis Hutson, says in his book,
Ingredients Of A Great Church, "God doesn't bless a ministry, God
blesses a man. The local church is the product of God's blessing upon a
man." Dr. Hutson then illustrates his point by referring to the
decline of Spurgeon's Tabernacle in London and the Baptist Tabernacle in
Atlanta after the deaths of their respective pastors. In both cases the
building remains, but the congregations became very small. In some
circles, the pastor is pope -- infallible, the final authority on earth,
and the next thing to God Himself.
in every discussion, there is always a little truth to be found. And there
lies the danger t a little truth. It is not my intention to criticize
either the churches that run their pastors or the pastors that run their
churches. Each group is firmly entrenched in their belief that they are
"right." The real issue is, "WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?"
In the light of divine Scripture, what is the role and responsibility of
Pastor is To Preach
Few churches would disagree that the pastor is to be the preacher for
God's church. Early in the ministry of the Apostles they made God's Word
a primary priority (Acts 6:1-4). Paul proudly Said he was ordained a
"preacher" (I Timothy 2:7). He also charged Timothy, the young
pastor, to "preach the Word" (2 Timothy 4:2).
one would dare try to take the Bible out of the pastor's hand and tell him
he can't preach the Word of God. The rub usually comes when the pastor
preaches something someone doesn't like! You know, something like tithing,
or holy living, or witnessing, or against gossiping. No one would tell the
pastor he can't preach the Word of God, but they do withhold their tithe
and attendance and starve him and his family out.
Pastor Is To Be Overseer
According to Acts 20:28 the Holy Spirit places the pastor as
"overseer" of the church. It is a shame that in so many churches
the calling of a pastor is reduced to a parade of personalities. When a
church follows the direction of God, the Holy Spirit brings the right
pastor and the right church together. And when the church votes to call
the pastor and the pastor
accepts the church, there is more than human decisions involved· The
church and pastor are actually agreeing with God's will and God's leading.
The real fact is the Holy Spirit appoints pastors to His churches; the
churches follow God's appointments.
word "overseer" means one who "see over." It's
really that simple. The pastor is to see over all the work of the church.
The pastor is not expected~ to
do all the work, but he is expected to oversee all the work of the church.
In other places the pastor is given the title of "bishop," which
means superintendent (1 Timothy 3:1-2; Titus 1:7; Philippians 1:1).
some churches there are clearly some "hands off" areas where the
pastor is to stay out. The pastor is permitted to preach, but the
administration of the church is not in his job description. The pastor
is allowed to oversee his pulpit, but not the treasurer or the choir or
the Sunday School.
tells the elders of his day, "Feed the flock of God which is among
you, TAKING THE OVERSIGHT thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not
for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's
heritage, but being ensamples to the flock" (1 Peter 5:2-3). It has
been well said that if the pastor does not take the oversight of the
church he pastors, someone else in the church will. Peter teaches us here
that one can oversee the affairs of the church and at the same time not
lord over the church.
Pastor Is To Rule
There is such a negative attitude toward authority in general, that
even God's established authority is disregarded and downplayed.
Look closely at what the Bible says:
"Let the elders that RULE well be counted worthy of double
honour " (1 Timothy
which have the RULE over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God.
" (Hebrew 13:7)
"Obey them that have the RULE over you, and submit
yourselves..." (Hebrews 13:17).
"Salute them that have the RULE over you, and all the
saints." (Hebrews 13:24).
word "rule" according tor W.
E. Vine, a well-respected Greek scholar,
means "literally 'to stand before';
and hence, to lead, to care to tend to, has the meaning of presiding
common complaint of some church members against their pastor is that he is
even a dictator. I have no intention of
for those few pastors who may be overbearing and arrogant. There may be a
few men who see themselves as "popes" over God's churches. But
in over forty years as a P.K. (preacher's kid) and over twenty years as a
preacher I have not met one.
the other hand, I have known quite a few pastors who tried to lead their
churches in soul winning and growth who have been asked to leave. In many
churches, a charter member, someone with the money, a domineering woman,
or the deacons are the rulers of the church. What they say goes. And if
they insist, the pastor goes! This is a violation of Scriptural teaching,
for the pastor is to be the leader of the church.
Christ sent His messages to the seven churches of Asia in Revelation 2
& 3 they came to the "angel" of the church, the pastor. The
church may not recognize and respect the authority of the pastor, but God
Pastor Is Accountable.
It would be foolish to think that a pastor could do a good job without
some accountability to his church. The pastors of the New Testament were
not above the members. They were in one body, the local church. The pastor
is accountable to the church. He is accountable to the church for his
doctrinal, moral and spiritual condition.
in like fashion, the church is accountable to the pastor. That's right!
The Bible says, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit
yourselves: for they watch for your souls. "(Hebrews 13:17). The
church is to "follow" the pastor. "Remember them which have
the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith
follow, considering the end of their conversation'' (Hebrews 13:7). I
have known some churches that would not follow their pastor's
recommendation for a certain preacher to hold a meeting or purchase of
some much-needed equipment. In many churches, the pastor is not as
respected as some of the "old-timers" in the church.
the pastor is accountable to God for the work of the church. "Obey
them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch
for you souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with
joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you" (Hebrews
13:17). At the Judgment Seat of Christ every pastor will give account to
God for his administration of the Lord's church. Charles Spurgeon asked a
young preacher of the size of the church he pastored. "We have only
about 50," the young man said. Spurgeon is said to have replied,
"That is more than you will want to give account to God for at the
my study of the Word of God I am again convinced that the pastor is
neither a puppet nor a pope. As a man, the pastor is capable of blunders
and mistakes. The pastor may not always be right, but he is always the
pastor. And when a man faithfully performs the office of a pastor, he is
to be highly respected and honored to the glory of
Scripture teaches the church to:
Take care of the Pastor – 1 Corinthians 9:13-14.
Esteem the Pastor in love - - 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13.
Honor the Pastor -- 1 Timothy 5:17-18.
Remember the Pastor - - Hebrews 13:7.
Obey the Pastor --