Pastors can be loved by their congregations. That is a good thing. It’s good for faithful ministry to be appreciated and celebrated. The Church is full of many gifted pastors who preach faithfully and point people to Jesus. But there are also dangers. For example, one danger is that pastors are put on a pedestal and nothing they do is ever seen as wrong. but another danger is that pastors can be tempted to also look for a platform. Let’s look at both sides of that dangerous coin…
Let’s think first of all about the dangers of pastors being put on a pedestal. The Church has a responsibility to care for their pastors, as well as receive care for their pastors. But no pastor is perfect. A pastor can be very gifted, but he will never be perfect. The good things pastors do should be celebrated. The pastor should feel welcomed and appreciated by his church family. But no pastor should ever be elevated above his position. A pastor is an under-shepherd. Not the chief Shepherd. A pastor is a sheep, leading other sheep, to the chief Shepherd.
And yet conferences and book stalls can be full of names of people and pastors who are elevated and seen as untouchable. Christians can flock to the newest hot name on the scene. This means that we are promoting people that we do not know. We are pushing names that we have very little knowledge of. To an extent it is understandable. After all, we can’t know everything about everyone. But there is a responsibility that we have corporately as to the people we promote. If the past few years have shown us anything, it’s that just because someone can preach a good sermon or put on a good mask, it doesn’t mean that they are faithful and God honouring. Realistically, I think Christians put conference speakers and authors on a pedestal more than their own local church pastor. This can create a celebrity culture and a group of elites who seem untouchable. But they need Jesus just as much as everyone else does. Don’t feed into the unhealthy culture where some are elevated and a halo is placed on their head.
But the flip side of this dangerous coin is probably more subtle and part of the problem too. The problem is that pastors can be on the look out for platforms and pedestals for themselves.
I’m currently reading a book about a well-known pastor from years ago who in the early years of his ministry sought recognition instead of caring for his flock. That’s probably a bit extreme and I doubt we’d see much of it today. But how often do pastors want to be seen with the ‘right people’? How often do pastors want to do the ‘enjoyable’ or some would say ‘sexy’ things in ministry rather than the daily graft of caring for folks?
A pastor’s responsibly in his role is not to be recognised or to get fame. His primary role is to care for the flock that the Lord has entrusted to him and to point them to Jesus. This could mean turning down exciting opportunities in order to serve the people in front of you. This means not chasing to have a voice on the boards, or around the table discussions, of the big organisations or ‘movers and shakers’. One of the saddest things is to see pastors who spend more time networking and self-promoting rather than caring for their church.
External things can be very encouraging, immediately rewarding and fun. But a pastor needs to think about whether or not they are the best thing for the local church. A pastor should not engage in things outside of the local church if that means that he is neglecting his duties inside the local church.
Pastor and churches, beware of platforms and pedestals. They only create more room for a person to fall from. If recognition does come your way, make sure that you’ve got people around you to keep you accountable, humble and faithful. Your job is to care for the flock, not to use them as a springboard to some idea of fame.