Three Mistakes of Pastors and Apostles
© September 2003 by Asher Intrater
Those of us who serve in leadership positions as pastors and apostles, by the very nature of the ministry, are prone to three characteristic mistakes. More than evangelists, prophets, and teachers, those in the ministry of apostle and pastor have responsibility to gather people together, organize activities, deal with congregational authority, and offer counsel for personal problems. Because of those responsibilities, we can often fall into "soulish" efforts to make the ministry succeed.
1. Possessiveness toward the Sheep
Subtly our perception is not guided by what is really good for that person's spiritual growth, but in thinking that only by his staying and belonging to the group I am leading can he possibly be blessed. To the same church at Corinth, Paul warned the people against identifying themselves with a particular minister or ministry (see I Corinthians 3:3-11).
2. Speaking Negatively of Other Leaders
If we can't be more spiritual, then we try to appear more spiritual than others - by comparison. How? Not by anything so direct - but by subtly letting it drop in conversations the faults of leaders in other ministries that may be perceived as "competing" with us. We do this of course, not as gossip, but as an effort to educate the unsuspecting sheep around us and protect them from the spiritual lacks in the other leader.
3. Making our Ministry the Top Priority
In a way that attitude is to be expected. The problem is that the ministry tool then becomes the center of our attention, not Yeshua (Jesus) Himself. We preach our ministry instead of the Messiah. The "means" and the "message" get mingled, if not totally reversed. It is a form of idolatry in which the "created" ministry becomes more important than the creator. Loren Cunningham, founder of YWAM, tells of the first multi-million dollar ship they tried to purchase for the ministry, which started to become the focus of their prayers and attention, and later had to be removed by the Lord.
What Can We Do?
We should also check the content of our messages to see that Yeshua is always given first place (II Corinthians 4:5). Repentance and salvation and filling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) must stay as the major themes, not an advocacy for our programs and methodologies.
Let us remind ourselves that we are serving the entire kingdom of God, not just our corner in it. Our congregation or ministry is not the entire "body of Christ," nor the most important part of it (again I Corinthians 3). Let's develop the view that we are on the same team with all believers, cooperating toward the greater good of God's overall purpose.
As far as speaking, or even thinking, negatively of other leaders, Yeshua said that we are to forgive seventy times seven (Matthew 18:22), to take the beam out of our own eye first (Matthew 7:3), and Paul said that even if others preach the gospel out of jealousy, competition, and ambition, I will not be perturbed, so long as the good news of salvation goes forward (Philippians 1:15-18).
There remains a mystery of faith that God works in the heart of each individual. We should always give room for the heart of each individual to interact with God himself. Our faults as leaders are a lot more apparent to those around us than we think. Our sophisticated theological excuses are not much of a cover up for manipulative tactics to get other people to follow our "leadership."
May God give us grace.