Someone referred to an article in the comment’s section of this post: You Just Can’t Make This Stuff Up, Part 2. As I read the original article, this paragraph struck me.
From the article, ‘Authoritarianism in The Church” by Steve Martin
Sadly, in too many congregations today, sheep are driven by a man more like a callous meat packer than a loving shepherd. Many modern shepherds don’t even like sheep; its just their business. In fact, men are encouraged not to get too close to the sheep or emotionally involved in their lives and problems. So many pastors don’t actually like (let alone love) their people. They promote witnessing and world evangelization, they just don’t like to be around individual sinners. One need only read of our Lord’s loving compassion for the sheep-like sinners of His earthly ministry (Matt. 9:36, 14:14; Mark 1:40-41, 10:21) and recognize how far removed that is from many pastoral examples today. Sacrificial shepherd-love which lays down its life for the sheep has been replaced by loveless sheep management by uncaring sheep ranchers.
There was a big emphasis on evangelism at BGBC. “Grace Bible Institute” consisted of 2-hr teachings on Sunday afternoons and was devoted to the topic of evangelizing. Additionally, Friday nights were designated as evangelism nights and small groups would go out and evangelize in neighborhoods, local malls, public areas, etc. Car washing events were planned in the summer on Saturdays specifically for evangelizing. The radio ministry, pastor’s blog, and Sermon Audio sermons sometimes focused on evangelism. One cannot miss the evangelism emphasis at this church. That is all good. However, if the sheep are hurting and are not being cared for, something has gone awry – the shepherd is out of focus of his primary responsibility – tending the flock.
Some may defend that the pastor did care for his sheep and their problems – that he did have meetings with people who were having issues. Yes, he did have meetings, but were they done as a loving shepherd would tend wounded sheep? We’ve discussed these meetings before – sometimes hours long, Bible verse after Bible verse read outloud, urging the sinner to repent, heavy-handedness, tears, etc. (This type of control and authoritarianism exerted in meetings can have devastating results on sheep, but we’ll touch on that topic later.)
One issue that hasn’t been brought up is the congregant’s personal files kept by the pastor. The pastor confirmed with me that he kept files on congregants. I’m aware that pastors have to deal with many people. Even professional and licensed counselors maintain personal files on their clients in order to follow progress and help them remember details so they can best help their client. I get that. But how were those personal files used? It is my experience that the personal files were not used in a gracious way for shepherding, but in a berating and authoritarian fashion which takes me back to the yesterday’s quote:
3. Unbelief: many office holders do not believe the declarative statements and promises of God in the Scripture. They do not believe that Christ is Lord of His true church and that the gates of hell will not prevail against it. They do not believe that God the Holy Spirit is also Lord of the church, conforming God’s people into His image. They do not believe God the Father will exercise His Fatherly love and discipline over the lives of His adopted children. In their unbelief, following hard on the heals of their own prayerlessness, authoritarian shepherds develop the mind-set, “If I don’t make them do this, they won’t!” or “If I don’t make them do this, who will?” They really do not believe that the Holy Spirit will superintend His people and convict them of sin when away from the shepherd. Even as Christian parents must entrust their Christian teens unto the Lord as they drive the car down the driveway or leave for the university, so pastors must learn to trust God the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of His people when they are out from under the watchful gaze of their local under-shepherd. Sadly, such pastors create a “police state mentality” in their congregations where everyone’s life is carefully monitored and scrutinized for any deviation, and “sins” are to be reported to the church leadership immediately.”
2 Timothy 3:5
…having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Part of the job of the shepherd is to lead the sheep to the true Shepherd and help them to hear His voice. I did not see that happening. There was an overemphasis on sin – not only the current sin issue, but old sins as well. Bringing up old sin issues that have been completely dealt with, repented, forgiven from long ago is not beneficial. There’s no grace and love in that. (Love keeps no record of wrongs.) Sheep were beaten down emotionally and spiritually. It was as though the pastor usurped the authority of God by coercing the flock to heed his voice – Chuck’s voice – instead of the voice of the Holy Spirit. In this kind of “lording” environment, sheep will have difficulty hearing the Holy Spirit. It is difficult to hear the gentle prodding of the Holy Spirit over the lectures and never-ending rebuking sessions in the meetings.
We need to ask ourselves if there is an unbalanced focus on sin in our church? Is there love and grace shown by the pastor? Does our pastor gently guide us to God or do we primarily hear the pastor’s voice?
John 10:27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.