PASTORS MUST NOT BE MACHO MEN

Seven Guidelines for Peaceable Spiritual Leaders

Fireman in fire sparks and smoke.

A colleague of mine in ministry calls himself “a conflict magnet.” I can relate. When I reflect on my thirty-year tenure in pastoral work, I wince over more relational battles than I care to remember.

My 2018 Journey post included disappointment in the way I navigated two particularly painful meetings. I suspect most pastors identify with the challenges which come with inevitable church conflict.

The apostle Paul prepped young pastor Timothy for handling opposition in a God-honoring way:

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will (2 Tim. 2:24-26).

Paul addresses the way pastors must engage people in conflict. In terms of what not to do, he commands only this: do not be quarrelsome.

The Greek word for quarrelsome comes from the root mache from where we get our English word macho. In Acts 7:26 it’s used for an actual physical fight. Pastors are not to be fighters, combatants–tackling conflict in a belligerent, contentious manner. That pattern disqualifies elders from office (1 Tim. 3:3). It reveals heart idols and passions yet to be conquered (James 4:1-2). There is a better way!

Seven Guidelines for Staying Peaceable in Conflict

One, faithfully embrace your identity. Pastors are first and foremost servants. Paul may have in mind the prophet’s Suffering Servant (Isa. 42:1-3). We must take our cue from Jesus who did not quarrel (Matt. 12:19).

Two, kindly engage your world. Pastors must show love (1 Cor. 13:4) by being kind to all without exception. If every believer must avoid quarreling but be gentle and show perfect courtesy toward all people (Titus 3:2), how much more should God’s shepherds.

Three, diligently use your skills. Able to teach. Elders serve because God has equipped them to instruct others in godly living (2 Tim. 4:1-2). Guide opponents into passages which address issues at hand. Let the Word of God do its powerful work (Heb. 4:12).

Handsome man reading and praying over Bible in a dark room over gray texture

Four, patiently endure your offenses. Opponents will do you evil at times though undeserved. Plan on it. I’ve been called names. I’ve had my motives misjudged. What to do when attacked? Bear up under the evil with the Lord’s help (1 Pet. 2:21-24).

Five, gently correct your opponents. Whether for false teaching, immoral behavior, or other wrongs, people will need admonishment (1 Thess. 5:12). Do it gently (Gal. 6:1). Picture the way a mother cares for her children and a father exhorts the same (1 Thess. 2:7-12).

Six, humbly trust your God. No other truth in this text will help more to keep you from turning macho in a conflict. Pastors don’t make anybody change direction; God is the one who gives the gift of repentance leading back to the truth. Rest in that. He has to work and is always working (John 5:17).

Seventh, prayerfully fight your real enemy. Paul ends by reminding that Satan ultimately ensnares someone taken captive by sin. Never forget the true nature of the fight–spiritual warfare. Put on the whole armor of God and pray at all times for all the saints (Eph. 6:10-20).

Helps for Growing as Peaceable Pastors in Conflict

There are three resources that have helped me immensely toward a peaceable path as a pastor. A recent post featured Alexander Strauch’s book, Leading with Love. I commend it again. Alfred Poirier’s book The Peacemaking Pastor is another must read for pursuing peaceable ways in ministry.

Another terrific help is Ken Sande’s ministry RW360. Last year I worked through his online training in relational wisdom to great advantage. Check it out.

Pastors, let us be peaceable, non-macho servants of our gentle, lowly-in-heart Master (Matt. 11:29)!

Question: What is a lesson you’ve learned about spiritual leadership which is peaceable with others in conflict?

How To Be the Church When the Pastor Can’t Be the Pastor

 

Just Jawful

Ever since my jaw fracture forced me to the pastoral sidelines, I’ve given some thought to this question. How can a pastor’s extended absence from his church result in their greater good? In hopes the saints at OGC might actually thrive, not just survive, my health hiatus, I offer these Scripture verses as essential principles for being the church when the pastor can’t be the pastor:

  1. Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases (Psalm 115:3). Stay anchored in the sovereignty of God. My mandible misery is no accident. His plan for His church to soldier on for the time being without me is precisely that–His plan.
  2. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28). This season–8 hour surgery, week-long hospital stay, and all the rest of it–abounds with good in it for me, my bride, as well as my church. For example, some things God can only do in his servant by laying him out. He can get your attention on the bench in ways you never realize in the game. The benefits of the trial accumulate by the day for me. Keep your eyes open similarly for yourself.
  3. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (1 Pet. 2:25). Just like I remind everybody on day one of each Discover OGC membership class–I am NOT the senior pastor; Jesus is. Only one pastor holds the title “Chief Shepherd.” And He has promised never to leave us or forsake us. Church, you always have Jesus.
  4. So I exhort the elders among you (1 Pet. 5:1a, emphasis added). This balances number 3. God does give to His church pastors and teachers to shepherd them (1 Pet. 5:2-3). Sometimes we need Jesus with skin on. But in wisdom He rests the pastoral load on a plurality of elders. You almost always find the word in the plural form in the New Testament. No church benefits by relying excessively on one leader. God has plans through my leave both to grow our other elders in their ministries and increase your legitimate reliance on their pastoral role in your life.
  5. And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-12). This piggybacks on number 4. Pastors don’t exist just to tend the saints’ spiritual needs; they have a calling to equip the saints for spiritual ministry. Church, the body of OGC needs every single one of you more than ever! Are you in the game or riding the pines on the sideline (assuming you have a choice)? Where are you bringing your spiritual gift(s) to bear on others in community (1 Pet. 4:10-11)? When you see a need in the body, are you asking the Lord how you possibly might be the one to meet it?
  6. For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance (Phil. 1:19). I can think of no better place to end. My circumstances differ from Paul’s to be sure. But my need for your prayers and Jesus’ help doesn’t. May our heightened sense of need in this hard providence at the outset of 2016 cause us to seek His face like never before.

Lord willing, Jesus plans to restore me to the work at Orlando Grace before too long.

I look forward to coming back with a better-than-ever jaw and church to go with it. And that largely because you have been the church when this pastor could not be your pastor.

Why Protestant Pastors Need a Sabbath

apple

Apparently pastors are growing in the wrong way.

This from the current issue of Christianity Today:

A third of US Protestant pastors (34%) are now obese—but not because of church potlucks. According to new research by Baylor University sociologists, it’s because pastors are stressed and need to take a Sabbath. It’s especially true for bivocational pastors, who are nearly twice as likely as other pastors to be obese, and almost guaranteed to be obese—even with average levels of stress, hours, staffing, and exercise—without a support group.

For more of this article click here.

Makes me glad I’m not bivocational, by God’s grace, AND that religiously I take Fridays off, except for emergencies, AND that my elders granted me a sabbatical last year. I’ve got enough trouble keeping off the pounds without the risk of insufficient rest.

Are you looking out for your pastor in this way?