The William Tyndale Bible of 1524 did not use the word "church" anywhere on its pages. William Tyndale correctly translated the Greek word ekklesia as "congregation." When the King James version of the Bible was translated, the Greek word ekklesia was a critical issue for the King. James ordered that his bible version use the word "church" instead of the correct English translation of "congregation." This was because the King had no jurisdiction over the congregation (people), but he did have state power over the church (physical building and hierarchical institution). The third edict out of 15 ordered by King James concerning the KJV translation was that the word "church" would be used in his translation, not congregation. In Strong's Greek Concordance, the word ekklesia (word #1577) is defined as "an assembly," and it's from the word "Ek" (word #1537), which means "out of"; and the word "klesis" (word #2821) which means "a calling." So ekklesia is those that are the called-out ones. Christ is the one that is calling us out. We Christians are His ekklesia, not a building or a place that we go. We can cross out the English word "church" in our bibles and write in ekklesia, congregation, or called out ones in its place. (Hendrickson 1611 KJV with original preface and translators' notes)
Conversations I have had when meeting new Christians or casual talk among fellow Christians will almost always produce the question, "Where do you go to Church?" Would it surprise you to know that this is a nonsense question? Biblically, this question makes no logical sense. We cannot go to something that we are. Have you ever listened to the average Christian vocabulary and our use of the word church? The church building is so connected with the idea of church that we unconsciously equate the two:
Our traditions have developed institutions that we call church. Would it surprise you that almost everything we do in "church" has virtually no points of contact with the NT? It's true; look into it for yourself. Have you ever been passively sitting in a pew looking around at your fellow churchgoers during the sermon and thought, "where did all this come from, and why are there no examples of these practices in my Bible?" Have you ever been curious to know about the origins of things such as the church building, sacred spaces, the order of worship, the sermon, clergy & laity, the office of the pastor, the pastors' chair, the pulpit, the pew, the church steeple, tithing, dressing in our Sunday best, bow your head and close your eyes, the altar call, raising of hands in response to salvation, the church bulletin, etc.? We are massively ignorant of how our church practices got to where they are today. I left the institutional church (IC) many years ago after realizing that what I was attending was nothing more than the traditions of men in the churches of men. It took me some time to detoxify from the ceremonial-style prayers, rules, rhetoric, and false doctrines taught in the IC. The specific issues and spiritual hindrances unique to each institution are forced upon us by reading the Bible thru the denominational lens we are subjected to. My reward for leaving the IC was finally being able to see the content and narrative story of the Bible. It was quite the adventure; first, accusations and dis-fellowship come along with questioning the traditions of religious specialists. I have written this blog for those afraid to challenge the institutional church. The IC violates biblical principles, and scripture stands with those of us that will no longer toe the line in our false church systems. I believe all the questions about the IC that were once looming in the back of my mind are swirling around in the minds of others as well. I would encourage every Christian to research the history of our church practices. What you find might open your eyes and set you free from the traditions of men. Godspeed, brothers, and sisters.
Here are some links to recommended books on this topic.
Indeed it may dawn on us that these preserved texts were often for corporate enlightenment, lifestyle, and judgement. This makes it a lot safer for the believers, because it is not
At some point, I began to favor a reader's version of the Bible over the more widely used chapter and verse format. Nowadays, I use a reader's form of the Bible almost exclusively. There are (disputed) claims that we have somewhere around 36,000 different Christian denominations worldwide. Regardless of what the specific number is, there is a lot. I recently did a quick google search of Christian denominations in the small county where I live. Google was able to find 83 different denominations. I have often wondered how in the world, we got so many different flavors of institutional church practice. I believe that the differences in doctrine, training, and even the very existence of denominations are primarily attributed to the use of chapter and verse Bibles. How a person approaches the Bible is one of the most critical aspects of our lives and will significantly impact the sort of Christian we will become. The Bible in our day is widely used as a reference book with many disjointed stand-alone entries similar to what we find in a dictionary. Proof-texting (picking individual verses out of their context) can lead to misuse and abuse of the Bible that has dominated almost every aspect of Christendom.
If you have spent time in the institutional church (IC), you have undoubtedly listened to the pastor quote verse after verse that has been pulled from different books written to other people groups. Sometimes in sermonizing, the verses will come so fast (forget applying context) that there is no way to flip to each chapter and verse and read along. Back when I attended the IC, I did not even attempt this hopeless task of flipping to each verse and reading along with the sermon. The misuse and abuse of "bible verses" will allow the speaker to use the Bible to teach anything that they want it to say. The reality is that when using the text this way, it doesn't even matter what the verses say; it only matters what the pastor has to say about them.
This way of removing verses from its context will lead to many wrong ideas and is a major contributing factor to our divisions in the Church. I enjoy reading the Biblicas presentation of the Bible without chapter and verse divisions. This format is significant in letting the reader see the context, culture, and the larger narrative of the individual books.
What is your story? How do you fit into the biblical narrative of God's great drama of redemption?
ABOUT THE BOOKS OF THE BIBLE (excerpt bold emphasis is mine). The Bible isn’t a single book. It’s a collection of many books that were written, preserved and gathered together so that they could be shared with new generations of readers. Reading, of course, is not an end in itself. Especially in the case of the Bible, reading is a means of entering into the story. Overall, the Bible is an invitation to the reader first to view the world in a new way, and then to become an agent of the world’s renewal. Reading is a step in this journey. The Books of the Bible is intended to help readers have a more meaningful encounter with the sacred writings and to read with more understanding, so they can take their places more readily within this story of new creation. Just as the Bible is not a single book, the Bible is more than bare words. Those who wrote its books chose to put them in particular forms, using the literary conventions appropriate to those forms. Many different kinds of writing are found in the Bible: poetry, narrative, wisdom collections, letters, law codes, apocalyptic visions and more. All of these forms must be read as the literature they really are, or else misunderstanding and distortion of meaning are bound to follow. In order to engage the text on its own terms, good readers will honor the agreement between themselves and the biblical writers implied by the choices of particular forms. Good readers will respect the conventions of these forms. In other words, they’ll read poetry as poetry, songs as songs, stories as stories, and so forth. Unfortunately, for some time now the Bible has been printed in a format that hides its literary forms under a mask of numbers. These break the text into bits and sections that the authors never intended. And so The Books of the Bible seeks instead to present the books in their distinctive literary forms and structures. It draws on the key insight that visual presentation can be a crucial aid to right reading, good understanding and a better engagement with the Bible. Specifically, this edition of the Bible differs from the most common current format in several significant ways:
: chapter and verse numbers have been removed from the text; : the books are presented instead according to the internal divisions that we believe their authors have indicated;
: a single-column setting is used to present the text more clearly and naturally, and to avoid disrupting the intended line breaks in poetry;
: footnotes, section headings and any other additional materials have been removed from the pages of the sacred text;
: individual books that later tradition divided into two or more parts are put back together again; and
: the books have been placed in an order that we hope will help readers understand them better.
Why have we made these changes? First of all, the chapters and verses in the Bible weren’t put there by the original authors. The present system of chapter divisions was devised in the thirteenth century, and our present verse divisions weren’t added until the sixteenth. Chapters and verses have imposed a foreign structure on the Bible and made it more difficult to read with understanding. Chapter divisions typically don’t correspond with the actual divisions of thought. They require readers to make sense of only part of a longer discussion as if it were complete in itself, or else to try to combine two separate discussions into one coherent whole. Moreover, because the Bible’s chapters are all roughly the same length, they can at best only indicate sections of a certain size. This hides the existence of both larger and smaller units of thought within biblical books.
When verses are treated as intentional units (as their numbering suggests they should be), they encourage the Bible to be read as a giant reference book, perhaps as a collection of rules or as a series of propositions. Also, when “Bible verses”are treated as independent and free-standing statements, they can be taken selectively out of context and arranged in such a way as to suggest that the Bible supports beliefs and positions that it really doesn’t.
It is true that chapter and verse numbers allow ease of reference. But finding passages at this speed may be a dubious benefit since this can encourage ignoring the text around the sought out citation. In order to encourage greater understanding and more responsible use of the Bible, we’ve removed chapter and verse numberings from the text entirely. (A chapter-and-verse range is included at the bottom of each page.)
Because the biblical books were handwritten, read out loud and then hand-copied long before standardized printing, their authors and compilers needed a way to indicate divisions within the text itself. They often did this by repeating a phrase or expression each time they made a transition from one section to another. We can confirm that particular phrases are significant in this way by observing how their placement reinforces a structure that can already be recognized implicitly from other characteristics of a book, such as changes in topic, movement in place or time, or shifts from one kind of writing to another. Through line spacing, we’ve marked off sections of varying sizes. The smallest are indicated by one blank line, the next largest by two lines, and so on, up to four-line breaks in the largest books. We’ve also indicated key divisions with a large initial capital letter of new sections. Our goal is to encourage meaningful units to be read in their entirety and so with greater appreciation and understanding.
Footnotes, section headings and other supplemental materials have been removed from the page in order to give readers a more direct and immediate experience of the word of God. At the beginning of each biblical book we’ve included an invitation to that particular writing with background information on why it was written and how we understand it to be put together. Beyond this, we encourage readers to study the Bible in community. We believe that if they do, they and their teachers, leaders and peers will provide one another with much more information and many more insights than could ever be included in notes added by publishers.
The books of the Bible were written or recorded individually. When they were gathered together, they were placed into a variety of orders. Unfortunately, the order in which today’s readers typically encounter these books is yet another factor that hinders their understanding. Paul’s letters, for example, have been put in order of length. They are badly out of historical order, and this makes it difficult to read them with an appreciation for where they fit in the course of his life or how they express the development of his thought. The traditional order of the biblical books can also encourage misunderstandings of what kind of writing a particular work is. For example, the book of James has strong affinities with other biblical books in the wisdom tradition. But it’s typically placed within a group of letters, suggesting that it, too, should be read as a letter. To help readers overcome such difficulties, we’ve sought to order the books so that their literary types, their circumstances of composition and the theological traditions they reflect will be evident. Our introductions to each of the different parts of the Bible will explain how we have ordered the books in these sections, and why.
Just as the work of Bible translation is never finished, the work of formatting the Bible on the principles described here will never be completed. Advances in the literary interpretation of the biblical books will undoubtedly enable the work we’ve begun here to be extended and improved in the years ahead. Yet the need to help readers overcome the many obstacles inherent in the Bible’s current format is urgent, so we humbly offer the results of our work to those seeking an improved visual presentation of its sacred books.
We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of many lay people, clergy, scholars and people engaged in active Scripture outreach who’ve reviewed our work. They’ve shared their considerable knowledge and expertise with us and continue to provide valuable insights and guidance. However, final responsibility for all of the decisions in this format rests with us. We trust that readers will gain a deeper appreciation for, and a greater understanding of, these sacred texts. Our hope and prayer is that their engagement with The Books of the Bible will enable them to take up their own roles in God’s great drama of redemption.
My understanding of the Lord's supper growing up was that it was a time to examine myself; it was a time for introspecting. When we would observe the Lord's supper, the lights were dimmed, and soft music was played to make the mood somber and glum. We were then told to bow our heads and examine our recent track record. We were then to confess our sins to God so we could be forgiven, cleansed, and qualify to partake of communion. I'm unsure how far back I was supposed to examine my performance record. I am guessing that I only needed to examine myself as far back as the last communion when I had also been forgiven, cleansed, and qualified at that time (tongue in cheek). Where did we come up with the idea that the Lord's supper is supposed to be focused on me and not the Lord? Is the Lord a double talker, are we forgiven and cleansed of all our sins but at the Lord's supper, we need to be cleansed of more sins? How does this make any sense?
1 Corinthians 11:28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup.
This is the supportive verse that is usually read during a clergy-led communion. It seems to make sense. Hmmm, I guess the bible does tell me to examine myself. But wait, what if we read more of Paul's letter and don't skip around the Bible using single verses as proof text for our church traditions?
Instead of reading the letter written by Paul, let us briefly take a look at a more extensive section of the letter so that we can see some of the contexts as Paul corrects an abuse of the Lord's supper among these believers in Corinth.
Here is an excerpt from Corinthians 11 in the following instructions, I cannot praise you. For it sounds as if more harm than good is done when you meet together. First, I hear that there are divisions among you when you meet as a church, and to some extent, I believe it. But, of course, there must be divisions among you so that you who have God’s approval will be recognized! When you meet together, you are not really interested in the Lord’s Supper. For some of you hurry to eat your own meal without sharing with others. As a result, some go hungry while others get drunk. What? Don’t you have your own homes for eating and drinking? Or do you really want to disgrace God’s church and shame the poor? What am I supposed to say? Do you want me to praise you? Well, I certainly will not praise you for this! For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it.” For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again. So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. That is why many of you are weak and sick and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way. Yet when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned along with the world. So, my dear brothers and sisters, when you gather for the Lord’s Supper, wait for each other. If you are really hungry, eat at home so you won’t bring judgment upon yourselves when you meet together. I’ll give you instructions about the other matters after I arrive.
Now that I have read a considerable section of Paul's letter, I get a better idea of what is going on, or I should say, what was going on in Corinth. In modern language, Paul was telling the Corinthians to examine themselves; he was saying, "look at what you are doing!"
The early Christians gathered for a complete meal. They broke the bread and passed it around. The meal concluded when the cup was passed around. There was no clergy to officiate this gathering. Today, our religious traditions have forced us to chew a tiny tasteless cracker and drink a thimble of grape juice while focusing on ourselves rather than remembering and celebrating our Lord.
This is perhaps the best commercial ever and it is not put out by a Christian organization.
At some point, we will have to move forward and leave behind the spectator sport that is the modern institutional church. How can we be satisfied with coming to a building, singing, putting money on a plate, hearing a sermon, and then going home? As a churchgoer, I did my best to stay enthusiastic about the "go to church" experience. The Bible teaches that we are the Church (ekklesia). Sitting passively in a pew while only a select few (clergy) exercise their gifts was never prescribed in the Bible, and for a good reason. One of the reasons is that the least effective method of long-term retention is the sermon method. When an individual stands before a group of people and gives a sermon, the amount of instruction retained is only around 5%. I have several Christian friends that go to church. Occasionally I will ask them, "how was the church on Sunday?" Most of the time, the church experience is usually described by how well the pastor's sermon was. The typical response is, "church was good; the pastor brought a good sermon." My answer is, "that's wonderful; tell me about the sermon." It is at this point that I usually get the deer in headlights look. My friends that know me are well aware of the fact that I am making, and so they laugh it off and we begin discussing other things.
Have you ever noticed that none of the epistles written in the NT ever greet or address a pastor? Wouldn't we expect that when Paul, Peter, James, John, or Jude wrote an epistle exhorting the ekklesia (church), they would have addressed 'the Pastor' someplace in their writings? Isn't the pastor supposed to be in charge of the flock? The Lord Jesus never addresses a pastor in His admonishments to the seven churches in the book of Revelations.
THE PASTOR: OBSTACLE TO EVERY-MEMBER FUNCTIONING by Frank Viola. The following is excerpted from Chapter 5 of Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices. Bold emphasis is mine.
"It is a universal tendency in the Christian religion, as in many other religions, to give a theological interpretation to institutions which have developed gradually through a period of time for the sake of practical usefulness, and then read that interpretation back into the earliest periods and infancy of these institutions, attaching them to an age when in fact nobody imagined that they had such a meaning."—RICHARD HANSON, TWENTIETH-CENTURY PATRISTIC SCHOLAR
He is the fundamental figure of the Protestant faith. So prevailing is the pastor in the minds of most Christians that he is often better known, more highly praised, and more heavily relied upon than Jesus Christ Himself!
Remove the pastor and most Protestant churches would be thrown into a panic. Remove the pastor, and Protestantism as we know it would die. The pastor is the dominating focal point, mainstay, and centerpiece of the contemporary church. He is the embodiment of Protestant Christianity.
But here is the profound irony. There is not a single verse in the entire New Testament that supports the existence of the modern-day pastor! He simply did not exist in the early church.
Note that we are using the term pastor throughout this chapter to depict the contemporary pastoral office and role, not the specific individual who fills this role. By and large, those who serve in the office of pastor are wonderful people. They are honorable, decent, and very often gifted Christians who love God and have a zeal to serve His people. But it is the role they fill that both Scripture and church history are opposed to.
THE PASTOR IS IN THE BIBLE ... RIGHT?
The word pastors does appear in the New Testament:
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers. (EPHESIANS 4:11, NASB)
The following observations are to be made about this text.
> This is the only verse in the entire New Testament where the word pastor is used. One solitary verse is a mighty scanty piece of evidence on which to hang the Protestant faith! In this regard, there seems to be more biblical authority for snake handling (see Mark 16:18 and Acts 28:3-6) than there is for the present-day pastor. Roman Catholics have made the same error with the word priest. You can find the word priest used in the New Testament three times. In every case, it refers to all Christians.'
> The word is used in the plural. It is pastors. This is significant. For whoever these "pastors" are, they are plural in the church, not singular. Consequently, there is no biblical support for the practice of sofa pastora (single pastor).
> The Greek word translated pastors is poimen. It means shepherds. (Pastor is the Latin word for shepherd.) Pastor, then, is a metaphor to describe a particular function in the church. It is not an office or a title.' A first-century shepherd had nothing to do with the specialized and professional sense it has come to have in contemporary Christianity. Therefore, Ephesians 4:11 does not envision a pastoral office, but merely one of many functions in the church. Shepherds are those who naturally provide nurture and care for God's sheep. It is a profound error, therefore, to confuse shepherds with an office or title as is commonly conceived today.'
> At best, Ephesians 4:11 is oblique. It offers absolutely no definition or description of who pastors are. It simply mentions them. Regrettably, we have filled this word with our own Western concept of what a pastor is. We have read our idea of the contemporary pastor back into the New Testament. Never would any first-century Christian have conceived of the contemporary pastoral office!
Richard Hanson observes, "For us the words bishops, presbyters, and deacons are stored with the associations of nearly two thousand years. For the people who first used them, the titles of these offices can have meant little more than inspectors, older men and helpers. It was when unsuitable theological significance began to be attached to them that the distortion of the concept of Christian ministry began."'
First-century shepherds were the local elders (presbyters) and overseers of the church. Their function was at odds with the contemporary pastoral role.
WHERE DID THE PASTOR COME FROM?
If contemporary pastors were absent from the early church, where did they come from? And how did they rise to such a prominent position in the Christian faith? The roots of this tale are tangled and complex, and they reach as far back as the fall of man.
With the Fall came an implicit desire in people to have a physical leader to bring them to God. For this reason, human societies throughout history have consistently created a special caste of revered religious leaders. The medicine man, the shaman, the rhapsodist, the miracle worker, the witch doctor, the soothsayer, the wise man, and the priest have all been with us since Adam's blunder." And this person is always marked by special training, special garb, a special vocabulary, and a special way of life."
We can see this instinct rear its ugly head in the history of ancient Israel. It made its first appearance during the time of Moses. Two servants of the Lord, Eldad and Medad, received God's Spirit and began to prophesy. In hasty response, a young zealot urged Moses to "restrain them" (Numbers 11:26-28, NASB). Moses reproved the young suppressor saying he wished all of God's people could prophesy. Moses had set himself against a clerical spirit that had tried to control God's people.
We see it again when Moses ascended Mount Horeb. The people wanted Moses to be a physical mediator between them and God because they feared a personal relationship with the Almighty (Exodus 20:19).
This fallen instinct made another appearance during the time of Samuel. God wanted His people to live under His direct headship. But Israel clamored for a human king instead (1 Samuel 8:19).
The seeds of the contemporary pastor can even be detected in the New Testament era. Diotrephes, who "love[d] to have the preeminence" in the church, illegitimately took control of its affairs (3 John9-10). In addition, some scholars have suggested that the doctrine of the Nicolaitans that Jesus condemns in Revelation 2:6 is a reference to the rise of an early clergy.'
Alongside humanity's fallen quest for a human spiritual mediator is the obsession with the hierarchical form of leadership. All ancient cultures were hierarchical in their social structures to one degree or another. Regrettably, the post apostolic Christians adopted and adapted these structures into their church life.
(Click here for the in-depth historical detail of where the pastor came from. Listed next is the summary offered at the end of the book).
The Single Bishop (predecessor of the contemporary pastor.)—Ignatius of Antioch in early second century. Ignatius's model of one-bishop rule did not prevail in the churches until the third century.
The "Covering" Doctrine—Cyprian of Carthage, a former pagan orator. Revived under Juan Carlos Ortiz from Argentina and the "Fort Lauderdale Five" from the United States, creating the so-called "Shepherding-Discipleship Movement" in the 1970s.
Hierarchical Leadership—Brought into the church by Constantine in the fourth century. This was the leadership style of the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans.
Clergy and Laity—The word laity first appears in the writings of Clement of Rome (d.100). Clergy first appears in Tertullian. By the third century, Christian leaders were universally called clergy.
Contemporary Ordination—Evolved from the second century to the fourth. It was taken from the Roman custom of appointing men to civil office. The idea of the ordained minister as the "holy man of God" can be traced to Augustine, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Chrysostom.
The Title "Pastor"—Catholic priests who became Protestant ministers were not universally called pastors until the eighteenth century under the influence of Lutheran Pietists.
HOW THE PASTORAL ROLE DAMAGES BODY LIFE
Let's shift our attention to the practical effects that a pastor has on the people of God.
Tremendous psychological factors make laypeople feel that ministry is the responsibility of the pastor. It's his job. He's the expert is often their thinking. The New Testament word for minister is diakonos. It means "servant." But this word has been distorted because men have professionalized the ministry. We have taken the word minister and equated it with the pastor, with no scriptural justification whatsoever. In like manner, we have mistakenly equated preaching and ministry with the pulpit sermon, again without biblical justification.
The unscriptural clergy/laity distinction has done untold harm to the body of Christ. It has divided the believing community into first-and second-class Christians. The clergy/laity dichotomy perpetuates an awful falsehood—namely, that some Christians are more privileged than others to serve the Lord.
The one-man ministry is entirely foreign to the New Testament, yet we embrace it while it suffocates our functioning. We are living stones, not dead ones. However, the pastoral office has transformed us into stones that do not breathe.
Permit us to get personal. We believe the pastoral office has stolen your right to function as a full member of Christ's body. It has distorted the reality of the body, making the pastor a giant mouth and transforming you into a tiny ear. It has rendered you a mute spectator who is proficient at taking sermon notes and passing an offering plate. To put this tragedy in the form of a biblical question, "And if they were all one member, where would the body be?" (1 Corinthians 12:19, NKJV).
But that is not all. The modern-day pastoral office has over-thrown the main thrust of the letter to the Hebrews—the ending of the old priesthood. It has made ineffectual the teaching of 1 Corinthians 12-14, that every member has both the right and the privilege to minister in a church meeting. It has voided the message of 1 Peter 2 that every brother and sister is a functioning priest.
Being a functioning priest does not mean that you may only perform highly restrictive forms of ministry like singing songs in your pew, raising your hands during worship, setting up the PowerPoint presentation, or teaching a Sunday school class. That is not the New Testament idea of ministry! These are mere aids for the pastor's ministry. As one scholar put it, "Much Protestant worship, up to the present day, has also been infected by an overwhelming tendency to regard worship as the work of the pastor (and perhaps the choir) with the majority of the laity having very little to do but sing a few hymn sand listen in a prayerful and attentive way."'"
We expect doctors and lawyers to serve us, not to train us to serve others. And why? Because they are the experts. They are trained professionals. Unfortunately, we look upon the pastor in the same way. All of this does violence to the fact that every believer is a priest. Not only before God, but to one another.
But there is something more. The contemporary pastorate rivals the functional headship of Christ in His church. It illegitimately holds the unique place of centrality and headship among God's people, a place that is reserved for only one Person--the Lord Jesus. Jesus Christ is the only head over a church and the final word to it.'" By his office, the pastor displaces and supplants Christ's headship by setting himself up as the church's human head.
For this reason, nothing so hinders the fulfillment of God's eternal purpose as does the present-day pastoral role. Why? Because that purpose is centered on making Christ's headship visibly manifested in the church through the free, open, mutually participatory, every-member functioning of the body. As long as the pastoral office is present in a particular church, that church will have a slim chance of witnessing such a glorious thing.
HOW THE PASTOR DAMAGES HIMSELF
The contemporary pastor not only does damage to God's people, he does damage to himself. The pastoral office has a way of chewing up many who come within its parameters. Depression, burnout, stress, and emotional breakdown occur at abnormally high rates among pastors. At the time of this writing, there are reportedly more than 500,000 paid pastors serving churches in the United States.'" Among this massive number of religious professionals, consider the following statistics that testify to the lethal danger of the pastoral office:
> 94 percent feel pressured to have an ideal family.
> 90 percent work more than forty-six hours a week.
> 81 percent say they have insufficient time with their spouses.
> 80 percent believe that pastoral ministry affects their family negatively.
> 70 percent do not have someone they consider a close friend.
> 70 percent have lower self-esteem than when they entered the ministry.
> 50 percent feel unable to meet the demands of the job.
> 80 percent are discouraged or deal with depression.
> More than 40 percent report that they are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and unrealistic expectations.
> 33 percent consider pastoral ministry an outright hazard to the family.
> 33 percent have seriously considered leaving their position in the past year.
> 40 percent of pastoral resignations are due to burnout.
Most pastors are expected to juggle sixteen major tasks at once. And many crumble under the pressure. For this reason, 1,400 ministers in all denominations across the United States are fired or forced to resign each month. Over the past twenty years, the average length of a pastorate has declined from seven years to just over four years!
Unfortunately, few pastors have connected the dots to discover that it is their office that causes this underlying turbulence. Simply put: Jesus Christ never intended any person to sport all the hats a present-day pastor is expected to wear. He never intended anyone person to bear such a load.
The demands of the pastorate are crushing; they will drain any mortal dry. Imagine for a moment that you were working for a company that paid you on the basis of how good you made your people feel. What if your pay depended on how entertaining you were, how friendly you were, how popular your wife and children were, how well-dressed you were, and how perfect your behavior was?
Can you imagine the unmitigated stress this would cause you? Can you see how such pressure would force you into playing a pretentious role—all to keep your authority, your prestige, and your job security? (For this reason, many pastors are resistant to receiving any kind of help.)
The pastoral profession dictates standards of conduct like any other profession, whether it be teacher, doctor, or lawyer. The profession dictates how pastors are to dress, speak, and act. This is one of the major reasons why many pastors live very artificial lives.
In this regard, the pastoral role fosters dishonesty. Congregants expect their pastor to always be cheerful, completely spiritual, and available at a moment's call. They also expect that he will have a perfectly disciplined family. Furthermore, he should never appear resentful or bitter. Many pastors take to this role like actors in a Greek drama.
Based on the scores of personal testimonies we have heard from erstwhile pastors, many—if not most—pastors cannot stay in their office without being corrupted on some level. The power-politics endemic to the office is a huge problem that isolates many of them and poisons their relationship with others.
In an insightful article to pastors entitled "Preventing clergy burnout," the author suggests something startling. His advice to pastors gives us a clear peek into the power-politics that goes with the pastorate. He implores pastors to "fellowship with clergy of other denominations. These persons cannot harm you ecclesiastically, because they are not of your official circle. There is no political string they can pull to undo you."
Professional loneliness is another virus that runs high among pastors. The lone-ranger plague drives some ministers into other careers. It drives others into crueler fates.
All of these pathologies find their root in the history of the pastorate. It is "lonely at the top" because God never intended for anyone to be at the top—except His Son! In effect, the present-day pastor tries to shoulder the fifty-eight New Testament "one another" exhortations all by himself. It is no wonder that many of them get crushed under the weight.
The contemporary pastor is the most unquestioned fixture in twenty-first-century Christianity. Yet not a strand of Scripture supports the existence of this office.
Rather, the present-day pastor was born out of the single-bishop rule first spawned by Ignatius and Cyprian. The bishop evolved into the local presbyter. In the Middle Ages, the presbyter grew into the Catholic priest. During the Reformation, he was transformed into the "preacher," "the minister," and finally "the pastor"—the person upon whom all of Protestantism hangs. To boil it down to one sentence: The Protestant pastor is nothing more than a slightly reformed Catholic priest. (Again, we are speaking of the office and not the individual.)
Catholic priests had seven duties at the time of the Reformation: preaching; the sacraments; prayers for the flock; a disciplined, godly life; church rites; supporting the poor; and visiting the sick.'" the protestant pastor takes upon himself all of these responsibilities—plus he sometimes blesses civic events.
The famed poet John Milton put it best when he said, "New presbyter is but old priest writ large!"' In other words, the contemporary pastor is but an old priest written in larger letters!
FOOTNOTES OF INTEREST
Have you ever been told by a pastor or other Christians that you need to tithe 10% of your income? Have you been told that you rob God if you do not tithe? If you have spent time in the institutional church, you have probably been instructed to tithe. Malachi 3:8-10 seems to be a favorite bible "proof text" used by many religious leaders when giving is at low tide. I encourage every Christian to put on their new covenant reading glasses and turn to Malachi 3. In Malachi, we see a command given to Israel to bring a tithe of grains to put in the storehouse. I see the promise of a blessing for being obedient to the law. As I read further, I know the threat of a curse upon Israel if this law is not obeyed. Does this text apply to NT Christians? Have you ever heard a sermon where the pastor uses the threat of a curse from God for not tithing? I have not, and I would be surprised to hear that anyone has. The standard sermon using this "proof text" generally only includes the command to tithe and a promised blessing or reward for obedience. Interesting.
There is no command or examples in scripture that have anything to do with tithing money. There is no command or example in scripture of anyone "tithing" (giving 10% of all monetary income) the way modern pastors teach it. Would it shock you that NO ONE in the bible tithed the way it is taught in our institutions today? Tithing does appear in the Bible. Yes, tithing is biblical; it is just not Christian. There are three examples of tithing in the Bible.
These are all examples of tithing in the whole of scripture. Jesus did not teach it to His disciples. The Apostles did not practice or teach tithing. The first-century Christians did not observe it. If we are to believe that we should fuse OT law (tithing to the Levitical priesthood) with NT Christianity, then I suppose that we should tithe to one another since we are all believer priests.
Have you ever been scolded for not being a tither? It is not uncommon; it has happened to me and possibly to you. My response to law enforcers regarding tithing is that "I will gladly tithe the way that anyone in the Bible tithed." I was inspired to write this blog in defense of those (myself included) that have been duped by the con man's tactics regarding tithing. We have been taught that God is like a divine slot machine. We should pour in our quarters, pull down on the handle and wait for the blessings to pour out. The sad reality is that some people never hit the promised jackpot. I hope that this blog will shine some light on the subject of OT tithing so that we as believers can celebrate our freedom from the law and we can engage in cheerful NT free will giving from the heart. Amen! at odds with biblical chur
Many years ago, someone told me that as a Believer, I have two kinds of forgiveness in Christ.
Admittedly, this idea is widely taught in Christianity today. However, I have noticed a lot of Christian jargon floating around (e.g., positional and relational forgiveness) that I can not find in scripture. As the saying goes, "just because something is found in the Bible belt, does not necessarily mean it is found in the Bible."
I spent some time studying this topic because I wanted to know the answer to this question. Forgiveness, Is it finished? I know of no verse or teaching in the NT that tells me, as a born-again believer, that I need to ask God to forgive me of sins so that I can be cleansed progressively (relational forgiveness). Many protestants teach this belief and practice. Countless times I have heard pastors teach Christians in an institutional church setting that they need to "bring their sins down to the altar (ask for forgiveness) and get right with God." Is this true? As a believer, am I not perfectly cleansed and perfectly made right with God already? I view the idea of relational forgiveness as just a reformed version of catholic theology. The difference is that we, as protestants, are going directly to God (over and over again) for the forgiveness of sin instead of confessing to the priest in a box.
I believe in forgiving my sin - past, present, and future. I think it is actual, not positional, and not relational. The Bible teaches me that I was born a sinner. I am not a sinner because I sin. I did not have to commit one single sin to become a sinner; I was already a sinner before I was born. When reborn, I am no longer a sinner; I am a saint. I am a new creation. I am the righteousness of God.
However, It is evident that even after being reborn and becoming a saint, not a sinner, I still commit sins. Do I need to be forgiven and cleansed over and over again? I do not believe so. As a Christian, I have been forgiven once and for all.
So what do I do as a believer priest when I sin? I do not need to be progressively forgiven. In my walk as a born-again believer, I acknowledge and regret my sins, I turn from sin, and I go forward joyfully, knowing that I am already forgiven. Amen!
Recently I observed a young man publicly sitting peacefully and reading the Bible. When I walked by him, it made me smile. I thought, how great it is to see this man growing in his Faith. Just about that time, I heard another man (a KJV-only advocate) address this young reader and ask him what version of the Bible he was reading. The conversation that followed between these two men had nothing to do with encouraging, edifying, or building each other up.
Let us get back to the story. The young man responded by saying that he was reading an NIV Bible. The other man replied, "Oh, you mean the non-inspired Version (NIV)." The young man reading his Bible said that he had never heard anyone refer to the NIV like that before. The young reader was trying to appease the man and said, "I also have an ESV and an NLT which I enjoy reading." The KJV-only advocate responded by laughing and sarcastically telling this young man that he should not be reading the Evil Satanic Version (ESV) either. The conversation went on for a bit. Standing there watching this take place ticked me off. I used to be guilty of doing this very thing under the guise of speaking the Truth. This inspired me to be more outspoken and to add a KJV-only discussion to my website. I did apologize to this young man for the unfortunate hatefulness of the KJV-only advocate and told him that he was an encouragement to me. I was guilty of false followship in this belief system (KJV only). Regrettably, back in the day, I was also out in the world bashing other Believers for reading anything other than the KJV. 😩
There is a drive in every religious group (Morman, Jehovah's witness, Muslim, etc.) to have a single black-and-white text and have no questions about it. But that is just not how God gave us the bible. No two Greek manuscripts read identically to one another. The King James Translators had to make choices (with uncertainty) between the available text, which can be seen in their footnotes. The manuscripts available at the time of the KJV translators were far fewer than we have today. Click the button to watch a great discussion on this topic. ✒ 📜