There is a rash of well-meaning teachers today who have gone way beyond that which is biblical and have clearly jumped the gun in claiming to be pastors when in fact they are not. They have failed to be patient and have failed to wait on God to further their teaching ministries His way, as He would see fit and in His timing. In addition to declaring themselves to be pastors, most of these teachers have built so-called “churches” for themselves (or have taken over an existing church) so that they not only have a built-in audience to teach to, but also have a lucrative source of donation money and volunteer time. This gives them an unfair advantage in furthering their private ministries as a teacher and this seems to be one of the most common results of a desire for gain and a hunger for power within the church.
Nevertheless, some of these men are truly gifted teachers (on some theological subjects), but because they are not genuine pastors (or elders, a synonymous term), they have no right to take on that role as well, regardless of how much they want it or how much they think there is a legitimate “need” for them to do so. Therefore when it comes to being a pastor, teachers who are not really pastors and yet stand in the role of a pastor anyway are imposters in that role plain and simple. And, because these men are at best only teachers, they leave the church starving for genuine pastoral care.
Starving For a Real Pastor
This lack of a real pastor usually leaves church members (who at least recognize the problem) in search of a spiritual father (or father figure as some might say), a true friend in Christ. And with it being so difficult or nearly impossible to find such a man, many Christians are starving for the friendship, shared life, time, care, attentions, mentoring and discipling of a real loving pastor who sticks closer than a (biological) brother.
The Apostle Paul said it best when he pointed out that we have ten thousand teachers (meaning a countless number of cold, relationally distant instructors), yet very few true caring spiritual fathers, or as in the case of the Corinthians themselves, only one spiritual father, Paul himself:
“For though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you have not many fathers...” 1Cor 4:15a
A Natural Longing
It seems that most Christians have a longing for the closeness and camaraderie of a true pastor. In trying to fill this void, many Christians jump through all kinds of unnecessary and even dangerous hoops and often end up settling for an imposter-teacher or worse a total counterfeit. And so it is through this very desire for a pastor that many Christians find themselves exploited, abused, robbed and cemented into bad churches or bouncing from one bad church to another in search of a spiritual father. Outright false teachers, hardcore hirelings and even some decent well-meaning teachers take incredibly wild advantage of this tendency and parlay it into massive power and control over millions of naïve and unwary Christians.
Now this longing for a pastor in itself is a good thing if kept in check and in proper biblical balance, but we must face facts. We have a famine of real pastors today and an abundance of teachers, be they good or bad. It is what it is. This is the status quo. This being the irrefutable case, Christians need to temporarily or permanently redirect this normal longing for a pastor so as not to become the next (or ongoing) victim of an unhealthy church. This is simply to help them to not be driven into the unloving grip of a hijacked church and becoming emotionally tied to such people.
Many Christians believe that a true church can be dominated and controlled by a pastor and so they remain confused and trapped. This is simply not the case. There is a big difference between a true church of Christ that follows God and a congregation that follows a man. If a church is of Christ, then Christ must be the Head, not just in lip service but in reality
The Sheep Are Scattered
Regardless if an imposter pastor has good intentions or bad, and regardless if he can teach well or not, the fact remains that those who do not seek God and do their own thing cause God's people to be scattered, similar to how this problem existed in Israel before the New Testament church was formed:
“For the pastors are become brutish, and have not sought the LORD: therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered.” Jeremiah 10:21
“Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness. 11They have made it desolate, and being desolate it mourns unto me; the whole land is made desolate, because no man lays it to heart.” Jeremiah 12:10-11
“Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the LORD. 2Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; You have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, says the LORD. 3And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. 4And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, says the LORD.” Jer 23: 1-4 [Note: the word “over” mentioned here refers to a watch over not a control over.]
What Can Be Done?
Well, there is not a lot that any of us can do to stop the proliferation of this problem. Men who desire to be kings are still going to do what they want regardless. But we can prevent ourselves and those who will listen to us from becoming (or remaining) victims. The following passage is God's answer regarding brutish pastors. This passage follows right after the verses quoted above:
“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. 6In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Jer 23: 5-6
As their was hope for Judah and Israel, there is hope for us today. And our hope is in Jesus as King! But, the key is we must follow Him! We do this by following the commands that He gave directly or through His Apostles, and by rejecting the commands of imposters regardless of whether they mean well or not. The results of abuse are the same regardless of the intentions of the abuser.
Be Careful Not To Throw The Baby Out With The Bathwater
Christians who come out of an abusive church system and join (or start) a smaller home fellowship often throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to pastors. They sometimes reject the biblical concept of the pastoral role altogether. This is not surprising because bad pastors make even good pastors look suspect. Nevertheless, the answer to a bad pastor is not no pastor, but a good pastor, unless of course no good pastor is available.
Some home groups cater to the wrong mindset here and not only operate without a pastor, they also take an active militant stand against all pastors in general, even good pastors. This is a wrong and detrimental view. People like this have typically had bad experiences with one or more authoritarian regimes and are rightfully fed up with all the politics and are tired of all the nonsense. But nevertheless, they have gone too far and have over-corrected all the way into a ditch on the other side of the problem.
It is true that having no pastor is certainly better than having a false pastor, but if a true selfless pastor is available, a pastor who has no agenda and who would be a true friend in Christ, then to reject such a person would be very foolish indeed. If God sends such a man your way, hang on to him like the pure gold that he is.
Above all don't fall into the trap of going on a pilgrimage or quest to find such a man. You will most likely be sadly disappointed and tossed from one bad situation to another and constantly being tempted to join yet anther cult of personality in hopes of finding a spiritual “dad”.
Should the opportunity arise, it is very important to do your due diligence and make sure that anyone claiming to be a pastor is in fact a genuine biblical pastor. The Scriptures command us to test and prove all things (and this include the claims of men):
“Prove [test] all things; hold fast to that which is good.” 1Thess 5:21