It is our goal as Christians is to grow up into Jesus Christ, seek after His will and to please Him. We should desire to get closer to Him and Him alone with regards to growing spiritually. It is not our commission to get closer to our church, our pastor or seek to be connected to Christ through a church or pastor. Our ministry and gifts should be unto Jesus Christ and Him alone. Men will fail us, churches will pass, but Jesus Christ and His love will endure forever.
Lets take a look at what Jesus instructed us to do (ESV).
18 And Jesus came and said to them “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Here we are asked to go make disciples of Jesus Christ and instructing them in His teachings.
Let us look at what the different ministries and gifts of the church are. You’ll find that these ministries are for the edification of the church and are to be used equip the saints for the work of ministry.
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
NOTE: There is 1 reference to the word “pastor” in the New Testament and its in the King James Version and the New King James Version. In the ESV “pastors” is translated as “shepherds”.
The main purpose of the ministry and gifts within the body of Christ is to edify the church and help us grow up into Christ. Take notice that Jesus did not command us to go forth and create denominations or churches (we’ll look at this a bit later). We are also not asked to go and make disciples of ourselves or instruct others in our own teachings, but rather to create Disciples of Christ.
13until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Paul dealt with divisions surrounding this very issue in his letter to the church of Corinth. The church was divided because they were uplifting and following after certain men, rather than Jesus Christ. Paul instructs the Corinthians not to even following after him and states that he (Paul) was not crucified for them. He also writes to them that he did not come to preach to sound wise and further states that his speech and message were in the demonstration of the Spirit, so that their faith would not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Paul makes it very clear that we are to follow after Jesus and not be caught up with following men (it’s all about Jesus).
1 Corinthians 1:10-17
10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else. 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Paul discusses his role discipling Apollos and points out that it was God who gave Apollos growth and not he, stating that only God gives growth.
1 Corinthians 3:6-7
6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
The reason Paul is so adamant about this issue is that it is our human nature to idolize objects and people. We often think of idolatry as a little graven idol of gold, but in truth idolatry is anything we set before God, and lift up to adore instead of Jesus. Our goal as Christians is then to please God and not man.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.
Does this discount the role of a pastor in our lives? By no means, but let us put the role of the pastor in our lives in context with what the Bible teaches leadership is to and for us. From what we have just read we know that leadership is to shepherd us, help us grow up into Christ and teach us to be disciples of Jesus, not disciples of themselves.
Jesus also instructed in the role of leadership, and said that we are not to rule over each other and to create servants of our brethren, for the role of leadership is to serve and not to be served.
42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
Many take Hebrews 13:17-18 out of context, and neglect to apply it in context of what Christ said in the book of Mark and Luke with regards to ruling over one another and overlook the rest of the passage within the book of Hebrews.
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. 18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things.
If we apply this within context of the scriptures, we see that authority and leadership is not about the authority of a man, but the authority of the Word of God. Our leaders are to be heard and listened to for speaking God’s word, and for having a good life and walk with Christ. Obedience here is used in the context of imitating the faith and the lives of our leaders. It is not about going beyond what is written or submitting to the self-imposed doctrines of men, rather it is about maintaining the uncompromised doctrine of Jesus Christ as they lead others. Paul also instructs not to get caught up arguing opinions and words because it creates divisions.
8 “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”
1 Corinthians 1:10
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.
1 Corinthians 4:6
I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.
For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.
2 Timothy 2:14
Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.
There are some that would argue that we need the authority, headship or covering of a pastor to tell us what to do or rule over us or to be blessed. You can see from these scriptures that this is not the case. The word “headship” is not found in the Bible in any translation and the only covering we find in the Bible with regards to a man’s authority is the covering of a father/husband over his home. Jesus Christ is our only covering, and because He died for us we are covered by His blood, redeemed by His grace, and He is the only mediator between God and man.
1 Timothy 2:5
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus
Romans 3:23-25, 27-28
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places
For some their devotion is to their church and their faith contingent on a building. Understand that Christ did not call us to a church building, but unto Him. We are the body of Christ, we are the church, and by this I mean that we are the entire body of Christ; thus we are and cannot be limited by church buildings, pastors, affiliations or denominations.
Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to Him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.
so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
I am not saying that churches are bad or that we don’t need church; we should get together, worship together, fellowship with one another, and hear teachings, but let us not forget that our servitude, devotion and faith should be with Jesus Christ first. Our ministries are for Christ through whom all blessings flow.