To step into the pulpit carries a great responsibility for any man. The very thought of preaching the Word to God’s elect should buckle a man’s knees. The Word should be preached with careful study, passion and love; yet we see it often discarded for theatrics to draw a crowd. We see the Word of God used as a motivational tool, instead of a tool for the sinner. Preachers have slipped away from the call of God and turned to pleasing the world. The church has lost it’s focus on the requirements of becoming a pastor and opened its doors to a circus act. Preachers today use any gimmick they can whether it’s a water gun or rapping today’s hot songs to draw a crowd. Churches have deviated from preaching Christ to promoting selfism, and people are flocking in.
Today’s churches seem to take just about anyone who says they want to preach without carefully evaluating that person. This is exemplified by the many churches holding to bad theology, and even rank heresy. Motivational speakers have been sought after more than true men of God. We see preachers now pushing a new form of religion, selfism. They make the sermons about the audience, and how God wants them to be happy, wealthy, healthy etc., and leave the Gospel out entirely. While in certain circumstances, preaching about happiness isn’t heretical, the twisting of Scripture for the purpose of satisfying carnal desires is.
Preachers will consistently take verses about happiness and manipulate them to the point that their audience truly thinks that God has great things in store for them. Take Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, ’declares the LORD,‘ plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” These teachers use verses like these to apply them to Christians today, saying that God will make you prosperous, and has a wonderful plan for your future. If proper exegesis was applied to this verse, we would note that Jeremiah was actually writing to those who were under captivity in Babylon. It was a promise to the Israelites, not to Christians today.
So, the big question is, why are these preachers allowed into the pulpit to preach a fluffy gospel? The answer is staring us right in the face. People want to have their ears tickled, and they come in droves, and pour money into these ministries. Some of the most popular Word of Faith preachers are worth an excess of 10 million dollars. They live a lavish lifestyle, and travel on private jets all over the world. These preachers proclaim that God has “blessed” them and He’ll do the same to you, all you need to do is sow that financial seed now or repeat this chant. The unfortunate issue is, many of these people are not being taught who Jesus is, what the Gospel is, but they are being led to believe that God will bend to their every command. When preachers use verses such as John 14:14, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it,” these are dangerous to listeners. They may think that God is a genie itching to get rubbed out of his bottle, just sitting by waiting to grant any wish, but the verses before and after are showing us just the opposite.
We must be living in accordance to God’s will and be diligent in keeping His commandments. It is easy to fall into the trap of easy believism, where a few verses are used to establish a narrative. These preachers have violated God’s Law and will in the end be punished for leading God’s flock astray. God has set the standards that churches should follow when evaluating a person for the office of pastor. Rules have been established all the way back from the Old Testament, with Aaron being the first high priest, and the subsequent model of the New Testament pastor. The Bible has explicit instructions and commands on the type of person that should be standing in the pulpit. To be a man of God, in charge of a flock, carries the greatest responsibility a man could be given. It should be a decision not taken lightly. When men follow the call of God placed on their hearts, prayer must be their first task. They must discern the calling and be able to attribute this to a divine certainty. Vocational ministry isn’t for the faint of heart, there will be struggles and challenges, but the reward is greater than any earthly prize.
Examining scripture, we find many areas that talk in depth about how a pastor should conduct himself inside and outside the pulpit. Life outside of the pulpit should be conducted with just as much regard as when we preach. In 1 Timothy 3:1-13, we see distinguishing elements of how pastors should live. They must be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable and able to teach. They must not be a drunkard nor violent, but gentle, not quarrelsome and guess what… not a lover of money. Essentially, a man that steps into the pulpit must meet these requirements, or they are disqualified from preaching the word of God.
For the circus acts that are performed now, we know that these are not real men of God, they are false teachers. The Apostle Peter clearly addresses them in 2 Peter 2. With the world pulling people in so many directions, and even infiltrating the church, we are seeing more and more men waiver on these, from divorce, to drunkenness, or outburst of anger and violence. We’ve allowed the world to influence us and shape the direction of the church.
Men in the pulpit not only have a high calling to shepherd God’s flock, but to shepherd their families as well. In verse 2 of Paul’s first letter to Timothy, the pastor is required to be faithful to his wife. In verse 4 Paul writes that the pastor must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him and that he-the pastor-must do so in a manner worthy of respect.
With divorce rates at 20% greater than Americans with non-religious affiliations, we can see how we’ve allowed ourselves to slip from what the Bible teaches and fall into the pattern of the world. The pastor’s number one duty should be to his family. For how can a man take care of God’s family if he can’t fulfill the demands of his own? If a man is not able to faithfully lead his family in God’s ordained ways, he will not be equipped nor qualified to lead the family of God.
Moving from outside the pulpit to the inside. 2 Timothy 4:2 lays it out as plainly as possible, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage- with great patience and careful instruction.” We must have a desire to continue to read and study the Word of God, always looking to help guide our congregations, no matter the season. The pastor or elder (synonyms) is required to be an apologist, always ready to give an answer and a defense. Acts 20:28, “Keep watch over yourself and all of the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with His own blood.” A man of God must be protective of the sheep, driving away the wolves, yet gentle enough to help and encourage those in his congregation. The Church is facing attacks from every level, but the hardest to subdue come from inside. Whether it is weak or lukewarm theology being taught, or outright heresy, the church faces difficulties when the pastor is lacking in any area. Which is why, the descriptions from 1 Timothy 3 are crucial, so that the pastor is above reproach and doesn’t allow for heresy to arise or be preached from their pulpit.
So where do we go from here? We’ve looked at the circus acts that are plaguing American churches and read through the requirements of the office of pastor. Seminaries will unfortunately continue to allow anyone who can pay in, but churches themselves need to stand firm in discerning who they hire. James 3:1 says it best; Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” We have a high calling, and thus should be able to meet the requirements before performing these roles. The role of pastor isn’t for everyone either. We must spend countless hours in prayer before discerning this task. If you desire to become a pastor because of the lavish lifestyles you see on TBN, then you are not teaching for the sake of Christ, but for the sake of your wallet.
Written by Alex Zenk, @reformed_lifestyle