(See note.) ‘Pastor’ John is a man of divided loyalties. He is a product of both the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, which he has studied more than most, and the denomination that schooled, trained and certified him.
It was his proven willingness to cooperate that procured him the position of pastor of Bread of Life Assembly, and he is determined to prove himself faithful to those above him. There is much pressure on John to conform to That’s Just The Way It Is!, and to lead others into conformity. Like the plumber and the doctor in the congregation, he needs that paycheck to feed his wife and kids. And like the plumber and doctor he has no desire to change his occupation.
John has his eye on a larger congregation. The bigger the church, the better the pay and benefits. He wants to be a good provider for his growing family, and there’s retirement to think about. But the competition is heavy; he must prove himself responsible to those higher in rank or his chances of advancement will decrease.
‘Pastor’ John is a connecting door between two spiritual spheres, one being the denomination that endorsed him, the other the assembly he serves. Whereas the ‘laity’ lives in one world, John lives in two. From the one he is sent, to the other he has arrived. The one has trained him, the other is his ministry. The one has his loyalty, the other his energy. He listens to one, he speaks to the other. His peers and friends live in one sphere, his followers in the other. The perspective he receives from one he passes on to the other.
John’s ‘ministerial’ realm is exclusive to fellow ‘ministers’ and the people John serves. Most in the ‘laity’ do not know how the denomination operates — its bylaws and governing process. People will never meet those who make decisions that, through ‘Pastor’ John, affect their lives. There is a wide gap between the two spiritual worlds, bridged only by ‘Pastor’ John.
‘Pastor’ John is five feet, eight inches tall (about average). If, spiritually speaking, he were five foot eight, he would be much taller, about six foot six, in the sight of the congregation. And growing.
Every time he ministers behind the pulpit, he increases in their sight. He becomes wiser, more discerning, more anointed, more favored. Bigger, increasingly bigger. Such is the power of the pulpit. To the wife he is bigger than husband; to the children dad and mom are comparatively spiritual midgets.
On Sunday morning ‘Pastor’ John steps to the pulpit. This is his hour. He is meticulously attired in his suit-and-tie uniform, hair recently trimmed, shoes polished. He has been trained for this hour, he has had much practice, he has prayed, he is ready to go.
John breaks his sermon into three easy-to-remember points. He raises and lowers his voice and inserts a few jokes to keep monotony from setting in. He is an impressive, authoritative figure. He is practiced, poised, professional. Preaching over, he has grown in stature in the sight of his listeners.
And the people have imperceptibly shrunk in their own valuation. As John becomes bigger, they become smaller — less wise, less anointed, less valued. And more subservient to this man who obviously has a special position in God.
John does not often preach “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” He speaks of principles and keys and responsibilities and works and being good enough. But rarely Jesus.
John has taken various courses in psychology that will help obtain promotions within the sphere of the way it is which provides his livelihood. Since there is a mixture in John’s heart, there is a mixture in his message. And since there is a blend in his preaching/teaching, there is a mixture in the hearts of the assembly. The Jesus he presents to Bread of Life is not New Testament Jesus, not the miracle-working Jesus, not Christ the Healer. Whereas Paul’s preaching was not “with persuasive words” or “excellence of speech”, but “in demonstration of the Spirit and in power”, John’s preaching is void of power but dependent on “excellence of speech”.
The preaching is different because the men are different because their relationship with Christ is different. Paul was a bondservant of Christ; John is a man of divided loyalties, trying to serve both Christ and the way it is.
John is not less spiritual than most, perhaps even more so. He didn’t create the way it is; he is, in part, its product. He is a victim of victims. He is in bondage to those in bondage. When he stands before Christ at the judgment seat he will have an assortment of “gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, and straw”, just like the rest of us.
I know of some who sit in the office of pastor who have a passion for Christ that is far above my own. But the point is this: ‘Pastor’ Whoever should not be idolized. Pastor-worship is sin. Though the way it is has made him to appear to be something he is not, the Word teaches that he is simply a brother, spiritually taller than some, shorter than others. He is not “Reverend”. He is not your pastor.
If this book were addressed to christian catholics, I would tell them that they must refute man-worship — the priest, bishop, cardinal, pope. I would tell them that there is a reverence that is good in God’s sight, a reverence for each other on the basis of who we are in Christ. And I would tell them that there is a reverence that is unsanctified, one that lifts one brother above another, based on position established by the way it is.
I would tell them that we are all priests unto God, and that God did not appoint someone to make sacrifices on their behalf. There is one High Priest, and under Him we are all equal in His sight. There is no ‘clergy’; there is no ‘laity’. And you, looking from the outside, can see clearly that such homage to man is sin. How much easier it is to see the flaws of other faiths.
Do not make the same mistake. Your Bible teaches that partiality is sin. Allegiance to non-Biblical traditions is disloyalty to Jesus Christ. Do not let your heart be a mixture, a blending of the way it is and the Word of God. Commit yourself to the Bible, God’s lone authoritative Word, and to the lordship of the “Spirit of truth”.
Note: This is an excerpt from The Way It Is…. Confronting Evangelical Traditions (available at larryjones.ca).