In the secular world obscurity corrodes. In the church obscurity corrodes.
In Canada, Members of Parliament blessed themselves with an exorbitant pension plan, better than almost all taxpayers. Very few canadians know they pay six dollars for every MP’s one dollar contribution. (In the private sector the common rate is one-to-one.) Further, the guaranteed (!) profit on the investment of their pension funds is more than ten percent per annum, resulting in an actual cost of twenty-three dollars for the taxpayer for every dollar the politician pays. (See note # 1.)
The ruling class, whoever and wherever, often provide themselves with extravagant benefits and perks. They take better care of themselves than those they serve. Obscurity works well for them.
In Christ’s church there is a ruling class; controllers, not the Lord Jesus, made it so.
Most churches, evangelical and otherwise, are divided into two groups which could be referred to as the ministerial (or clergy) and the laity (laymen). (Or the controllers and the controlled. Or the credentialed and the non-credentialed. Or the salaried and the unsalaried. Or the titled and the non-titled.) These two groups could also be categorized as pulpit people and pew people.
In many stores there is a dark glass window whereby workers in the office can see you but you can’t see them. Behind that glass there’s a lot of business happenings, decisions being made, and people giving undetected oversight to shoppers, especially alert for shoplifters. Metaphorically, that same glass separates pulpit people from pew people. It’s easy for pulpit people to monitor the lives of pew people, but difficult for pew people to observe pulpit people. This one-sided obscurity gives leverage to those in leadership.
In a pastor-layman relationship leverage naturally tilts to the pastor. The pastor is significant, the layman comparatively insignificant. (See note # 2.) The layman comes to the pastor; the pastor doesn’t come to him. The pastor is the understanding father; the layman is the son in need of validation. The one is practiced at managing people, the warm and generous teacher quite willing to help his struggling pupil. The layman will often need the pastor’s endorsement, the pastor doesn’t need his. Esteem and trust flow in one direction, patience and magnanimity the other. (See note # 3.)
Because of the one-sided obscurity, and because of the unhealthy, lopsided (and non-Scriptural) relationship between pulpit people and pew people, there is constant danger of abuse. Shepherds can (and often do) fleece the naïve sheep unnoticed. Yes, unnoticed. It is not uncommon for a congregation of mostly five-figure annual wage earners to unknowingly pay the pulpit people a six-figure salary.
If pew people were given special glasses to see through that darkened window, they would be surprised (shocked?) to know ‘they’ are no more spiritual that ‘us’. Sure, they have heard of the occasional pastor falling into adultery, but they have no idea just how frequent adultery (etcetera) occurs among the licensed and titled (perhaps equal to that of the non-licensed and non-titled). Emotional breakdown among pulpit people is more common than most are aware. As is dysfunctional family life, divorce, addiction to drugs and alcohol and pornography. As is jealousy and resentment and unforgiveness. As is loneliness and discouragement and unbelief. As is competition for larger congregations.
Those in leadership are more knowledgeable of the Bible, but not necessarily more faithful to Christ. In unison they protect and fortify another way. (No serious student of The Word would conclude that evangelicalism is in harmony with New Testament writings.) In unison they hide behind that dark glass, pretending all is better than it is. In unison they maneuver pew people into submission to their denominational/ecclesiastical lords, and away from the lordship of Jesus. In a dispute, leadership often puts the welfare of fellow shepherds above that of the sheep – while other shepherds say and do nothing. (See note # 4.)
There are Scripture verses frozen in fuzziness because pulpit people avoid them. When is the last time you heard, “Freely you have received, freely give”? Subjects such as tithing should be revisited, this time hearing from both sides of the argument, not only from those depending on the tithe for their salary.
There has always been a remedy for dysfunctional evangelicalism: transparency.
Transparency verses obscurity…. it’s a grave matter. Obscurity assures abuse. Which hinders the Holy Spirit. Which lessens the power of any church. Which (please get this) results in heaven being less populated.
Transparency assures little or no abuse. Which unfetters the Holy Spirit. Which keeps the church strong. Which (please get this) results in heaven being more populated.
Note # 1: This information supplied by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation
Note # 2: I asked a friend if he remembered playing badminton with me about thirty years ago, a one-time occasion; understandably he didn’t. I then asked if he remembers playing badminton with the pastor of our church previous to playing with me, also a one-time occasion; he did.
Note # 3: Please pardon the needful generalities.
Note # 4: Many righteous, unselfish men and women are pulpit people. But the same is true of pew people. After some contemplation, I made a list of the top twenty people who I have known personally over four decades of christianity, whose spirituality I most admired. Of the twenty, four are licensed.