Soldiers in the Ministry

C.J. Mahaney and John MacArthur both respect the pastor of the small church. I appreciate what they both say in this blog post,

Soldiers in the Ministry.

I’ve learned that the things MacArthur talks about in that post—betrayal, disloyalty, behind-the-back criticism of pastors—are a good argument for why local churches should adhere to a biblical form of church governance. Most of my experience has been with board governance (where a group of leaders are elected to oversee the church’s affairs). In some such examples, the board might consist of either men or women (but I’ll leave the discussion of gender roles for another time). In a biblical model, the local church is led by a group of elders qualified according to passages like 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. These two models might appear to be very similar, but the difference is on the qualifications of elders. My experience has taught me the importance of these qualifications.

MacArthur said,

“When I talk about loving loyalty, I mean when there is an issue that needs to be addressed you go eyeball-to-eyeball, man-to-man, and you confront it. And I love that. I love when guys come to me and say, “John, I think this is a problem. I think you are overlooking this. I think this is a misstep on your part.” Those are the men I cherish. Those are the men I pull to my heart.”

Amen. I too have enjoyed the rich growth that happens only when a friend is truly loving enough to confront and point to areas of sin or immaturity in my life. But it is important that elders who undertake this kind of loving ministry to their pastor are qualified according to Scripture. Here’s an example:

He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it (Titus 1:9).

This point of qualification goes a long way toward protecting pastors from being “lovingly confronted” in a wrong way or over wrong issues by well-meaning church leaders. Every pastor has, from time to time, “problems”, things he’s “overlooking”, or “missteps” on which he needs to be lovingly confronted. But it is crucial that this be handled in a biblical way.

God is so good to gift local churches with men and women willing to serve in leadership within local churches. My prayer is that He will continue to equip and enlighten such leaders with sound biblical understanding and sound biblical practice so that they can strengthen and support the ministry of small-church pastors. When dysfunction in the local church undermines this ministry, no one wins (except the Devil). The results can include broken relationships, disillusioned church members, embittered pastors, wounded church leaders, etc.

Even in cases where dysfunction reaps its harvest of hurt, however, the local church is God’s Church. The Senior Pastor is none other than Jesus Christ. The quickening spirit is none other than God’s Holy Spirit. He will never give up on His sheep. He will never leave His Bride. As it is written,

“…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:25-27 ESV).