I have been a pastor for a long time and I know the sins of leadership. I know our attitudes are not correct before the Lord. I have sat with pastors as we have talked about our numbers, how we are unappreciated and over worked. I have sat through seminars dealing with the business of church. I know what it is like walking away from meetings with other pastors where we discussed everything but the condition of our souls and relationship with the Lord. I know what it is to sit in a council of elders where there is fighting and bickering over the colour of the bathroom. I have experienced what it is like to meet with leaders who would rather discuss the problem of the noisy children instead of their spiritual condition. It is sad; was sad, because a lot has changed for me.
I realize that it is wrong to take the prophets out of context but I found this verse fitting for what I have experienced taking place among the shepherds:
For the shepherds have become dull-hearted,
And have not sought the Lord;
Therefore they shall not prosper,
And all their flocks shall be scattered. (Jeremiah 10:21)
I have no doubt that this is exactly what is going to happen in the coming years as being a Christian starts to cost us something. As society turns on us we are either going to see the gospel compromised behind the pulpit in order to hold on to the immature flock or we are going to see the numbers dwindle even faster. Many churches will close because pastors and elders have failed to bring the congregation into maturity; into the fullness of Jesus. They were too busy managing and entertaining; too busy hanging out with other leaders and learning about leadership to spend time with the sheep, disciplining and maturing. So when the testing fires hit, it will all be burned up. It is going to be embarrassing showing up for eternity empty handed.
There is one verse here in Jeremiah that explains much of what I have been through lately and with which I am still wrestling. It makes the entire difference of who is the head of the church: the pastor, the elders, the denomination, or Jesus:
O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself;
It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps. (v. 23)
How can under-shepherds teach this to the flock if they don't see themselves in a role of an under-shepherd but instead the manager? Imagine if every church was not managed by the church budget committee but instead by the Holy Spirit. Imagine if the spiritual direction was not managed by the pastor or spiritual growth committee but instead by the Holy Spirit. Imagine if the vision projected for the church wasn't what man's idea of what Jesus wanted but was actually that of Jesus Christ. Imagine if every pastor realized that they were not the captains of their own destiny but they were merely servants directed by the Spirit. Imagine every pastor realizing that and spending several hours in prayer each day knowing it was the only acceptable way to begin their day; receiving instructions from the real head of the Church.
Too many spiritual leaders fail to give prayer their priority or try to cram it in between meetings thinking it is good enough. Far too many pastors are walking around empty, trying to give out what they do not possess. They are dry bones because they have failed to see themselves under Jesus, dependent on him, needing quality quantity time alone with him. The sooner we pastors better understand our true position and the importance of seeking the Lord, the sooner we will begin to see true maturity developing in our flocks. But we don't have a lot of time, those flames are getting higher.