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Theology Thursday: The Invisible Pastor

The Steve Noble Show / Steve Noble
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February 2, 2023 12:20 pm

Theology Thursday: The Invisible Pastor

The Steve Noble Show / Steve Noble

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February 2, 2023 12:20 pm

Theology Thursday: The Invisible Pastor

Steve talks to Dr. Greg Stiekes from BJU Seminary to talk about pastors of smaller churches who don’t try to be popular.

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The following program is recorded content created by Truth Network. If you're a betting man, I would be willing to bet you that my pastor has more Twitter followers than your pastor. Now, I'm not boasting in that.

I'm just speaking, just stating a fact. I'm pretty sure my pastor has more Twitter followers than your pastor. I'm also pretty sure that my pastor probably has more Facebook friends, followers on this particular person's Facebook page than your pastor. And then I think my pastor probably has more name recognition around the country than your pastor. And there's a decent chance, because there's still a whole lot of churches out there, there's about 260,000 churches in America, but the average-sized church, get this, you probably don't know this, the average-sized church in America is still less than 100 people. So the average church in America, about 93, 94 people, a lot of those pastors probably aren't on Twitter, probably don't have a following on Instagram, probably aren't even on Instagram, and probably have absolutely no name recognition outside of their small local church.

So which one's better? Is the smaller one, by definition, more holy, more godly, more New Testament compliant than the big guy with the big following and a bunch of people know his name and he's got private security and this, that, and the other thing? Which one's better from God's perspective? And what do we do in the New Testament just in dealing with pastor? And an interesting question that we'll touch on today with Dr. Greg Stikes, who's back in the house, professor of New Testament theology at Bob Jones Seminary down in beautiful Greenville, South Carolina. Odds are pretty good that your pastor is what Greg would call an invisible pastor. And if you go into the pages of the New Testament, how many pastors can you name from the New Testament? How many pastors do we have in the New Testament? So big, well-known or not known at all.

Which one perhaps is more pleasing to the Lord? Dr. Greg Stikes, welcome back to the show. How are you? Doing really well, Steve. Thanks so much for having me. You're welcome.

Thanks for being here. So this one, how did this, now you're a pastor yourself. How do you kind of begin to think about this and the invisible pastor? Because, you know, obviously there's some household names and they get endorsements on their books and they endorse other people's books. And then when you look at somebody, which is kind of funny, you mentioned John Piper, who in the evangelical world is kind of a household name himself. But he writes a book called Brothers, We Are Not Professionals. So is there something wrong if a pastor happens to be gifted enough that he can manage and build a giant organization and has a bunch of different people and different sites and he travels around the country?

I mean, I love this topic, but how did this one kind of get on the radar screen for you? Well, I think just really in thinking through the New Testament and the role of a pastor, I teach pastoral theology in the seminary here. It just struck me one day that I really wasn't able to name hardly any pastors in the New Testament, even though this office that we call the pastor is such a big deal to us. And we know that churches need pastors and God calls pastors.

We talk about that all the time. But who really were the pastors who modeled pastoral ministry for us in the New Testament that we can follow? And if you start thinking about it, there really are very few you can name. And in the blog post I wrote for a day, I challenged people, name a pastor in the New Testament if you can think of him.

And just to sort of jump on your query a little bit, is one better than the other today? Is one wrong? And I think guys like John Piper, who wrote that great book on pastoral ministry, would say, no, not necessarily at all. God certainly takes men and uses them who are walking very humbly with him.

And they're meeting a lot of needs and people are helped and so forth. And they get a little more name recognition than somebody else. But to your point, there are hundreds and hundreds and thousands of pastors that nobody will ever know.

Nobody will ever care what they're doing. And they're faithful men who are doing God's will in that church. And if you look at the pastors in the New Testament, it seems to me that that model is more what you see in the New Testament than the ones who have the big name recognition. Yeah, yeah, because you write the letter to the church in Ephesus to Pastor MacArthur at the Church of Ephesus. Well, no, they never mentioned the pastor. And just as we set this up, Greg, to unpack for the rest of the show, it makes me think of kind of the issue of piety and Christians shouldn't be known for our extravagance.

Perhaps we should be much more known for our restraint. But then you go down that road and you go, OK, should a Christian buy a brand new blingy car? Well, perhaps you shouldn't buy a new car, but you should buy a used car. And should your used car be is a couple of years old, old enough to satisfy you, or should you buy a jalopy? And if your car costs thirteen thousand dollars, perhaps what you should really do is buy a car that costs ten thousand dollars.

And ultimately, maybe you should be on a skateboard, Greg, because that would be you denying yourself. Ultimately, you see what I see my point there is like this slippery slope that how do we look at this? The bigger the the bigger the church, the better the pastor, the more blessed they are, because I think you can have some really big churches with really bad pastors. Yeah, I think you can make a slippery slope basically out of anything there, which which means that there's an area you're talking about where you have to exercise a lot of discernment. I know, at least from a lot of experience, that when people who are in the ministry are buying all those very expensive, flashy things.

Yeah. There are a lot of people who are kind of just kind of, you know, looking and talking to each other. And it's a distraction, I think, from the ministry. And we teach men in the seminary. You've got to go out, you've got to serve the Lord, you've got to sacrifice and so forth. And I feel like we need to be modeling for the men after us in the next generation what that actually looks like.

So, no, it's not bad to have things, but I think we need to exercise some restraint and some caution and do things with moderation. Yes. So we'll continue to unpack this on Theology Thursday with Dr. Greg Stikes, who's the professor of New Testament at Bob Jones Seminary. And we'll get into this and considering invisible pastors and most likely there's a good chance your pastor is one of those. Doesn't have big name recognition outside of your church.

And what does the New Testament say about the office of the pastor anyway? We'll go down all these roads. When we come back, I want to start a really powerful quote. You referenced this in the blog post today, Greg, from Howard Snyder, who wrote a book about 50 years ago.

The problem of wineskins. And he wrote a chapter chapter called Must the Pastor Be a Superstar? We'll start there when we come back right after this. Welcome back at Steve Noble, The Steve Noble Show, Theology Thursday with our friends at Bob Jones Seminary talking today about, well, might be your pastor, might not, the invisible pastor and invisible pastors, which are the vast majority. I mentioned this earlier, you know, 300,000, roughly 300,000 churches in America, the average church in America, still about 93, 94 people. So if your pastor has 50,000 people following them on Twitter, that is highly abnormal. That is a don't read too much into this. That's a freak show relative to what most pastors are, which is kind of invisible, which is what we're talking to Dr. Greg Stikes about today.

And we'll look at that. You know, how do you even use the New Testament to consider a pastor? Is the pastor super important because you move to a new town, you're going to switch churches. One of the first questions you asked about the pastor and if there's a well-known pastor at the church, you're probably and me, we're probably going to gravitate to that. Most of the pastors I've sat on under for the last 25 years have been large churches, a thousand plus and certainly well-known within their own church, but also well-known in their own community and some of them well-known around the country. And is that by definition wrong if you've got kind of a quote unquote rock star superstar pastor? And if you have a pastor that there's only 90 or 100 people at your church, nobody knows who your pastor is.

Does that mean they're not blessed somehow? And then how many pastors can you actually name from the New Testament? So we're going to unpack a lot of this today. I wanted to go back to this one quote, which I thought was fascinating.

Greg, thanks for your time today from the book that Howard Snyder wrote called The Problem of Wine Skins. And he wrote a chapter. Must the pastor be a superstar?

Here's what he said. I confess my admiration, perhaps slightly tinged with envy, not because of the talent, really the sheer ability, but for the success, the accomplishment. Here is a man who faithfully preaches the word, sees lives transformed by Christ, sees his church growing. What sincere evangelical minister would not like to be in his shoes? Not to mention his parsonage. But he goes on, he says, I think of all the struggling mediocre pastors looking on with holy envy, if there can be such a thing, measuring their own performance by the superstar pastor's success and dropping another notch into discouragement or perhaps self-condemnation.

Finally goes on, says, for after all, the problem is plain, isn't it? The church needs more qualified pastors, better training, more alertness to guiding those talented young men. God may be calling into the ministry, better talent scouting to find the superstars so that we have the average church in America is not ninety four people.

It's five hundred people or a thousand people, because then you have the creme de la creme. Your pastors, you don't have any invisible pastors are all just totally awesome. They're all little mini Charles Spurgeon's or perhaps in this case, Dr. Greg Stikes. But anyway, Greg, Greg, on this particular notion, like I wanted to ask you on a side note, just about the students like at Bob Jones Seminary. How do they wrestle?

Do they come in wrestling? Is their mind settled about here's what a successful pastor looks like versus what a failed pastor look like? And they have they kind of gone along with the evangelical culture that says the bigger the church, the better the pastor? I think you're going to find a mixed bag of students.

Yeah. First of all, you're going to have a lot of international students who come from countries in South America, countries in Africa. And some of them, even in the middle of their training, are back in those countries. And they're they're actually pastoring in these churches. And it is a completely different scene than what we strive for to see in the United States. And they're traveling into these villages and just preaching the gospel.

And so there's not really a chance for that kind of thing. Sometimes they're in countries where you couldn't put your name on the sign or say you're a church, you know, you're known, you're kind of like more of the culture of the New Testament in a way there. But then I think you've got others are coming from, you know, I feel like we're sort of over that curve where there's sort of this glamour shot kind of pastoral ministry where, you know, the pendulum always goes back and forth. And I feel like a lot of the students coming, they understand they just want to see real ministry.

They want to see relationship. And so I think you probably maybe have some of those, you know, starstruck kind of students. And I'm going to go change the world in this kind of thing.

We don't we certainly don't want to, you know, burst that bubble at all. Like take that energy and sharing it. And God can certainly use those them. But I don't get the idea that the students here necessarily have their sights set on this big, glamorous ministry. I think the students that I know are pretty real world about the kinds of churches they're going to be in. And we tell them, you know, you probably would be pastoring, you know, doing another job and pastoring the church at the same time.

Your church is probably not going to be that big. We try to we try to slap them with the reality. And if God takes them up beyond that, we certainly had graduates who have gone to really big situations. Then, you know, praise the Lord for that. Yeah, absolutely. But but we need to teach them what it's probably going to be like for most. They're probably going to be in that in that other in that other group you're talking. Yeah. Well, God calls not just them, but all of us to be faithful and then to leave the results, leave the fruit to him.

And that's just because one looks different than the other doesn't mean it's better or worse. So let's dive into the New Testament, Greg, and and help us plow through the New Testament, just like just even identifying terms in terms of pastoral office. And what can we learn from the scriptures in terms of what a pastor should be and what that should look like? Well, if you're going to identify pastors, the New Testament, first of all, you have to say, well, what are they called? And we use the word pastor, which is the Latin term for shepherd.

And it's interesting. I hadn't really thought about this, actually, even though, you know, I teach pastoral theology a lot. But the only time the title of pastors ever use is in Ephesians four eleven, where Paul says pastors and teachers. And there's even debate about that use because people say, was that pastor teacher?

Is that actually a title? The other time is in First Peter five and in Paul's pastors conference on the on this in the city of Miletus when he calls the Ephesian elders to Miletus. And in both of those contexts, it seems like the author is just using the idea of the shepherd as a metaphor. And of course, Christ is the great shepherd. And you've got the Lord being the shepherd. The Old Testament was a perfect metaphor for for shepherding. But it may be that the New Testament doesn't actually use shepherd as a title, but more of an illustration. Then you've got the term episcopas, which is overseer that's used, I think, five different times in the New Testament. And in the second century, the church fathers, if you read the church fathers, they start they start using that term for the the bishop who would oversee the church is kind of like what Timothy was doing in Ephesus. It was what Titus is doing on the island of Crete. And then the going term for a pastor into the second century and onward was presvuteros, which is elder. And you've got a whole denomination named after that term, the presbytery Presbyterianism. I do not know.

I have not been able to put my hand on. I'm sure somebody knows that's probably one of your listeners even when pastor became to be the term on the rise. Right. I would like to find that out before I publish the final paper here that's going to be coming out of the blog post work. Yeah.

When did that start trending? Yeah. But if we can say, OK, so so elder in the New Testament is the term it's used almost 20 times and it seems to be used as a title. If you start saying, who are the elders in the New Testament? The only ones who are really called elder are James in Acts 15. And all we know is that it says that apostles and elders are there. And we know James is not an apostle, so he must be an elder. He's never directly called an elder, but we're pretty sure he is. And then Peter calls himself a fellow elder in First Peter five. But he's an apostle. And John, if he's the one writing second and third, John, which there's debate about that.

But, you know, Church History says this is John writing these little tiny letters. He says the elder to Gaius and elder to the elect lady. So he calls himself an elder, but he says the elder. Yeah. Is that he's really calling himself a pastor when he says the elder.

Sure. Well, hold that thought. He's the oldest apostle. Yeah. So we hold that thought.

Talking about elders, not a lot of pastors. Where do we go with that? We'll do that next.

We'll be right back. Welcome back at Steve Noble to Steve Noble Show Theology Thursday, as it is every week with our friends at Bob Jones Seminary down in Greenville, South Carolina. Always a blessing to be able to dip into all of the knowledge and wisdom that the Lord has deposited down there and then bring it down to the lower shelf for the rest of us. And that's why it's always such a blessing to have our friends from Bob Jones Seminary on this week. Dr. Greg Stikes back in the house as we talk about the role of the pastor and the title from Theology in 3D today.

The blog post is The Invisible Pastor. The vast majority of them are. Some of our pastors are well known nationally, sometimes even internationally. They have huge ministries, a big staff, multi site church, whatever the case may be. They get a big Twitter following. But a lot of other pastors just really outside of their tiny little flock.

Nobody knows who they are. And so how do you even come up with the term pastor? And we were talking about this earlier, Greg.

And again, thanks for your time today. You know, the word pastor itself really just a couple of times. You don't find it much overseer five times in the New Testament in the main term elder 20 times in the New Testament. And it's usually that's elders. It's plural. So where do we get the notion that in a particular local church, one person should be the teacher versus elders? And so we have like a team of people. We have one church really close to my house actually here in Raleigh.

I can't remember the name of it, but it's elder run. They actually don't have a senior pastor and a different elder. Sensibly, I think every week there could be a different elder that feels moved of the Lord to get up and give a message.

And so it just kind of bounces around. Is that more in line with what we're learning from the New Testament today? Or is it, hey, you've got a senior guy that one of the gifts out there is teaching. Find out who's got it.

Put him in charge. Yeah, well, if we do the New Testament, we have to remember that when you talk about a city like Ephesus or Corinth, that likely you're not going to get all the people that the Bible says we're coming to Christ in one little house. You would have a villa with an atrium. And if you study the architecture of the of the larger houses at that time, you could see how a certain number of people could could fit in there. But so many, especially in Ephesus, were coming to faith in Christ that you obviously had more of these churches. And so a lot of the times when you see elders, you could say, well, maybe it's elders, because there was one elder who was overseeing each of these house churches. So the elders in Ephesus are just one. But when you come to James four, I think it's verse 12, where it says, if anyone's sick, let him call for the elders of the church. Likely that doesn't mean call one of the elders from every house church in your area.

Right. It means that there's more than one. And so what we see, I think, is is that it's expected that there are going to be men who are leading the church, keeping the word of God in front of them. They're serving the church in this way.

And so when you ask the question, is this a more if this a little bit more in line with the New Testament, then I would have to say, yes, it is. And I think I think the debate needs to be more of, well, is it just a complete shared responsibility? Nobody is absolutely over everybody. There's a there's a church in our if actually one of our our professors pastors, a church that they have that kind of system set up. Nobody's above anybody else.

Yeah. The one that the other churches I've seen pastor, the one kind that I pastor, we can have more than one. We can have more than one elder. But usually there's one person that's kind of the main preacher. And if there needs to be a tie broken, you know, he's the one that has the final say. But he's not trying to lord it over or be out in front or be like, this is my church and get out if you disagree with me.

I feel like that arose more culturally because of politics from political things that are happening in America after the Declaration of Independence and the rise of individualism in the 19th century eventually spawned this attitude. A great book by Nathan Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity, is a fantastic read which which documents this this rise of individualism and how it impacted the church and how the church decentralized from a location where the congregation gathers and listens to the elders to going out to the field and tents and theaters and a whole, you know, we lose track of who's really in the church and it becomes more of an individual expression rather than a community of faith following the shepherds that God had given to them. So in the structure that we're used to here in America, we're just about every church, probably just about everybody listening to us or watching right now, has a quote unquote senior pastor. Do we go into the into the New Testament, Greg, and just say, OK, well, one of the gifts that's out there is the gift of teaching. So you have the gift of teaching.

You're going to be able to unpack God's word and help people apply it in a supernatural way that's beyond average. And there's a whole lot of people that don't have that gift. Did we just kind of leap from that, combine it with our individualism in America and then say, OK, there's a senior pastor because I'm sure there's senior pastors around not just America, but around the rest of the world. Right.

Yeah, I'm sure there are. Right. And that's the thing. I think the New Testament is is sufficiently vague on the subject where if a church functions very well with a main guy at the helm who's the lead pastor, then it then it functions fine that way. If a church says, you know what, we're just going to have everybody's going to be equal here.

And that fits a little bit better with their culture and things work. And I don't feel like the New Testament speaks out against either one of those models. But I do think you see a plurality of pastors if you have enough people to shepherd. And I do think you see a very humble leading of a church where, to my point in the article, you're hard put to even name who they are when you get done reading the New Testament. So when we look at some of the rock star type pastors that get to a level where they're actually. They're so busy, there's so many demands on their time, they've got so much going on that they kind of actually get some distance between them and their congregation, because now they've got a big life outside of the local church.

Conferences, books, interviews, whatever radio, radio program, whatever it is. Is there a point when that pastor, that independent that independent pastor who is a strong leader, where they're they're getting outside of the the realm of the New Testament, where you say, OK, now I got a problem? Yeah, in that case, I think the church is doing well.

I mean, it's functioning and people are hearing the word and so forth. What you're going to find is you've got a lot of shepherding groups going on and you've got somebody who's shepherding or being an elder of that group so that they can see each other. And there's one of the things about these large churches that people can have an anonymity. They can go in there and they can keep their problems to themselves and they're not really functioning in the church. But but for for those who are and they find community that's going on, I feel like pastors like that sort of rise above that level. And now they're sort of like the regional bishop of their you know, they're like the the ancient regional bishop over all the other pastors. I don't feel like they're really shepherding that church in the same way that the people on the ground seeing the others in their life groups every week are shepherding. That seems to be what the New Testament is addressing when it talks about the pastor.

Yeah, because the shepherd obviously is going to have to have some contact with his sheep or he's not a shepherd. Right. He's a regional manager at that point. Right. Yeah. And if they if the church is so big that the pastor you're preaching, you're like, I'd love to meet him. And it's like, no, he disappears into the back and, you know. Right.

He's in the green room. You can go and get an autograph on his book or or what they used to do when I was growing up is they, you know, the evangelists would come and they'd all sign the Bibles, you know, this kind of thing. And I remember I remember being on a team and just the kids were trained in that church. They go up and they whoever's visiting, they and I was like, why am I signing this kid's Bible? This is, you know, I didn't even write this, you know. So what who am I to do that?

That's definitely the word that comes to my mind. And that is creepy. That's creepy. And if you hand me a Bible, hey, but he did that.

Hey, Mr. Noble, I love your class. Would you sign my Bible? I would say no, I won't sign your Bible.

I don't even know that I want to sign your term paper. But but yeah, that's just a little strange. I want to I want to start working through this list of takeaway for pastors because most of us aren't pastors. But I think there's a lot of great food for thought here.

So I want to work through this for the rest of the segment, the last segment. But in the blog post, what's the takeaway for pastors? You write, I think there's a lot we can learn from the invisible pastor in the New Testament.

Here are just a few ideas. First, we need to reflect seriously upon the criticism of Piper and others that the pastoral office has become professionalized. What do you mean by that? Well, I think that was, you know, Piper's idea in the in the book that we've we've sort of created this profession out of the pastoral ministry where we're not focused on. We're just going to go and serve the Lord and be a slave of Christ, which is what the ministers in New Testament called themselves.

And we're just going to be concerned about the glory of God and spreading that in the earth to, you know, our our retirement, our accolades, how much recognition we're getting. Can I find a bigger church? You know, this is this is a church at the stepping stone for me to one of the ministry. And we've basically made the church enter the workforce and it was never intended to be thought of that way. Yeah, that's such a great point, and I think that would be the danger for some young people that are thinking about getting into pastoral ministry is that like like church hopping, like it's a regular job. And I'm going to start a small company, I'm going to get a couple of titles and I'm going to jump. And this is very normal in the younger generation today, they'll jump and by the time they turn 30, they've worked at five different places and they just keep jumping up and up and up.

Bigger, bigger, better title, more money. And David Brainard, who had tuberculosis and, you know, minister to the Indians, he was offered, I think, in Northampton in New York, a very kind of cushy position where he could have served and had medical attention. And instead of being in this little hut where he had a head of a fire in there and he couldn't breathe because, you know, and he that's what he chose regard instead of the other. Yeah, that's amazing. Yeah. Hold that thought. We're going to pick it up there and as we keep kind of taking the the gems off of this conversation today, we'll be right. Welcome back at Steve Noble, the Steve Noble Show Theology Thursday with our friends at Bob Jones Seminary today talking about the invisible pastor.

I mentioned this before. Roughly three hundred thousand churches in America. The average church size is ninety three, ninety four people. And so most pastors aren't a big deal. If you go to a church of a thousand or two thousand or five thousand or ten thousand, odds are your pastor is kind of a big deal. They probably have a lot of people following them on Twitter.

They go to conferences, they write books, they endorse books. They got all kinds of stuff going on outside the local church. Is that by definition wrong or does God just use some people differently in a much more public way? And if you're a small church with an invisible pastor, so to speak, that we're using Dr. Greg Stikes blog post today, if it's an invisible pastors or something wrong there, like if, oh, the Lord's not blessing that church because they only have a hundred adults on Sunday. And so there must be something wrong there. And the big church in town is the blessed church and the small church in town.

Well, it's just dying. So you have to be really careful when you kind of consider just how important the pastoral role is in any church. So we're working through kind of these five main points that takeaways here at the end of our conversation. And again, Greg, thanks for your time.

This one's really a powerful second. The invisibility of pastors should encourage the congregation to identify their own giftedness to serve one another and the body of Christ. We were talking during the break, Greg, and I said, yeah, I mean, I go to big churches and when you walk in there, it seems like a well-oiled machine. And I'm like, they don't need me and everything's fine. So, you know, there's not really this you walk into you show up somewhere and it's a big mess. And there's there's only one person there cleaning up the mess.

Well, you're going to grab a shovel or a broom and start helping because like, wow, well, they obviously need some help. But in a big church, it seems like they don't. So I really like that point. The invisibility of a pastor should encourage the congregation to get involved versus the rock star pastor when you will let yourself off the hook. Well, won't we? We just say everything's fine.

Yeah. OK, so start reading Paul's letters. They're not except for the ones that he's dressing, addressing men in particular, Timothy and Titus and Philemon.

They're there. He's not writing. He doesn't name any of the pastors in the list. There might be some at the end of Romans there. We don't know their pastors, but he writes to the brothers.

He writes to the saints in in Corinthians. So you get to First Corinthians 12 and he's telling all of them about, you know, this is this passage about not everybody can be the ear. Not everybody can be the eye. Not everybody can be the hand.

Right. Where's the pastor in all of those gifts? Maybe maybe he's represented in the gift of teaching or the gift of prophecy in there.

We don't we don't even know if he is a baby. Obviously, he's represented in there, some represented in there somewhere. But but his ministry is part and parcel of the rest of the body serving one another. And when you have a kind of a pastor who is in there doing everything, I know everybody is like, oh, you know, pastor, you need to slow down. You don't have to do everything. Where's every kind of we make this problem for ourselves, though, and I'm guilty of it.

Is anybody else where you feel like it's got to be done a certain way and you want to model it before you turn it over? But if you're not really good at delegation, yes, you end up keep doing it. And then pretty soon people aren't serving where they could. And they're not they don't have the ability to exercise their gifts. So the more rock star status you have, the less it sort of the less of a model you have for the church of how the body is supposed to serve one. Yeah, it's such a great point. And the next one, the invisible pastor creates a shared leadership approach to pastoral ministry that ought to be intuitive for a church that does not revolve around a single leader. And again, you brought this up earlier, which is fascinating to think about kind of our independent streak here in America, which is a couple hundred years old, going, hey, you know, it's it's individualism, top gun, go get it done, man, and build your kingdom, all that kind of stuff. But saying that shared leadership approach in a church is intuitive for the church, I think that probably runs counter to a lot of Christian thinking.

Maybe they think that sounds socialistic. Well, you know, there was there is there are some things that are happening in the early New Testament church that seem socialistic, like everybody's selling their way at all things. There's there's also a famine that took place in Jerusalem, and they didn't have enough to go around after that.

So I I'm wondering how that all plays out. The Bible doesn't tell us. But you do see a plurality of elders in there. And my point there is that if you have more than one elder and they're all sharing the ministry, this this or I should say, if you if you have a model where you don't have one pastor and his names on the church and his name is associated with the church and everybody looks at it as his ministry, then it's more intuitive to say, oh, we have more people here. We're all serving one another in the body, like the New Testament says. And it's less intuitive than to put one person out there in front, even if you have a model where there is a lead pastor who sort of is the final voice, which is, I think, what's going on in Acts 15 with James, by the way. And so I feel like that that is a you know, it's it's good to have a final voice in the church. That's just my view. Yeah, that makes sense.

Either way is is would work out, I think. Fourth point, I also the takeaways, I also think that the concept of the invisible pastor encourages pastors themselves to focus primarily on the work that God has called them to do, which I think is that's a powerful point. Like, what's the Lord called me to do? Is it is part of the calling as a pastor? Is it numbers or just to be faithful what he's called you to do?

Right. And the thing is, you can be faithful, and the Lord can use you in a very unique way. And you may, you know, grow a little kingdom, you know, right. I, I'm not in any kind of position to sit in judgment on anybody's ministry and say, Well, that shouldn't have been done, especially when you see God using a lot of those ministries. But I do think that we have to, you know, instruct the people that this really is what New Testament ministry looks like over here, where we're gathered together and serving in one body, and not just there to support this one man's ministry and his legacy and his travels around the world. Yeah, yeah, which is a powerful point you wrote in that particular paragraph about performing the thankless tasks of a servant, even if no one will ever see or know or care versus then you go on to say in today's world of social media, and I put this post up on Facebook Live. So you should go get this for yourself and read through it and share it with your pastor. In today's world of social media, it's too tempting and too easy for pastors to seek recognition for their accomplishments by putting their lives on display, spending all their time blogging, which is kind of funny, or becoming embroiled in meaningless online debates and really not keeping the main thing the main thing. What has the Lord really called you to do? Those are all kind of exterior things, peripheral things, as opposed to the pastor really sticking to what he's called to do, which is to shepherd his local church.

And then finally, and I think this one should be obvious, but I would challenge all of us to think about this. Finally, and most obviously, pastors need to be invisible so that they do not upstage the Lord Jesus Christ. So what's the church, any given local church known for? Is it more known for the pastor and the pastor's name and the size of the ministry and the buildings? Or is it you walk in there and you're like, hey, this isn't about the pastor, actually. This is all about the Lord.

I think that's a really dangerous, convicting one to finish with. Yeah, the highest compliment, and it wasn't to me, it was to our church that I ever heard in the church that I pastor in North Carolina, was that somebody was visiting. And one of our members said, well, it's all about Jesus Christ here.

So if you don't want that, then you're probably not going to be happy. And I was like, well, praise the Lord. Somebody's getting it, you know, because it's so easy to let your personality sort of drive things and you kind of get in the groove. And I shared in that blog post about my wife saying, you know, the pastors get that pastor swagger, you know, when they're being made a big deal about this kind of thing. And yet we can become the main show instead of letting the Lord Jesus Christ become the main show. It's his church. He's the shepherd.

He really is. And so if we're doing anything at our ministry to draw away from that and not simply be the servant, then we are doing something wrong in our pastoral ministry. And I know several large churches, including some that I've attended, that you won't know if the senior pastor is not preaching this Sunday, because if he's not, attendance will plummet because you're like, oh, so-and-so is preaching or the other guy's preaching or they have a guest preacher instead of fill in the blank. I think that's one of those things where, like, are you going there to hear the guy or are you going there to hear from the Lord? And so with the invisible pastor, that's pretty obviously all about the Lord and with the very visible pastor. And again, we're not saying that's wrong by definition, but I would turn that on all of us and go, are you going to church to hear from God or you're going to church because you really like the way your pastor preaches?

Right. People say people come on Sunday morning because they love the church. They come on Sunday night because they love the pastor. They come on Wednesday night because they love God.

Notice each of those shrink a little bit each time, typically. And some of that is just learned behavior. But I really feel like it's a conversation that we ought to have. And I think every pastor ought to be reading Piper's book and some of the others that are in that vein that just challenge us.

Ted Tripp has written a great book on radical ministry for pastors where he's very introspective. And I think we need to be slapped back to the Testament reality. Yeah.

Yeah. And I think that's even for me, not a pastor, but as a guy in radio and media stuff, probably as recent as six or seven years ago, I really struggled to I would judge my own media ministry, my own radio life by the size of other people. And I'm like, and then God really dealt with me on that. And I'm like, hey, Steve, this is the section of the wall I gave you. It has nothing to do with anybody else. And he calls me to be faithful with the part that I do have instead of comparing to what other people have, which is really just coveting.

And that was really helpful to me. Hey, I'm just calling you to be faithful, whether I want you on four stations or four under stations. That's my deal. It's not your business. Just be faithful.

What I give you. And that was a tremendous weight off my shoulders so that I could just pursue what I know the Lord had called for me. Greg, it's such a great topic. Thank you so much for being with us today. And I look forward to having you back on again. But it's something we all need to consider. Are you are you OK having an invisible pastor or do you need the rock star?

And I can't judge on that, but I would take that to the Lord if I were you and just ask him to search your heart. Greg, thanks again for being here today. It's always great having you on. You're welcome. It's great to talk to you. All right. Stay right there. We'll pray together here in just a minute. This is Steve Noble on The Steve Noble Show. God willing, I'll talk to you again real soon. And like my dad always used to say, ever forward. Another program powered by the Truth Network.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-07 14:26:07 / 2023-02-07 14:43:09 / 17

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