With the growth of mega-churches, the power of pastors grew in a different direction. Now pastors have the power to become celebrities. They can even become ultra-celebrities because they can attract political figures, athletes, actors and singers to become attendees of their churches. This gives pastors a unique power of influencing people and the media at the same time. This should be great. But, with pastors not acting just as shepherds, but as shepherds/producers/writers/motivators/you name it, the position in Ephesians 4:11 becomes watered down. A lot of people are gifted to operate in those other areas but that would mean pastors would have to share the pie. Some modern day pastors are not inclined to share.
Many are reading this in horror, quoting 1 Chronicles 16:22 “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” Pastors always quote this scripture as well, to scare parishioners. I never hear these pastors read the whole chapter. This is simply a song of praise that David wrote speaking of how God protects his people. The anointed that were not to be touched were all of God’s people and not just his prophets. If we were to take it at face value, it means, if anybody does harm to God’s people, they are in trouble.
I looked at the gifts of most modern day pastors and like Tony Robbins. A lot of people holding the position of pastor are not gifted at shepherding or leading people. Tony Robbins is a gifted motivational speaker. I applaud Tony Robbins because he makes a living doing what he is best at, motivational speaking and writing. When is the last time a pastor really taught you something about Christ’s life or how to do “the work of the ministry” that Paul goes on to speak about in Ephesians 4:12? A few do but not enough. Like Tony Robbins, many pastors motivate us to be the best we can be, which is admirable. Teaching Christian principles is what Paul was speaking of. What would this world be like if more did just that.
Modern day pastors give great metaphors and soliloquies, but their job in Ephesians 4:12 is to “equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ” (CEV). Pastors’ chief responsibility is to make sure parishioners grow the body of Christ. In other words, pastors are supposed to teach parishioners how to live Christ-like and how parishioners can lead others to live Christ-like. That’s not glamorous. It is a position that should be highly respected but may not be glamorous. I respect the guys who clean the windows of skyscrapers. Everyone can see what they are doing and it is not glamorous. They get paid well, but at the end of the day they’ve done their job and that’s it.
If you read in Ephesians or in Timothy, you get the feeling that Paul was convincing everyone that it’s OK to be a leader. Now, being a pastor is a coveted position. Being gifted to preach is like winning the lotto. Some leave promising careers to become preachers with the hope that they will reach the status of being a pastor or “PASTAR”. Celebrity begets influence and influence breeds celebrity. In modern society, celebrity breeds massive income stream potential.
Gifted motivational speakers now see the ability to have more than just a casual following due to the life principles they espouse. They see the potential to create organizations that can have influence on society. The pastoral form of celebrity comes with the added bonus of being untouchable and sometimes less scrutinized by followers/patrons. This becomes a haven for type A personalities with the gift of gab that like exaggerated forms of attention.
The perks are incredible too. Range Rovers, Bentleys, mansions; tailor made suits, Lear jets and parishioners that are willing to wait on them hand and foot for free. Some pastors will speak of the trials they go through like staying up all night praying for members. Some do but don’t wonder sometimes. True pastors may not have the time to tackle everything. Maybe their ambition is a large indicator that their gifts are in business and entertainment, whereas the gifts of some are in shepherding. If we look at the early church, the goal of pastors was to develop followers of Christ who will go out and develop followers of Christ.
Church has now become a microcosm of society at large. Those possessing gifts that entertain are elevated to celebrity status. “PASTARS” as opposed to pastors are the ultimate entertainers, gifted through oratory skills to motivate and inspire and entertain. If motivational speaking were considered as a viable professional aspiration, more aspiring pastors would possibly consider this a professional option. This is often not a choice many seminary graduates consider because the title of pastor is now almost synonymous with celebrity. If becoming a motivational speaker were as widely publicized as televangelists (who happen to be pastors) I believe most people leaving Bible College would become motivational speakers.
A friend reminded me that another sad fact in society, especially black society is related to this pastoral phenomenon. He went to a popular HBCU (Historically Black College or University) and noticed that 80% of his friends graduated to become pastors. 80% of my buddy’s friends becoming pastors are not a reflection of what 80% of graduates from HBCU graduates aspire to do as a career. I will say that significant percentages do. This does point out the fact that black people, especially black men who are disenfranchised are looking for economic advancement are looking at becoming a pastor as a viable option like becoming an attorney. The income disparity between white and black is so great that black men have now added the roll of pastor to their list of plans for economic freedom. With the rise of female pastors this is now a new aspiration for black women as well. This is good in some senses but scary in others.
This is not just felt in the black community but it is also felt in the music community. Popular gospel artists are opting to put down their instruments and microphones to become pastors. Filling up concert venues on tour is now thought to be small potatoes compared to the income that can be garnered being a pastor of a church.
Well let’s take a hard look at where the evolution of the position of pastor to PASTARS. If we look at it closely it is our fault as parishioners. We fawn over or allow others to fawn over and cater to the whims of these men. As parishioners, we never ask questions about their goals or spending habits. As parishioners, we are eager to the point of being giddy to be in their presence. As parishioners, we give them more power than God gave them. Every Christian can lay hands on the sick. Every Christian can speak to God for themselves or on another person’s behalf which is called intercession. No pastor is more God’s child than we are as individuals or as a collective group. Why does it take a pastor to create the concept of small or cell groups when most of us have Christian friends and families that we can meet with regularly, discuss scripture and pray with?
Is the position of pastor important? Yes! Have parishioners made it more important than what it should be? Absolutely! God appoints pastors but we created the celebrity called PASTARS.