If we are intent on bringing down every pastor in a public exposé when we disagree with something they have said or done rather than seeking their good in prayer, we may be fueling pastor abuse. Again, pastors are to be held accountable; however, they are not to be perpetual objects of attack.
God has appointed pastors to carry out the weighty role of shepherding the souls of the people of God in the local church (Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:1–3). In one sense, there is no more important work to which God may call a man. Pastoral ministry is a high and noble calling. A reporter once asked Martyn Lloyd-Jones about all that he left behind in the medical field in order to become a minister of the gospel. Lloyd Jones responded, “I gave up nothing; I received everything. I count it the highest honor that God can confer on any man to call him to be a herald of the gospel.” That is the high view that believers are to have with regard to pastoral ministry.
No doubt, there are grave challenges and dangers associates with pastoral ministry. A pastor may professionalize ministry to such an extent that he functionally sets himself up as the CEO of a church. In turn, he may become heavy-handed in his leadership. A minister may ignore the needs of his own soul by so investing himself in the busyness of ministry. In turn, he will not be in a place to truly care for the people of God. Pastors may be put on a pedestal in a way that overshadows Jesus Christ, the only King and head of the Church. Additionally, pastors and elders can err in any number of decisions that they make. Even with a plurality of elders, church leaders will make mistakes, fail to act in the wisest manner possible, and even falter at times. Pastors are sinners with finite wisdom. There is only one sinless Shepherd. Nevertheless, God has appointed them to care for the flock by faithfully ministering His word, leading them in prayer, and administering the sacraments to them. As undershepherds, God has appointed pastors to be requisite to the health and well-being of the flock of the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:24).
Excoriating pastors for being abusive seems to have become par for the course these days. Much of this is in reaction to a failure on the part of churches to hold their leaders accountable. Usually, charges of abuse come in the context of a pastor who has supposedly bullied his elders, staff, or members of the church. Sometimes it is in relation to a pastor who is charged with covering sexual abuse in the church and has not done his utmost to defend the accuser and bring it to the proper authorities. Still, at other times, it may come in response to the perception of hyper-masculinity or oppressive patriarchalism that is said to foster a culture in which women are oppressed in the church and their gifts asphyxiated. In whatever legitimate form it may arise, Christians should be ready to decry pastoral abuse. However, as finger pointing commences online, the opposite danger inevitably surfaces. Under the notion of exposing “pastoral abuse,” well-meaning believers imperceptibly begin to fall into the snare of “pastor abuse.” A fellow pastor recently made the following important observation: “For all the prominent ‘pastoral abuse’ cases,” he said “I hear far more about abusive congregations who chew up pastors.”
While not all criticism of pastors is unjustified, “pastor abuse” is the unjustified criticism of and attack upon ministers of the gospel. In order to adequately warn against the danger of “pastor abuse,” we have to acknowledge some of the general ways in which such abuse occurs. Consider the following:
1. “Pastor abuse” may involve implicit or explicit disrespect for the God-ordained officers of a church or denomination. This comes across in the way in which some speak demeaningly in public about church officers or denominational leaders on the whole. If the majority of what we say or write about pastors is negative or hyper-critical in nature, we have probably fallen into the snare of pastor abuse. If we incessantly criticize pastors–either in local or denominational settings–without praying for them and seeking their good, we may be abusing pastors. Biblically faithful pastors are constantly under the attack of the evil one. They need the prayers of the people of God. If we are intent on bringing down every pastor in a public exposé when we disagree with something they have said or done rather than seeking their good in prayer, we may be fueling pastor abuse. Again, pastors are to be held accountable; however, they are not to be perpetual objects of attack.