5 Things I Wish Every Congregation Knew

I know a fellow pastor who is going through some real trials with his church. Apparently, preaching the full-counsel of God does not sit well with many in his congregation. Now, before you go and say that I’m just saying this, realize that I have downloaded quite a few of his sermons and listened to them. Others in his presbytery have done the same, and had the same sentiments. He is preaching the full counsel of God, faithfully.

Basically, what my friend is going through is the beginning of the end of that particular church. The more carnal people in the congregation have realized how much power they yield by going to the elders and demanding that my friend be forced to resign. The elders, being the staunch spiritual leaders that they are, caved so quickly that I have to question their leadership ability. The church is becoming subject to mob rule. And when mobs rule in the church, the church dies. I’ve seen it firsthand and understand how sad it is.

The reason mobs are so successful is because they are usually the loudest portion of the church. They are given over to their fleshly desires and their fleshly desires are the gauge by which the judge everything, not Scripture. The more godly, and humble, tend to stand quietly by while the mobs rule. Then… the godly leave, giving the mob more power than before. It is a vicious cycle and eventually the church becomes filled with the tares who kill off the remaining wheat.

Where mobs rule, Christ does not. This is why the elders need to stand against the mobs. No matter how many times the mob threatens to leave or quit giving to the church, the elders need to rebuke them in their carnality. Sadly, too many elders fail to do so, and thus fail in shepherding. This is why so many churches are small and dysfunctional. At some point, the elders are faced with following Scripture and the Spirit in the midst of a conflict, or following the loudest voices. When the loudest voices rule, the congregation suffers.

It is in view of all this that there are a few things I wish every congregation would realize. I know that the more carnal congregations will not give heed to my words because they feel they are always right to begin with. In their mind, they think they are doing God a great service by sending a pastor packing when that pastor fails to tickle their ears. Unless the more godly in the congregation are willing to stand up to these congregational mobs, the mobs will continue to rule. Please know that these things do not apply to all churches. Some congregations are truly godly and look out for and care for their pastors. But this is for those who see no problem in running a pastor off simply because they do not like something about him.

Here are a few things for congregations to consider:

  1. The pastor and his family are the ones that are taking a risk when they accept a call to a church, not the other way around. The pastor has to move his family, leaving behind friends and, often times a home, in order to serve in the new call. Yes, I know that many people in the business world do the same, but I point this out because when he loses his pastorate, he very often loses his home as well. The ne’er do wells get to keep their homes and their churches when they run a pastor off. This is why it is so important to stand up for pastors when they are being ill treated by members of the congregation.
  2. You called a pastor to lead you and feed you spiritually. You need to realize that you are calling a man who has been called by God to do so. When you rebel against the faithful pastor, you rebel against God. According to Ephesians 4, the pastor is Christ’s gift to the church, for the edification of the flock. He is not called to be famous, or a celebrity. You don’t need famous or a celebrity. You need a man faithful to God’s word.
  3. You don’t deserve to sit under godly preaching. I know, shocking huh? But you don’t. You are in God’s church by His grace and grace alone. So when you enter into worship, you need to humble yourself under the preaching that God has provided for you, in His sovereignty. Sadly, far too many think they deserve to have the absolute best preachers the country has to offer. I’m not advocating for shoddy preaching. But not all men are Chuck Swindoll, or R.C. Sproul. Thank goodness. Apparently in God’s providence, He thinks we only need one of each.
  4. Quit thinking you know best how to rule the church. Leading a church is very difficult and when you sit and try to do so on the sidelines, you show your contempt for God’s authority that is placed over you. Remember, you are to submit to the leadership of the elders, not the other way around.
  5. Beware what you are asking for when you run off men who faithfully preach God’s word. You are asking for God’s judgment. He will gladly give you someone to preach nonsense to you if you keep demanding it. This is the worst form of judgment, since you have tasted of the things of God, but rejected them. He will give you over to your base nature.

These are just a few things that I put together in view of my friend’s situation, and given some of the situations I have encountered in the past. I am hoping my friend will stand strong, and his elders will realize the sinfulness of giving into mob rule. Anyone who takes such a mentality, that of threatening to leave if they don’t get their way, should be disciplined because pride and arrogance rule such individuals. The more that beast is fed and set free, the more it will ravage the body. It is far better to deal with that wickedness up front, with the possibility of losing some members, than it is to give into it, because that spirit is never satisfied.

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9 thoughts on “5 Things I Wish Every Congregation Knew

  1. There is one not on your list that I think is key because 1) it’s important and 2) it’s forgotten. We live in America where independence is valued above almost anything. American independence is foreign to Scripture. Instead we read, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Heb 13:17) The command from God is to submit to church leadership. The command from a secular world is to question authority and submit to no one. This counter command has leaked into the church until we’re ending up with a Christianity we get to vote on rather than submit to and truth that is true because we feel it is rather than because it is from God.

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    1. Hi Stan,
      Yes, so very true. I should have listed it, but was thinking on a more practical level. The problem is that those who have the mob mentality, submit to no one other than the leaders of the mob mentality. They do submit, just to the wrong master. Thanks for point this out.

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  3. Thank you for this article. My father is the pastor of a small Reformed congregation and the last year or so has been very hard. The problems are much the same as some of what you described, with some undermining his authority, seeming not to understand what it means to be a minister of the Word, etc., and others engaged in outright rebellion–though no one in the congregation wants to deal with the actual rebellious member because it’s so close-knit and no one wants to rock the boat. It’s actually a problem plaguing a number of the Reformed churches where we live. My sister wrote about the phenomenon of pastor abuse and some of what area ministers have gone through here–you might find it interesting: https://ekklescake.wordpress.com/2015/02/06/how-a-parson-stops-being-a-person/

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    1. Hi Puritangirl,

      Yes, unfortunately, what I describe is happening more and more in Reformed circles. As Stan pointed out below, so few really want to submit to their elders. The part of this problem that causes the cycle to take place is that the godly do submit to their elders, while the unruly mobs do not. This is why elders must be strong in the LORD and not just some guy that happens to have been in the congregation long enough to collect dust.

      Blessings

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  4. This reminds me of something I have found true for years, and taught to congregations: “Empty trucks make the most noise.” An empty truck is not doing what it was designed to do-haul a load-so it shakes, rattles, and rolls down the road, making lots of noise as it goes along.

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  6. Nick Stuart

    Impossible to speak to the specific situation of course, but here’s a generalization I’ve formed from 20+ years experience as a Ruling Elder in two churches, with an assortment of Teaching Elders (two Senior Pastors, several each Associate and Assistant Pastors).

    Senior Pastors exercise tremendous influence, if not outright veto power, over who becomes a RE in a PCA church (other Reformed bodies as well I suppose ).

    Senior Pastors, if you want a Session composed of men who will have your back at crunch time, recruit and cultivate those sorts of men. Don’t get all pissy and offended if they say no to a scheme of yours they consider harebrained even if you think it’s awesome. If you want a Session that will stay out of your way while you run the church and not require any accountability from you, choose mild men who’ll bend to your will, but don’t be surprised if they bend to the mob when it forms up.

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  7. JK Novinger

    For the elders (teaching and ruling). Something to think about:

    Once there were two brothers who were a part of a very, very large family. One day the younger brother received a message that once again he had to go on another trip so he could bring back a great treasure for his family.

    Upon making ready for his trip, he said his goodbyes and left. While no one expected him to be gone very long, the days soon stretched into weeks – two weeks soon became four. Then five. After nearly six weeks, if you looked very hard off into the distance, you could see him coming; however, as he looked, he saw all of his family not watching or anxiously waiting for his return, but dancing and singing. They were having a great party!

    You can read about these two brothers in the Old Testament book of Exodus, chapters 31 and 32.

    What was the difference between the two brothers? One listened to the instructions of his Father, while the other took his instructions from the family. One obeyed God. One did not.

    The children of Israel were not part of a democracy, but a theocracy with Moses as God’s vice-regent. In fact the Bible tells us that Moses took his position so seriously, that the writer to the Hebrews says, “By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkled blood, so the Destroyer of the first-born of Egypt would not touch them,” (Hebrews 11:28).

    While we are not part of a theocracy, we must remember that like Israel of old, we too are not part of a democracy, and that while Christ Himself is the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls (I Peter 2:25), He has placed vice-regents over us. We call them Elders.

    One day, you and will be called to stand before God. We will be called upon to give an account of what we have done in the body (Romans 14:12). Our elders too, must give an account before God: first for what they have done personally, and then give an account about each one of us: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you,” (Hebrews 13:17).

    It should be our prayer that the elders to lead and to do that which enables us “… to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” (II Peter 3:18). And, that as the sheep of His pasture, we might heed their rod of correction and their staff of comfort.

    Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
    May the fire of our devotion light their way
    May the footprints that we leave
    Lead them to believe
    And the lives we live inspire them to obey
    Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful

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