Ever been uncomfortable with a preacher’s message? Most have at some point. Often that’s the Holy Spirit within ourselves warning us something isn’t right. Church leaders putting their congregation under condemnation and bondage are all too common. This video is hard to watch, but highlights the sin of pride and arrogance that has infected the pulpits of our Churches at large.
Why doesn’t the congregation run out of there you ask? It’s the classic profile of an abuser and the abused. An abuser puts his victims down, hurts them, humiliates them, and destroys their self-esteem—then gives them some comfort. An abuser can’t control their own anger that boils over. They direct it towards their victims, tell them it’s their fault this happened, then pulls them back in, eases their pain slightly, and tells them “it’s all better now.” The abuser becomes the victims’ source of both pain and comfort, which is a cycle that continues over and over.
This video is an extreme case, but a common problem—pride and control lurking within today’s pastors. Usually it comes out much more subtlety, crafty, in smaller doses, and hidden inside the pastor’s heart and in his message. Our churches have become corporations in which pastors have been exalted to President and CEO of the church, where they are given full authority. Many stand over their congregation each week, looking down at their flock, lecturing, disciplining, comforting, and also controlling.
The flock becomes dependent and in need of the Pastor. He (not God) becomes their source of spiritual feeding. The flock hangs on the Pastors’ every word, follows his directions and relies on him for knowledge and understanding (instead of studying God’s Word for themselves). It’s easy for a man in such a position to gain a sense of empowerment and let it go to his head. The man begins to think, “I’m the smartest, wisest, most spiritual, most important person in the room”. A preacher can quickly forget they are the one who should be the most submissive of all to the only real boss— the Holy Spirit.
One may also notice in the video how many times the pastor says "I" and refers to "my" ministry and church. That's another common misstep of a pastor that is rooted in pride. Often they'll be very critical of other churches, ministries and pastors as well. In the video, Pastor Jim Standridge says, "You can't get this anywhere else." He's right, but not like he thinks. He's placing himself as a gatekeeper between the congregation and God. With this type of common misstep by pastors, they imply the surest way to God and Heaven (sometimes even the only way) is through them and their church. This is a control element often used by cult groups and is teaching that can become very treacherous. All believers (especially church leaders) should know and never forget there is only one true church and ministry—and it belongs to God alone.
Let’s examine the example of church leaders in the Bible. Jesus called the church leaders of His day (the Pharisees), “a brood of vipers”, and nothing has changed. A true man of God will have a humble spirit. Moses was described as the meekest man in all the earth (Numbers 12:3). The Apostle Paul described himself as “the least among all people” (Ephesians 3:8). A man that is not humble can forget that God is the only source of all things good and righteous and may try to take some credit for himself. A man that is not humble cannot lead in God’s kingdom. Jesus was the embodiment of that principle. The innocent Son of God humbled Himself to the point of willingly accepting the torturous death of a criminal in order to pay for the sins of a world that did not deserve it.
If Jesus, The Pastor, was sent for the purpose of being a humble, self-sacrificing servant, any man truly called to be a pastor should seek to embrace those same types of qualities. The Gospel that Jesus taught and lived out was for us—that we sinners may repent and be forgiven. However, Jesus didn’t share that message through condemnation, but through love and compassion. Salvation is a free gift and that’s joyous news. Men can’t brow beat or guilt trip one another into taking the gift. Any imperfect man who tries is a hypocrite.
Jesus came to take away our chains of bondage, not put us in them. If you’re sitting under a self-proclaimed “man of God” that is infected with the sin of pride, arrogance and condemnation, let the Lord’s Spirit guide you to find His True Church that will fill you with hope. Then, take that message of hope and share it with someone else in need.