Protect Your Pastor: Two simple steps to stop the devil’s scheme


Christ's Charge to Peter by Raphael, 1515. In ...

Christ’s Charge to Peter by Raphael, 1515. In telling Peter to shepherd his sheep, Christ was appointing him as a pastor. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In story after story, pastors are being targeted for persecution. One recent story told of pastors in Asia who were chained to metal poles and beaten so they would renounce their faith in Jesus Christ. I know at least one of the pastors in the story remained faithful.  I hope they all did. But the persecution pattern is predictable: “Strike the shepherd, and they will flee.”

Jesus applied a prophecy from Zechariah to Himself when he quoted this phrase (see Matthew 26:31).  Though the original quote refers back to a judgment passage, Jesus quotes the verse in application to Himself. He was going to suffer God’s wrath and also the injustice of sinful men; and His sheep were going to turn away from Him. Sadly, the enemy knows this scheme is still effective. So he still uses it.

In contexts like the Asian one mentioned above, local leaders target pastors with severe persecution. They know if they can defame and dishonor the pastor, then the flock will flee (either for safety or just to save face, as Peter did on the night our Lord was betrayed).  Defamed pastors put the flock in disarray. So, strike the shepherd, and the sheep will flee.

For most of us reading this blog, there should be two simple responses to this diabolical scheme.  First and foremost, we must guard our shepherds and watch their backs. There will never be a shortage of folks attempting to discredit the shepherd. They know any defamation of his character will lead to a separation of his power.  Deceivers in the church wish to divide the flock, thereby gaining power to levy against the shepherd—to force him to bend to their will rather than following Him as He obeys God’s will. The gravity of this scheme is affirmed in the commands of Scripture which tell the flock not to even entertain a charge against a pastor except on the presence of two or three witnesses (1 Timothy 5:19).

This protection is put in place for elders because of how vulnerable he is. Anyone who leads is obviously a target for ridicule, slander, and malicious gossip.  Any pastor who leads faithfully will offend some people (even as Jesus and Paul and Peter offended some). The gospel is offensive to the flesh! For the good of the flock, God commands the flock not to entertain an accusation against the pastor unless the proper protocol has taken place.

And what is the proper protocol? The idea in 1 Tim 5:19 is that anyone wishing to make an accusation must FIRST go and speak directly to the pastor and work for reconciliation. If there is no reconciliation at that point then the SECOND step is to take along two or three witnesses and work toward reconciliation. Only after the FIRST and SECOND steps have failed to bring reconciliation should there be the THIRD step of entertaining an accusation against a man called by God to be a pastor.

What grievous wrongs might be made right if only churches would properly safeguard the Scriptures and, thus, protect their pastors from gossip, slander, and even more intense forms of persecution!

The second simple response to the reality of the devil’s “Strike the shepherd, and they will flee” scheme is for the flock to doubt the accuser instead of the accused—unless the accuser has followed the biblical pattern. If he has followed the pattern stated above, then the charge must be taken seriously. If he has not, then take notice of him and warn him against the sin of being divisive. If he continues to make accusations without following the biblical order, then have nothing to do with him:

You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned (Titus 3:11, see vv. 9-11).

Finally, decide that you will be a faithful servant of God’s flock. Follow Titus 3:1-2,

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.

Do not go with those who make accusations in secret rooms or in public settings but never bother to actually seek reconciliation in private with the person they are accusing of being unfit for ministry. They are doing the bidding of the one still hoping to strike the shepherd so the sheep will flee. Protect your pastors. They are always particularly vulnerable.

Good Encouragement from Bad Imprisonment


The news out of North Korea does not appear good for Christians, but that doesn’t mean good can’t come from it. Our God redeems what otherwise appears lost and hopeless. Encouragement might result (see here).

Project 13:3

 

North Korea Christian PersecutionI recently read a story concerning the state of Christians in North Korea. As expected, the situation for Christians there is grim. Though some reports state that new leader Kim Jong Un is easing some restrictions which made North Korea infamous in the first place, leading them to the #1 spot for the persecution of Christians on Open Doors annual watch list, the truth of the matter is that there are still tens of thousands of Christians in prisons in North Korea.

In the story, Ryan Morgan, an analyst with International Christian Concern (Asia), says this about recent reports of reform:

“We have not heard any reports of improvement for Christians in the country and have no reason to believe anything has changed.  The regime still has up to 70,000 Christians locked away in virtual concentration camps.”

Oddly, the Lord has used reports such as these in an unexpected…

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3 Steps to Keeping the Internet Under Control


 

Edmundo saved the day!  No, there wasn’t a real life or death threat, but we felt like it was an emergency.  We five Americans were stuck on a rural Asian island with no internet and no wi-fi accessibility.  What in the world were we supposed to do—not update Facebook?  But our hotel had pink flowery sheets, turtles, and an aviary outside our window.  This is classic status update material. We needed wi-fi, and Edmundo came charging in with his Samsung tablet and fully-charged Smartbro sim card in just the nick of time. Internet!

If you are like me, you enjoy being connected. On a deserted fisherman’s beach, I searched Around Me, just for the fun of seeing nothing within 40 miles.  Being disconnected is somewhat akin to being sent involuntarily through de-tox.  Who enjoys that?  Increasingly, we are living in a web-connected world.  Newsweek and others are very concerned that such ubiquitous connectivity is actually disconnecting us both from the rest of the world and from ourselves.

While I often dismiss such concerns as fear-mongering and joy-stealing, I think there is enough evidence beginning to mount that we ought to pay attention to our internet activity.  Even more importantly, as Christians, we must do whatever we do—including using the internet—to glorify God.  So, it seems we need an internet approach strategy.  Here are 3 simple steps to keep the internet under your control.

De-prioritize It

The first step in learning best how to use the internet is to not use the internet.  It sounds contradictory, but it is true. In an age that relies more and more on the internet and every wi-fi related iteration of it, we must not be led into thinking that the internet is as important as it seems. Its presence is everywhere, thus leading us to the erroneous conclusion that it is all-important.  It simply is not. Start your day with the Bible and prayer, never with email or Facebook.

Don’t stop your practice of beginning with a word from God and with a responsive prayer back to God.  There are things much more important than wi-fi book readers and smartphone apps.  Discipline yourself daily for the purpose of godliness and don’t allow the internet to fool you into believing its more important than your daily walk with the Lord.

Prioritize Your Purpose

Second, when you do enter cyberspace, do so with great purpose.  De-prioritize the internet in a general way (step one), then prioritize the internet in a specific way for a specific purpose.  Why get on-line at all?  Most likely, you get on-line for one of 3 distinct purposes:

Resources, Relationships, or Writing.

The internet is resource rich.  Search the term “salmonella” (which I brought home from my last trip to Asia), and you will find 18.3 million websites related to it.  Resources abound on the internet.  Find the few resource sites you trust, bookmark them, then visit them when you need specific information.

Relationships are important, too, and the massive success of Facebook is a clear indication that folks want to use the internet to connect with other people.  So, realize that you cannot keep up with everyone in the world, and narrow your “friends” or the people you “follow” to a small enough number that it keeps you honestly engaged in the lives of others.  Don’t attempt to be the most popular guy on the planet.  Keep the meaning of the word “friend” significant.  Not all friends are equal, and acquaintances are not the same as friends.  Keep your social network one which keeps you in touch with your family and friends.

Finally, some folks have something to say.  The internet can surely become a megaphone for those with a message.  Think through your subject. Study the way others are speaking on the subject, then get on the internet for the purpose of stating your message clearly, concisely, and convincingly.

In short, prioritize your purpose before opening your internet browser.  Are you opening for resources, to improve relationships, or to write your message?  Open the internet with purpose.

Personalize

Finally, personalize your internet experience.  Don’t attempt to duplicate the internet experience of others.  There are enjoyable and edifying adventures on the internet.  Let your online adventure reflect your individual personality.

For example, I have recently switched to Google Chrome (which I love).  It automatically opens 4 pages for me: a church page, a blog page, a politics page, and a sports page.  I check these four pages, then I leave the internet spider’s web.  Typically, I check email and Facebook from my phone.

Like you (perhaps), I struggle to keep the internet as an instrument instead of becoming its addict.  It’s good for us to think about the best ways to employ the internet so that it serves our needs instead of making us its slaves.  What are some strategies you employ?  Hopefully, this three-step strategy will help.