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.

Why Would I Ever Leave the Pastorate?

There is only one reason I would leave the pastorate at Cedar Grove. I would have to be thoroughly convinced that God Himself is moving me to another field of service that benefits the local church. I am convinced that the Lord is moving me to California Baptist University in Riverside, CA.

My feeling toward this move is not yet enthusiasm or great joy (though I believe joy will come for me and for Cedar Grove). Pastor_s_Blog My feeling right now is something like the feeling I had when Vickie and I had to leave our boys in Ethiopia and return to America. We knew that some day it would all work out and be right, but at the time it just felt hard and sad. Below is a copy of the summary I gave to the congregation concerning our decision to move to California.

Basic Facts Concerning My Departure:

Reflection Statements from Pastor Greg

  • Why leave Cedar Grove?  I am leaving for one simple reason: By faith, I believe that the Lord has called me to accomplish good works in California which He has prepared beforehand for me to walk in (See Ephesians 2:10).
  • There is NO negative reason at all for me to leave—no bitterness, no malice, no discontent.
  • No one at Cedar Grove did anything wrong, and, although this hurts me (and you) terribly, it is not a wrong being committed against anyone. Rather, it is a hurt like that between Paul and the Ephesians in Acts 20. We are weeping because we desire to be with each other. We feel the weight of loss, of separation, and yet we trust the sovereign will of God to bring this to a redemptive end which will be eternally good.
  • I have never gone out searching for a job, and I did not seek out this one. California Baptist University sought me for this position about a year and a half ago. I turned down the offer to apply.  They searched through many candidates but were not comfortable with any of them, and, so, at the end of December (Dec 28th), they asked me again if I would consider it. I told them I would pray about it, but I could not see any possible way I could leave the people at Cedar Grove.
  • Surprisingly—shockingly—the Lord spoke to me in the Spirit during that prayer and said I had done the work of Titus here at Cedar Grove, having appointed elders in this congregation and having set in order what remained (see Titus 1:5). From membership to church structure and governance, Cedar Grove is a church of good order.
  • From the time of that prayer until now, I have grown increasingly convinced that the Lord is indeed calling me to fill the position of the Director of the Bachelor of Applied Theology program at California Baptist University. My job there will be to recruit young men from the churches in California to be pastors in California and other needy areas of the world.
  • I will offer these young leaders a scholarship to CBU, then coordinate their training for 4 years in the pastoral ministry. I will then connect them to seminaries (like Southern) and to churches (like Cedar Grove), where they will go through final preparations for ministry. Once training is completed, I will work to get these men into strategic places in California, the American West, and the rest of the world (focusing on areas of greatest need).
  • I will teach them the Cedar Grove Constitution and help them to replicate the good fellowship and worship and love that I have known at Cedar Grove. That is my heart’s desire for this new work God is giving me to do.
  • Through a broken heart, with great affections for you, my prayer is to have Cedar Grove affirm and embrace this work.  For the next three months, I will work to explain all of the details of this move, and I will work to make a smooth transition possible at Cedar Grove. I will report to California July 1, 2013.


Two Examples of Preaching Politics

In response to a couple of posts of late, I offer below two examples of well-known preachers who have made overtly political statements. The first is Bishop E.W. Jackson who calls upon black Christians to leave the Democrat party.  It’s a short, simple, and powerful video.

The second example comes from John MacArthur. You can listen to his sermon here, at Denny Burk’s blog.

Should Preachers Mess with the IRS?


A group of Protestant preachers appears to be picking a fight with the IRS this election cycle.  According to this Fox News article, more than 1,000 preachers have pledged to participate in an October 2012 campaign sponsored by the Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly known as the Alliance Defense Fund).

The aim of the Alliance’s initiative is to force the IRS to take action against one or more of the pastors who Preachers Fight IRS Code Challengeintentionally violate the IRS code for religious organizations.  Since 1954, the code has had the effect of muzzling preachers and preaching in relation to anything political. For instance, the code states (on page 8) that preachers,

“…must avoid any issue advocacy that functions as political campaign intervention .  Even if a statement does not expressly tell an audience to vote for or against a specific candidate, an organization delivering the statement is at risk of violating the political campaign intervention prohibition if there is any message favoring or opposing a candidate.  A statement can identify a candidate not only by stating the candidate’s name but also by other means such as showing a picture of the candidate, referring to political party affiliations, or other distinctive features of a candidate’s platform or biography.”

So preachers can’t critique a candidate’s platform or biography? These seemingly overreaching regulations would prevent a pastor from discouraging parishioners away from the Democrat party on account of the national party’s platform calling for abortion and the dissolution of traditional marriage. While one might wonder why a pastor would want to be so political as to call for opposing one of our two major parties, one may also wonder why a pastor cannot—on the basis of the position statements on issues like abortion and traditional marriage—encourage his congregants to vote in accordance with their highest values.

The Alliance Defending Freedom hopes that pastors will follow through with their pledges and specifically oppose a candidate in this election cycle so that the IRS will revoke tax exempt status or take some other legal action. Then, the Alliance will, in turn, sue the IRS and force a court hearing on the subject. The Alliance is confident that the code (never approved as law) is not constitutional and has shut down the free speech of pastors and pulpits across America.

I am curious what your thoughts are on this matter. Should pastors pick a fight with the IRS?  I could see Christians arguing both ways on the issue.  Think about examples in the Bible.

On the one hand, Jesus was marched out and accused unjustly before His government accusers, yet remained completely silent, while, on the other hand, John the Baptist, seemingly unprovoked, took a governing official to task for his personal infidelity (King Herod’s taking his brother’s wife). Herod had John beheaded for his preaching. Why did Paul call for the Roman officials to come and escort him from jail personally (Acts 16), rather than taking his release and getting out of Philippi? At times, Christians go meekly as good sheep; at other times, they seem to provoke the governing authorities. Which time is this with the IRS?