Feb 10, 2008

Is Your Pastor Serving You or Are You Serving Your Pastor? Who Is Doing The Serving?

A word fitly spoken is like
apples of gold in pictures of silver. {Prov 25:11}

Some cannot wait to be a pastor!
Is there any wonder why?

For the same spirit of greed that is
destroying our nation, is also
destroying our churches!
I was so impressed with the self-deprecating pastor and the word that I heard spoken, earlier today:

My compliments to pastor Larry A Vold, the Senior Pastor of this wonderful church that I visited today in Castro Valley California, The Neighborhood Church/The Church of the Three Crosses. Dr. Vold asked his congregation a rhetorical question during one point in his sermon. He asked, how many viewed their pastor as a servant?

He admitted that oftentimes he and other pastors and ministers universally, had forgotten the role that they were chosen to fill. Some he said have become demanding, proud and unforgiving. The pastor even confessed himself and to God his personal failures, for oftentimes he recognized that occasionally he fell into the same trap. He even acknowledged that unlike the many parishioners in his church, 20% who did the majority of the work at this mega church, that for all of the work he was doing, he [and the paid staff] was being compensated by the people!

He went on to admit that he had entered into self-inquiry, asking himself - where is the service in that? He included an accompanying text in today's message, the subject of the sermon was 'Serving', that was taken from Mark the 10th chapter, beginning at verse 35):

The accompanying text:

10:35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came near to him, saying, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we will ask." [compare]

10:36 He said to them, "What do you want me to do for you?" [compare]

10:37 They said to him, "Grant to us that we may sit, one at your right hand, and one at your left hand, in your glory." [compare]

10:38 But Jesus said to them, "You don't know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" [compare]

10:39 They said to him, "We are able." Jesus said to them, "You shall indeed drink the cup that I drink, and you shall be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; [compare]

10:40 but to sit at my right hand and at my left hand is not mine to give, but for whom it has been prepared." [compare]

10:41 When the ten heard it, they began to be indignant towards James and John. [compare]

10:42 Jesus summoned them, and said to them, "You know that they who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. [compare]

10:43 But it shall not be so among you, but whoever wants to become great among you shall be your servant. [compare]

10:44 Whoever of you wants to become first among you, shall be bondservant of all.

I. Many of Today's Ministers Attitudes: We want you to do for us whatever we will ask:
Given my previous posts,it should be obvious why this portion of the pastor's sermon resonated with me. My flesh felt vindicated given a confirmation of a trend that I have been observing in pulpits of late; even among minister associates of my mine!

And more importantly here was a confirmation that what I had been observing lately, was in fact true.

II. But it shall not be so among you!
And praise God, here was a minister, with a doctorate no less, who made it clear, that like two of Jesus' disciples (along with their mother)were; that many ministers and pastors today have become just as confused, selfish and opportunistic as these three had become.

The Human factor is still alive and well in too many of today's pulpits. How many of us have served under tyrannically greedy and power-hungry ministers who see the church as their personal 'cash cow' and throne of power? I have seen and served under some of this kind who were no less than bullies. No one would ever have confused them with being 'a servant' of the church, and some not even a servant of God. Why?

For many of them, it seemed that they were on an even par with God as opposed to being God's or the people's servant minister. They always sat in the 'high places', and seemingly enjoyed the adulation that was derived from God's people. On many occasions they would wade through the crowds that would stand each time that they entered upon their thrones, in their resplendent pulpit regalia or Brooks Brothers suits!

I challenge you to answer the question that this pastor posed, how do you view your pastor? Have you ever got the sense that he or she was 'a servant'? For if he or she is not serving you as Jesus taught that his servants would do, then he or she is not serving God either.

III. Examples of What I Want You To Do:
A couple of decades ago, I visited a pastor's weeklong appreciation service in the City of Oakland California. These kind of services were and still are customary in many of America's African-American churches. For a week, the pastor and his wife enjoy a side respite, where they are placed in courtly chairs, while each night of the week the incumbent church and visiting churches come and pay homage for the work that they have done at their respective parishes.

Er herm, now which week was it that Jesus and the Apostles were retired, so that the disciples could fatten them up and treat them like royalty? God didn't rest until the Sabbath, after his work was completed!

Pay, however, was the operative word! The real objective of these meetings was and is to raise as much money as possible for the pastor and his wife. The churches that were invited were expected to bring large sums of monies, and the favor would be returned when the receiving pastor and wife, brought their congregations on a return visit (to each of the churches that visited them during their Anniversary Fund-Raiser), in order to give that pastor and his wife a financial payback; 501(c)3?

Now keep in mind that these events are held on an annualized basis, and everyone keeps track, because you must raise more money for each additional Anniversary year. Their would be banners posted, and it would be frequently announced, that this is the pastor's umpteenth anniversary.

How much money was customarily raised during one of these weekly appreciation services today? A whole lot. How much is raised today in one of these charades? I couldn't tell you because I don't attend any of them anymore - during my term as pastor - I asked the church to never engage in such ostentation on my behalf!

IV. And what is wrong with a church showing a pastor appreciation for his service?
Back in the early 1970's the excessive sums of money raised during one of these weekly services, totaled, cumulatively, upwards of $20K for one week. Some services went beyond a single week, and lasted into the next week - you had to keep the money, I mean the Spirit rolling!

In addition to the exorbitant sums that were raised during that one week, some pastors during their appreciation weeks receive automobiles (Bishop T.D. Jakes a Rolls of late), suits and other accoutrement. You have driven by some of these churches with their modest memberships, yet you would be stunned to know that some of these ministers were raking in the big bucks even thirty years ago.

The Rolls, Mercedes, Cadillac or BMW sitting out front in the 'pastor's marked spot was not placed there by the Tooth Fairy. Many of these fella's were rolling in the moolah, while their members languished in poverty. So where did the members get the additional money (more on that later) to hand over to their pastors? Many would spend months ahead of time, having been told to do so in order to raise money for the pastor's appreciation no less by the pastor himself.

Sell some barbecue, chicken dinners, hold car washes, do whatever you have to do, but you had better raise me some money - because I am worthy of it, some were heard to say! I have heard pastors set a quota for each member to come up with and give during the Appreciation Service. I was also aware that some of these individuals on fixed income could simply not afford to give what they were giving, but they did it anyway!

At the church appreciation that I visited on the first night of an anniversary service in Oakland California, the pastor who was supposed to be silent during the week along with his wife, stood up to announce that he was putting the first one thousand dollar amount into his own offering.

This kickback scheme was obviously done to play upon the guilt of everyone who attend the service, and to ensure that on subsequent nights a minimum of $1K would be raised. Let's just call it raising the bar or priming the pump. Trust me, more than $1K would be raised on that and successive nights.

Now if you were to consider the average household income during the 70's, the per capita income of the average black family was less than $14K per year easily. And as a side note, today the per capita income of many families in America, some of whom attend churches where this practice is still going on, still hovers in the less than $15K per annum category!

If you don't believe me check the census! Oh and by the way, the pastor didn't really put anything into his own offering, that he would not get back by the end of Anniversary week. I recall one pastor who when I offered to carry his briefcase that was full of money, at week's end; he told me "NO", I will carry that! I wouldn't steal his money! The visiting pastor's technically did not put anything into their friend's offerings, given that they would be reimbursed once their appreciation service took place later that year, if it hadn't already taken place!

V. Show Me The Money:
In addition to the appreciation services, these pastors customarily received remuneration from their fleeced flocks, customarily tithes (often 100% of the tithes that came into the church belonged to the pastor). And, on certain Sundays, the third Sunday for example, all of the monies raised that day belonged to the pastor.

Now folks, these examples are minor in comparison to the million dollar and other 6-figure pastor-entrepreneurs that call themselves pastors today. Now don't get me wrong, for the problem doesn't stop with money being raised alone. Many of these wealthy religious icons demand to be treated as celebrities or royalty in 'their churches'. Many demand to be called Bishop, The Right Reverend, The Most Reverend, Buhtros Buhtros Gali - just kidding with the last one.

With respect to the rest, no I am not kidding, ministers that have 12 members; and as one 40-year tenured Bishop said, those who purchased their chest crosses from the local Korean store - demand to be called BISHOP!

They also demand that the people serve them instead of the other way around. Some of these Daddy Grace, Father Divine and AA Allen ministers have to be pampered and catered to, and sadly every church has members who are only too willing to put the pastor and his wife up on a pedestal and to treat them in a manner that Jesus and the Apostles refused.

If a member of the church needed something from one of these ministers like prayer for example, or a hospital or a home visit - these ministers would send one of 'their people' to do the ministering, rather than leave the golf course, or their luxury homes to attend to and pray for the sick themselves!

In fact, some members know not to call Others feel unworthy to go and call upon their rich and upper-middle class ministers, who they couldn't get through the gates in the communities where they reside anyway, if they were to attempt to come to touch the hem of their minister's garment in order to be healed. Many parishioners feel unworthy to have their 'overpaid' and overly powerful ministers to grace the doorsteps in the low to lower-middle communities where they reside.

And sadly there are those members who prop their ministers, because they are living vicariously through their ministers and their wives. They are typically the ones who are doing fairly well themselves, or the ones who have a close relationship with the pastor and his wife who allow them to come to the palace, and passes a hand-me-down to them; one that they could never afford on occasion!

VI. The Gentiles lord it over them: In Jesus' time, he spoke of the hireling minister in comparison to the serving man of God. For after all what does the word minister mean folks? Ministers are expected to serve, to put to;\, it was never intended in God's church to be any other way. In too many of today's churches, the members are serving the minister. Have you kissed your minister's ring lately?

Now this does not mean that God's ministers should be abused or on demand 24/7, for they shouldn't be abused particularly the one's who are serving as God intended, and there are many of them! Still there are those who wouldn't allow you to abuse their time anyway! You couldn't get through the secretary-gatekeeper or find them at 50,000 feet anyway (in the jet that you paid for).

Besides, you would be surprised to find out where they are were when they are unable to be located. Where? Customarily they are resting. From what? The taxing 25 minute sermon that they preached on Sunday morning! Don't taze me bro, for all of them are not so inclined - but many aren't doing anything, but enjoy the life of 'the rich, the famous and the powerful'!

Conclusion: What is my motive in writing?
You sound as if you have a lot of animus and unresolved anger Reverend Solomon. Frankly, some of these power-inducing and money-making ministries need to be shut down, so that God's people can be liberated. Do you recall what God sent Moses to tell Pharaoh? He told him to tell Pharaoh to 'let my go so that they can come out' and worship me' [for a change]! Do you get it, just as Pharaoh did, many of our ministers today have turned God's people into their personal slaves!

And what was Pharaoh's reply, similar to some of our ministers of today? He said, Who is God that I should obey his voice? Do I have animus? I like to think of it as zeal for the house of the Lord, the kind that the prophets and Jesus had for the house of the Lord! To be completed...

Peace & Grace
Rev. C. Solomon

'Apples of Gold in Pictures of Silver'

Addenda: Speaking of Rolls', the Rev has a joke.

Apparently on one of the Papal visits, the Pope having tired of being chauffeured around in his Pope Mobile, decided that he wanted to drive a car like regular folks. So he jumped into the car, and ordered the protesting chauffeur
into the back seat of the limousine so that he could drive himself.

The Pope was apparently heavy of foot, and while he was speeding through the back roads of the town, a police officer noticed the expensive car speeding down the road; so he pulled it and its occupants over. Once he looked inside of
the car, he was shocked to see who its occupants were. He just as
quickly ran and called the Chief of Police. Chief he said, I just
pulled over a car that was speeding in my jurisdiction
and I don't what to do because there is a
very important person in the
backseat of the car.

The Chief wondering who it could be given that the officer was reluctant to cite him. The Chief asked is it the President, the governor or the mayor? And for each one of them the officer said no. The exasperated Chief asked, then who is
it? The officer replied, I don't know who it is
on the backseat, however the Pope is his


highlyfavored said...

I agree. Preachers are no longer serving the people. The people are serving them. They won't go to the funerals of faithful tithers, they'll send other Preachers. They won't speak for an engagement unless the pay is suitable. If Jesus charged for his messages, no one would know the word. They wonder why members have lost that loving feeling for each other. Thats why many people won't even go to church unless they hear their own Pastor speak because this is the stage that he has set. It helps him get more money. Asking your congregation to give an extreme amount of money for an appreciation is rediculous. More rediculous than that is getting upset with those who didn't give the amount asked. I heard a Pastor tell his congregation that the members who gave their 1,000 for his Anniversary, he love them and want more members like them. However, the members who didn't meet their obligation, he didn't need those kind of members. What If a person gave $100.00 which was their last dollar and they really loved that Pastor, and the one who gave 1,000 gave it just to be seen on the listed bulletin as one with status. Does this make that person who gave 1,000 better than the one who gave 100.00. I think not. If they both died, which one do you thing would get a reward from God. I hear co-workers saying all the time that they don't go to church because sometimes they don't have an offering and are looked at and talked about. What kind of world are we living in. To whom much is given, much is required. Pastor's will see Jesus one day and have to give account for all those souls they turned away with harsh money greedy words.

Rev. C. Solomon said...

Just over a decade ago, the Lord led me to begin preaching and teaching about 'American Corporate Church Syndrome', and the problems with the manner in which the prayer of Jabezz was being interpreted in an American corporate church context.

Clearly, too many of today's preachers and pastors are using the church and their calling, simply to enrich themselves and to garner prestige. For many of them the church is simply a cash cow.

Having said that, Jesus reminded us in John the 10th chapter about the 'hirelings'.

Thank you for your cogent commentary!