The title – that has been the cry of my heart for many years – and only becoming louder and louder as the days go by and I see more and more wounded leaders and believers and fight more and greater spiritual wars that are politically motivated as man seeks to control and manipulate God’s Church and His people.
Recently this comment came in from my friend Bill Lewis whose writings and thoughts occasionally become a blog here at Ralph Howe Ministries. The title is mine – the words expressing his heart are his. Feel the pain and the cry of his heart – the heart of all true apostles…
I just returned from taking part in a memorial service for a man who had been a pastor in my town for over 13 years. He moved a few months ago and we received word a couple of weeks ago that he had committed suicide.
I do not presume to judge the man, his relationship with God, or his eternal destination. It is above my pay grade – actually everything is since I do not get paid for any ministry work – but that is beside the issue.
I do presume to judge a religious system (modern church in 21st century America) that is destroying men and women of God. A system, that statistics tell us, chews up and spits out 1200-1500 ministers per month. Eighty percent of those leaving the ministry say that the ministry was harmful for their families. Over 30% ended up in moral failure. Most never return to the ministry. Some never go back to church. What is wrong with this picture?
We can blame the ministers themselves – it would be easy to do. However I believe the real culprit is a the false system of church we have created and maintain with a fury. A system that expects more of a person than is reasonable. A system that has never been scriptural, nor in the mind of God.
I am not even sure where I am going with this article or if anyone will read it, I just feel I have to write it, to get it off my chest – perhaps as closure for the brother who died. Perhaps because it so unfortunate and vividly illustrates the things I see wrong in the Church today. I just know that the more I look at “church as usual” the more convinced I am that it is the very structure of modern church that hinders the Kingdom of God. The suicide of a pastor is an exclamation point in the commentary.
Those of you who know me know I am not “anti-Church.” I serve on the pastoral team of a church we started last year. I love the Church (big C). I love the Body of Christ and gathering together. I love teaching, sharing and hearing others in the Body share things on their heart that God is showing them and things He is doing in their lives. I love it when the Body of Christ is free to express Christ in the midst of the congregation. A major emphasis of my ministry is to encourage and train leaders for the Church. However I sometimes wonder if I am doing them a favor.
I do love the Church, however, I can’t stand the traditions that define church experience for so many people. I can’t stand the structures that hinder the growth of the Body of Christ. The clergy/laity mindsets that hold back good people from serving the Lord. The false emphasis that focus more on the needs of the organization than the needs of the people. The religious politics, the jockeying for position and the behind-the-scenes string pulling for control of the church. These things, which ought not be, are normal fare for many churches and the bane of many pastors. I’ve experienced some of these things myself. I also thank God (and the local Body) for those churches I served that did not have these problems.
The bottom line is that “church as usual” isn’t working. And it isn’t because God’s Church doesn’t work – it is because we are no longer doing Church God’s way. We’ve substituted man-made stuff. We have reaped man-made results. I am reminded just now of the tower of Babel. The Bible tells us they “had brick for stone and slime for mortar.” Brick is a man-made substitute for God-created stone. Slime is – well slime. They were going to “build a tower whose top reached to heaven and make a name for themselves.” How much this sounds like our denominational systems today. In another passage God cried out against His chosen saying, “They have forsaken Me the fountain of living waters and have hewn out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”
Pastors today are left with an impossible task of leading those that don’t want to follow. To follow those that don’t know where they are going and to make sure everyone is happy about the whole thing. Is it any wonder so many are worn out and burned out? Something has to change. We must do two things. 1. We must be willing to step out and provide an alternative; 2. We must speak out and reveal the fallacy of expecting different results while maintinaing the same structure.
God will have a Church that displays the glory and power of Jesus Christ on earth before He comes back to wrap this thing up. That has never been the question. The only questions is, who will be a part of it?
I pray for my fellow pastors and ministers. May we have the courage, strength and grace to lead in paths of reformation in these last days regardless of the cost. Jesus is worth it.