Because we are living in the End Times, we are warned that it will be a time of extreme spiritual deception, even for devout Christians. But at the same time, Jesus’ promises are timeless. If we REALLY want to know the truth, it will be revealed to us who truly want to know it, even if it upsets our apple cart:
Jesus said to the people who believed in Him, “You are truly My disciples if you remain faithful to My teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 NLT)
This is one of those articles that is based on Biblical truth, but it is not well received by the institution we know as ‘church’, not only in America, but in many parts of the world.
Many of our Christian habits of today you will not find in the early Church or New Testament. For example, you will not find a paid position called a ‘pastor’ in the early Christian Church. As a matter of fact, the word ‘pastor’ is only found once (Ephesians 4:11) in the King James New Testament. It is not found at all in the English Standard Version. What we have today has developed out of man’s tradition and Jesus warned about man’s tradition:
And Jesus said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!” (Mark 7:9 ESV)
Instead, a church was meant to be led by a group of ‘elders’. Church was meant to be a participation experience, not a spectator event, especially if it is a one man (pastor) show. Just look at the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They were distributed throughout the body (1 Corinthians 12: 7, 11) to benefit everyone. Look at the words of Paul:
“What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” (1 Corinthians 14:26 ESV)
Extraordinary human talent and ‘vision’ is not confined to the head of behemoth companies of today like Amazon, Apple, FedEx, and Microsoft. You will also find it in the mega churches of today. Tune in to any of the mega church broadcasts and you will see an audience of spectators rather than a group of devout Christians who are in close fellowship as commanded by the Word of God (Hebrews 11:25). Instead, they are centered on one man who is charismatic in nature who knew how to build upon a ‘vision’. Because of this nature, he learned how to harness human insight and knowledge and repackage it into a Christian environment. Again be very careful of ‘pastor vision’. As for myself, I want to listen to something that brings conviction for me to move onto higher ground spiritually, not just tickle my biblical knowledge.
What is my point? Because when combining the words ‘pastor’ and ‘vision’, we must be extremely careful in this day where there is an over abundance of ‘tickling the itchy ears’ and in the worst case scenarios where there is ‘spiritual abuse’. Remember, the vision of the Church has already been established:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)
You may think that I am taking it too far when I bring in the term ‘spiritual abuse’ into the equation. Because of it, I retain the documentation to prove I am not. I have been under 5 church leaders over many years who have been convicted in Federal court for crimes ranging from financial to sexual. I was blind at the time and did not detect the red flags until it was too late. I know we need to trust people to a point, but Jesus does not want us to be blind. We are told to emulate Jesus:
But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man. (John 2:24-25 NKJV)
There is to be only one LORD in our life and that is the LORD Jesus Christ:
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matthew 10:34-37 NKJV)
Here are two books that are the best I have come across on the subject of ‘spiritual abuse’:
Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse
Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership
Let’s just say a ‘pastor’ of today does have a ‘vision’ of where he wants to take the church that is under him. What is the litmus test? Jesus sets the example by the way He lived His Life on this earth:
A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench. (Matthew 12:20 ESV)
To reinforce this, it had already been prophesied in the Old Testament:
A bruised reed He will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench. (Isaiah 42:3 ESV)
So why am I saying all this? Am I being divisive? On the contrary, all I am saying is, please do not become a victim of ‘spiritual abuse’ as a result of the ‘dark side of leadership’. If you see a ‘vision’ being implemented and you see a trail of victims from that ‘vision’, open your eyes and discern whether they were being purged because their hearts were in the wrong place or could it be that it was the ‘vision’ that was in the wrong place and good Christians had the flickering flame of their wicks snuffed out rather than being fanned into a bigger flame?
The English Standard Version substitutes the word ‘pastor’ in Ephesians 4:11 with ‘shepherd’. A true ‘shepherd’ always, but always, puts his life on the line for the sheep he has been entrusted with:
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.” (John 10:11-13 NLT)
As a final note, so you don’t get the wrong impression, we have to live in the world we are a part of and our God is a God of order. Whatever church we fellowship in, if there is a head pastor, we must submit and not buck the system, even if it is heavily based on tradition rather than the Word. BUT, if you see fallout from any ‘vision’ that is being implemented, you must seek discernment and decide whether or not it is time to move on in God’s will. Pray and fast to find out whether it is truly ‘God’s vision’ or does it fall short and is only a ‘man’s vision’. May the quenching or the fanning of the faintly burning wicks be your guide!