Opposition to Pastoral Leadership—An Enemy of Soul Winning
by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Chapter 1 from Dr. Hyles book, Enemies of Soul-Winning)
One of the great battlegrounds in New Testament churches is that of pastoral leadership. It is the opinion of this preacher that far too many pastors have allowed their hands to be tied, and far too many people have tried to tie the pastor's hands. Now I do not think for a minute that the pastor should be a dictator. I simply think he should be a leader. For the next few pages, we will discuss the Scriptural position of the place of the pastor in the leadership of the church.
1. In business matters, the church should be a pure democracy. Of course, it would be unwise for the pastor to be allowed to borrow money on behalf of the church or to build a building without church approval. The business of the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, is in the hands of the people, not the pastor.
I know a pastor who said to his people that he would leave if they did not build. I think this is poor leadership, and I also think it is unwise leadership. God may call the pastor to another church, or He may call him to Heaven, and the people would be saddled with a debt that he incurred. When it comes to the borrowing of money, the church is a democracy. When it comes to the church budget, the church is a democracy. When it comes to church business, the church is a democracy.
Just as ridiculous as the pastor being the business dictator of the church is the unscriptural practice that the deacons are supposed to be the business dictators of the church. There is no Scripture whatsoever to substantiate this. At the First Baptist Church of Hammond, the deacons are an advisory board. The pastor recommends the budget to the deacons; the deacons work on the budget and then present it to the church. The final authority is in the hands of the church. The pastor cannot spend a dime of the church budget on his own. The only money that he can disburse at his own discretion is money that is given him with that instruction. Quite often people give a check made out to the church and they say, "Pastor, use this in any ministry you feel wise." This is exactly what I do, but unless the money is designated for such, I have no power whatsoever to disburse the money, except as is dictated in the budget, which is approved by the church.
Let me also say that there is not one Scriptural reference of trustees or a board of trustees in the church. Philippians 1:1, "Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons." Here you have the simplicity of the organization of the New Testament church - pastor, deacons, people. At our church, we have five trustees elected from the deacon board. However, they do not form a board of trustees; they simply form the official signature of our church. So, when the church votes to take action in business matters and loan matters, the trustees sign the papers. There are hundreds of deacon boards in America and boards of trustees in America who rebel against pastoral dictatorship, and then in turn wrestle the power of business in the church for themselves, making the church a bureaucracy which is just as unscriptural as a dictatorship.
2. The spiritual program of the church should be under the leadership of the pastor, and the people should follow. If I were to lead the First Baptist Church into borrowing money that the church did not want to borrow, and God called me Home to Heaven, I would have done the church an injustice. However, if I lead the church to have a Bible conference, and I choose the speakers, which I would, this does not leave the church with any responsibilities in the case of my death.
When I became Pastor of First Baptist Church, there was an evangelism committee to try to tell me when to have evangelistic meetings. There was a missions committee to try to tell me when to have missions conferences. There was a finance committee to try to tell me when to take an offering. There was a pulpit committee to try to tell me whom to have preach when I was gone and to approve where I could preach. Of course, I could not live under this situation, and I would not, and I did not. If I'm not going to be the spiritual leader of the church, then I'll move on and get a soap box and a vacant lot and preach on a street corner somewhere.
A typical example of the average church battle concerning this subject is the story of Moses and Aaron.
1. While Moses was busy, he received a call from God.
Exodus 3:1, "Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his fat her in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb." Notice that Moses was busy keeping the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law. He was seeking no place of leadership whatsoever. This is usually the way it is. God calls a man who is busy somewhere else. I know of no place in the Bible where God called someone who was seeking a position. He calls someone who is busy doing the job where he is. I have been pastoring for 45 years. I have never sought a church, nor have I ever wanted to leave a church where I was pastoring. I have tried to stay busy and work hard. I tell God my phone number and my address (He probably already knew it!) and tell Him to contact me when He wants me to move. Until then, I will not seek to move, nor will I desire to move.
I was busily serving as Pastor of Miller Road Baptist Church in Garland, Texas. One day I received a letter from First Baptist Church of Hammond. I had never heard of the church, nor had the church, for that matter, ever heard of me. One of the deacons, Mr. George Huisenga, owned a little gift shop in downtown Hammond. He sold enough Christian books to receive a catalogue from Zondervan Publishers. Zondervan had published a little book for me, and that little book was advertised in the catalogue. In this advertisement were some statistics about the growth of the Miller Road Baptist Church in Garland, Texas. The little advertisement couldn't have been over 1 1/2" square. Mr. Huisenga saw it, tore it out of the catalogue, went to the pulpit committee, tossed it on the chairman's desk and said, "This is the fellow you ought to consider calling." Nobody had recommended me, I had not sought the position, and for that matter, I did not want the position. They sent me an application form. I replied that I was not interested.
They continued seeking me and pursuing me. Finally when I was speaking in the Chicago area, two members of the pulpit committee came to hear me speak. They took me out to eat and introduced me to the rest of the pulpit committee. I told the committee that I had no interest, that I would be flying back to Texas the next day, and that I did not want to leave my church in Garland, Texas. Mr. Huisenga looked at me and said, "Well, we did buy you a meal. Would you at least pray this prayer at least one time sometime soon: 'Dear God, do You want me to visit First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana? Amen.' - would you pray that prayer?" I said, "Yes, I'll do that."
I went back to Texas, and to be quite frank, I forgot the promise I made. Weeks passed. One night I was driving from Oklahoma City to Dallas. I left Oklahoma City after preaching in a Baptist church there and drove through the night to get home. In the wee hours of the morning, I came to the little town of Denton, Texas. Just before I got to that town, I remembered the promise I had made to Mr. Huisenga, and so I simply began to pray while driving, "Dear Lord, do You want me to visit Hammond, Indiana? Amen." Within five seconds after I prayed that prayer, I was stunned as I looked to the right of the highway and saw a neon sign that said three words: HAMMOND WELCOMES YOU. I could not believe it! I stopped the car, walked over and put my hand on the sign to be sure it wasn't a mirage. It was the Hammond Service Station in Denton, Texas, and painted on the sign were such things as "cheap gas," "mechanic on duty," etc., but there in neon it simply said, HAMMOND WELCOMES YOU. I was stunned. I trembled as I drove the rest of the way to my home in Garland, Texas. That was on a Wednesday.
After the service Wednesday night, I was to drive to Lake Louise, Tacoa, Georgia, to speak in a Sword of the Lord Conference. I asked my deacon chairman to drive with me so we could share the driving responsibilities, as I had not slept the night before, and I was afraid that two nights in a row driving all night would make me so sleepy I would be injured in an accident. I couldn't forget that sign the night before, so I thought I had better pray some. My deacon chairman drove from Dallas to Little Rock, and from Little Rock to Memphis, I drove.
As I was driving, I got to thinking about the sign I had seen the night before. It simply said in neon lights, HAMMOND WELCOMES YOU. I began to pray as I was driving between Little Rock and Memphis. Something like this was my prayer:
"Dear Lord, did You mean anything by that sign last night? Should I visit Hammond? Make it plain to me."
I fell asleep at the wheel while praying! When I woke up, I was just a few inches from the back of a big six-wheel truck. I jammed on the brakes, skidded the tires, burned some rubber and stopped, after barely tipping the truck in the back, doing no damage to the truck or my car. I was scared to death! I looked up! Would you like to know what was on the back of that truck? Two words-HAMMOND, INDIANA. I said, "Dear God, if You will get me to Tacoa Falls safely, and if that church ever calls me again, I'll go preach up there."
When I drove into the conference grounds at Tacoa Falls, Georgia, before I got out of the car, somebody came out of the office and said, "Is Dr. Jack Hyles here yet?" I said, "Yes, here I am." They said, "There is a call for you." I said, "It's from Hammond, Indiana, isn't it?" They said, "Yes. How did you know?" I said, "I saw some signs along the way!" I picked up the phone and told the caller that I would come to visit Hammond, Indiana.
What I am saying is that I had no desire to go anywhere. I was busy where I was. God literally had to grab me and shake me to get me to consider going to Hammond. Now I praise His name that He called me here to Hammond.
Exodus 3:2-4, "And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I." Notice that Moses was surprised when God called him to a place of leadership, but notice that he did say, "Here am I."
Now look at Exodus 3:10, "Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt." God called this unsuspecting, unseeking man to lead His people out of Egypt. No real leader wants to be a leader. A man who wants to lead is not qualified to lead. In my opinion, that's what's wrong with our presidential system in America. The way we choose a president will never offer us a real leader. We choose from men who seek the job. We should seek the man who is qualified for the job. Notice
Exodus 3:11, "And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?" Especially notice the words, "Who am I that I should go unto Pharaoh?" Moses did not feel worthy to do the job. Ah, it sounds to me like this fellow is going to be a leader.
Moses even argued with God somewhat in Exodus 4:1, "And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee." He had some reluctance, feeling that he could not do the job, and God had to convince him that he would not have to do the job alone.
Now notice Exodus 4:10-12, "And Moses said unto the Lord, 0 my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but lam slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say." Moses argued on the basis that he was not a good speaker. He was not eloquent; he was slow of speech. Maybe he had some impediment of speech.
What I'm saying here is that Moses did not seek the job, Moses did not want the job, Moses did not put himself up for the job, and at no place did he exalt himself.
Now notice that Aaron did not seek the job of the high priesthood. Exodus 40:1, 12-15, "And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying. And thou shalt bring Aaron and his sons unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and wash them with water. And thou shalt put upon Aaron the holy garments, and anoint him, and sanctify him; that he may minister unto me in the priest's office. And thou shalt bring his sons, and clothe them with coats: And thou shalt anoint them, as thou didst anoint their father, that they may minister unto me in the priest's office: for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priest hood throughout their generations." Aaron was God's choice. Aaron did not apply for the job of being the high priest. He did not seek it. He did not necessarily want it, but he was chosen by God.
So we have two men. One was the leader of Israel; another was the high priest of Israel. Both were chosen by God; neither seeking the job, or for that matter wanting the job, or for that matter feeling qualified for the job, but they were called of God.
2. People often challenge God's leaders. Numbers 16:1-4, "Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men: And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown: And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, even one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD? And when Moses heard it, he fell upon his face." Let us notice several things about this rebellion of Korah.
(1) This is the same Korah that is mentioned in Jude 11. "Woe to them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core." So, according to the Word of God, we know Korah made a serious mistake.
(2) He was of the family of Kohath, a son of Levi. Now the three sons of Levi were Kohath, Gershon and Merari. So we have these three families-the Kohathites, the Gershonites and the Merarites. Each was given a task to perform concerning the tabernacle. The Gershonites were responsible mainly for the tent of meeting; that is, the tabernacle itself. The Merarites were responsible for the boards and bars of the tabernacle. The Kohathites were responsible for the transporting of the furniture of the tabernacle. Ah, it's a wonderful thing to have a part in the work of God. It is also a wonderful thing to be satisfied with the part that God has given to you.
(3) There were others in the rebellion. Dathan and Abiram, men of the tribe of Reuben, the firstborn of Jacob, no doubt felt they should have been chosen to do the job that Moses and Aaron had been chosen to do.
(4) They rebelled against Moses. Numbers 16:12. Notice, there were 250 princes; that is, bosses, men of rank. Notice also they were famous in the congregation, men of renown, men who were accustomed to being in charge and well-known people.
This is the same old story. You would think that this was a Baptist church split. The Devil has no new methods. He operates the same way, and he has always operated the same way.
(5) They gathered themselves against Moses and Aaron. Notice in Numbers 16:3, "Ye take too much upon you." Nothing could be farther from the truth. Neither Moses nor Aaron took the job upon them. They did not want their jobs. They did not seek their jobs. It was God Who called them, just as God calls men today to pastor churches. Moses tried every way he could to avoid the job that God called him to do. He did not feel qualified; he did not want the position.
I know how he felt. I do not like to lead. I certainly do not like to be a boss. If I had my way, I would never boss anybody. Time and time again after I have had to be a boss or a strong leader, I've gone to my office and wept. Such is the case with any real man of God.
Now notice the words in Numbers 16:3c, "... wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?" This is the typical lie that rebels use. Moses did not lift up himself; Aaron did not lift up himself; God lifted them up! God called them!
Every organization must have a leader. A country must have a king or a president. A state must have a governor. A city must have a mayor. A team must have a coach. A school must
have a principal. A home must have a father. A church must have a pastor.
Now notice the words in verse 3, "seeing all the congregation are holy." Somehow these people could not accept the fact that what they were doing was holy. God had given the Kohathites the responsibility of transporting the furniture; He had given the Gershonites the responsibility of transporting the tent; He had given the Merarites the responsibility of transporting the boards and the bars, and bless your heart, that was as holy as the jobs that Moses and Aaron had.
There is no unholy job for God; every job is important. If God has given you the responsibility of pastoring a church, realize that it is holy and sacred, and give it your best. If God has given you the responsibility of being the church custodian, realize it is holy and of God, and give it your best. If God has given you the responsibility of being a church secretary, choir director, Sunday school teacher or deacon, you have been called of God just as much as the pastor has. Give it your best, but let each be satisfied with the will of God for his own life. There are no big shots or little shots in the New Testament church.
No real pastor wants to lead, but he has to; he has been called of God to do so. Every real God-called pastor would rather follow than lead, but somebody has to lead, and there is nobody to lead but human beings.
3. The first committee ever appointed made a tragic mistake! Deuteronomy 1:19-22, 26, "And when we departed from Horeb, we went through all that great and terrible wilderness, which ye saw by the way of the mountain of the Amorites, as the LORD our God commanded us; and we came to Kadesh-barnea. And I said unto you, Ye are come unto the mountain of the Amorites, which the Lord our God doth give unto us. Behold, the LORD thy God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged. And ye came near unto me even one of you, and said, We will send men before us, and they shall search us out the land, and bring us word again by what way we must go up, and into what cities we shall come. Notwithstanding ye would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the Lord your God."
(1) The Israelites were at the door of the Promised Land. They came to Kadesh-barnea, and God told them that He had given them the land. In Deuteronomy 1 :20b, notice the words, "which the LORD our God doth give unto us." In verse 21, notice the words, "go up up and possess it, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath said unto thee." It was God's command for them to go possess the land.
(2) They wanted to appoint a committee. Look at verse 22. God had led the Israelites all the way from Egypt, as He led Moses, and Moses led them. God told Moses and Moses told the people concerning the Passover. God told Moses, and Moses told the people concerning the crossing of the Red Sea. God told Moses, and Moses told the people concerning the journey across the wilderness. Then they came to the very door of the Promised Land - their goal. Again God led Moses, and Moses led the people. It was time to enter into the Promised Land. Couldn't they go in the same way they got to the door of the Promised Land? Yes, but, sad to say, the people wanted to appoint a committee!
Someone has said that a committee is a group of the unprepared who are unqualified to do the unnecessary and who read the minutes and waste the hours. Somebody else has said that a camel is a horse put together by a Baptist committee.
(3) The committee came back and recommended not to go. The Israelites took the advice of the committee and refused to go into the Promised Land. How tragic! For 40 years they then needlessly wandered in the wilderness all because they had changed their method of following the will of God as a people. Sure, God allowed them to have the committee, but that was not His first choice.
His first choice was for the people to follow Moses as Moses followed God.
Our churches are "committeed" to death!
4. God expects His people to follow His chosen pastors.
Hebrews 13:7, 'Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation."
(1) Notice the word "remember." It means, "don't forget," "Keep this before you."
(2) Notice the word "rule." The word "rule" is the word "guide" or "lead."
(3) Notice the words, "who have spoken unto you the word of God." Here we have the spiritual leaders whom God chooses. They are our guides or leaders - again, not in matters of business that would cumber the church with a great debt, but in spiritual matters.
(4) Notice the words, "whose faith follow." Wow, what a statement!
Now look at Hebrews 13:17, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief for that is unprofitable for you." Here you have the same word "rule," and then you have the word "submit," which means "to yield." Then it tells us to whom we are to yield - to those who watch over our souls. Then we are reminded that they must give an account to God for what they do. We are not talking here about moral matters. We are not talking here about business matters; we are talking about spiritual leadership.
Now when does this unscriptural practice of a muzzled pastor start? So often it starts with the choosing of a new pastor. A man of God serves faithfully for many years. His people follow him; they trust him; they love him. He leads them well, and they follow well, and there is a wonderful relationship.
Then, the pastor resigns or passes away. The people must choose another man of God.
Between pastors, people who are capable have to assume some of the responsibilities that the pastor had fulfilled. Oftentimes, these are places of leadership. These men who are capable of leadership fulfill these responsibilities, and, of course, they are often men of renown, famous men in the congregation, as we noticed in Numbers 16:1. These men enjoy this leadership, but now it's time to call a new pastor. The church calls a new pastor, and the pastor assumes the responsibilities Now these men who have led in the interim period have enjoyed their place of leadership and hate to relinquish it to the pastor.
Then the people do not know the new pastor and do not trust him as much as they did the old pastor. This is normal and a natural thing. However, the people are supposed to follow the new pastor, not because they know him well, but because he is God's man! Soon his hands are tied. He does not have the liberty the other pastor had. A few men in the congregation who are famous and well-known do not want to relinquish the powers that they had to assume during the interim period.
In conclusion, let it be said that this pastor does not enjoy leading, nor is he advocating men who want to usurp authority and power. He is simply saying that when God calls a man to a place, that man is usually busy somewhere else and does not seek the place. No pulpit committee or no church should seek a man who is seeking them. Let God lead the committee to the man, as was the case in the First Baptist Church of Hammond a third of a century ago, and let that man be fully persuaded in his own mind that he is the man, and let the church be fully persuaded. Then let that man lead with love and the people follow with love. Let the business of the church be a democracy, and let the spiritual program of the church be placed in the hands of God's chosen man. What a wonderful relationship can exist when God's people follow God's man and when God's man, not wanting to lead, accepts the call of God and does lead!
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