OPEN LETTER TO A CHURCH PASTOR
BY: BRENDA IMUS
Hugh and I have enjoyed fellowshipping with you and the others the past several Sundays. It’s apparent that you have a genuine heart for your fellow believers, a gift for teaching, and what seems to be a call as a pastor. Though no one can claim to have perfect understanding into all of the Scriptures, you evidently work hard to ‘rightly divide the word of truth,’ and so are to be commended for your diligence in that as well. On top of all this, you’re a likeable guy!
I’ve no doubt that you understand that the times we live in are particularly perilous. Because of this, it is more important than ever before that those who shepherd the Lord’s precious flock be not only faithful, but wise. As you reminded us last week: “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.” (James 3:1)
Those who deign to teach God’s children carry a very heavy responsibility–in reality it is one far too great for any one person to shoulder. But God never intended that any one person carry such a load of responsibility alone! It was intended that we be interdependent, and that the Spirit of Christ might be communicated to His church through the various gifts which He has given the church. This will never happen so long as those who possess the gifts are kept stifled by a religious system that effectually prohibits the recognition, growth and usefulness of those gifts. A person may sit under absolutely brilliant Scriptural teaching all their lives – but it profits them (and the church as a whole) very little if they are not encouraged to learn to hear the Lord for themselves, and then to move out into effectual ministry… first to the body of Christ, and then to the world as the body is matured and equipped through the use of their God-supplied spiritual gifts.
You stated a few weeks ago that it is your job to equip the saints for ministry. Be careful, dear brother – such a claim is not only unscriptural, but tends to lead a person toward subtle pride. In effect, it places such a one in the very place of God in the lives of other Christians. (I know that is not your intent, but it is the danger, and a common downfall, nevertheless.) The best you can hope to be is an example to the flock, according to the gift in you. No one man has the job of ‘equipping the saints.’ Rather, it is a group effort, put together by no less than the Spirit of God:
Eph. 4:11: 11] And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12] For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
I Cor. 12:18-20; 27-28: 18] But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 19] And if they were all one member, where were the body? 20] But now are they many members, yet but one body.
27] Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 28] And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
One of the reasons I’m writing this is because the Holy Spirit pricked me when you named the gifts a few weeks back. Though you generally quote Scripture verbatim, when you listed the ministry gifts you placed the prophet last. (At least you openly did so… many will claim to honor the ‘prophets,’ but only receive those who say what they want to hear; i.e., false prophets.) The Lord gives the prophet a considerably higher priority in His body – and even specifies that this is the case. To ‘have the mind of Christ’ will be to understand this, and to encourage those with prophetic gifts to play a very active role in the ministry, even if their messages tend to make you and others in the congregation squirm! Squirming is good! It has been the error since time immemorial to reject the prophets – whether by actually stoning them, or by simply denying their word/ministry. Most genuine prophets are not very popular people! Find a true prophet and you will discover someone who is relatively unpopular and frequently misunderstood and slandered. Yet to deny the prophetic is in direct disobedience to Scripture, both in the OT, and in the new:
Luke 6:22-23: 22] Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. 23] Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.
Amos 2:11-12: 11] And I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites. Is it not even thus, O ye children of Israel? saith the LORD. 12] But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not.
I Thess. 5:19-21: 19] Quench not the Spirit. 20] Despise not prophesyings. 21] Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
I Cor. 12:4-6: 4] Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5] And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 6] And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God, which worketh all in all.
Eph. 4:10-11: 10] He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11] And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12] For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (emphasis mine)
You see it’s not the pastor’s, or teacher’s, job to ‘perfect’ the saints – it is clearly to be a group effort. Can one cut off the arms of a body, and still expect it to work effectively? Or cover the eyes? Yet where is the ministry of the prophet(s) in the congregation? Are we to have only one teacher? Is it not possible that, rather than having one pastor, the Lord might not place two or three among the group with a heart for ‘shepherding the sheep’? Perhaps one with a heart for young believers, another for the poor, yet another for the sick, or distressed… etc., etc? Might He not give one teacher who has special insight into a particular theme of Scripture, and another with the gift of Scriptural exhortation? Are we not hindering the recognition and work of many gifted saints (and thereby the true ministry of Christ to His people) by concentrating solely on the administration of one gift, working in one man, every time the saints gather together? How can we ever hope to understand, let alone perform, the entire will of God under such a lopsided, unscriptural system? Can we not trust the Lord to know exactly what gifts each individual fellowship needs, and to apportion them accordingly? YES WE CAN!! Hallelujah! How it grieves me to see these things so badly out of order in the church as a whole.
In the verses below notice what the Lord’s goal is in giving the gifts of ministry: Unity, knowledge of Him, perfected faith, fullness of the Spirit, maturity and wisdom in understanding correct doctrine… and note again, in verse 16 (below) that it is the whole body that must participate in this.
Eph. 4:13-16: 13] Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: 14] That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15] But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16] From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
Now I’m very aware of the tremendous amount of deception and corruption that has taken place among those claiming to be ‘apostles’ and ‘prophets.’ Have there not ALWAYS been more false prophets than true? Have we not always been charged to discern the difference? Having false prophets in the church does not give us the excuse to ‘play it safe.’ We are never freed from the responsibility to operate as the Lord has commanded us to operate – and to lean entirely upon His Holy Spirit and His written Word for discernment and judgement. (In fact, where the NT Scriptures talk about the prophetic, they also command us to ‘judge’). I have been given to understand that to deny prophecy in the church is to actually deny the testimony of Christ – we will not understand what HE IS SAYING TO HIS CHURCH in any given situation.
Rev. 19:10b for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
I Cor. 14:29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
I Thess. 5:20-21: 20] Despise not prophesyings. 21] Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
I Cor. 14:26-33: 26] How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. 27] If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. 28] But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. 29] Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. 30] If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. 31] For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. 32] And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 33] For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
I have felt the Lord’s leading to address these issues with you almost from the first. Not because I believe you’re doing some heinous thing, and need correction. (Though I’m aware this word will probably hit you hard, as true prophecy almost always has that effect on a person. Ugh!) Rather I sense that the Lord really does yearn to use you to do something that so far has been greatly resisted, especially in this community. He wants to use you to help raise up a church that will truly demonstrate the fullness of our Lord Jesus Christ among a body of healthy, active and USEFUL saints. He wants you to be willing to set aside any ‘pastoral mantle’ that you may imagine is yours alone, and allow HIM to lead this congregation through those gifted, mature saints whom He will send to help share the burden of ministry. Yes, He’s set you in place for a reason. And that place will not be taken from you. But He wants you to be free enough, confident enough, to trust Him enough to allow others to take their places as well, that He might utilize His entire body as He sees fit.
This is no small charge, and I’m not suggesting that you simply turn the church over to whomever might take charge at any given time. (We know who would really like to take charge, don’t we?) But I would challenge you to take these matters up in serious prayer, determine to be faithful to the Scriptures NO MATTER WHAT, and ask the Lord how He wants you to proceed in that direction. I know you’re a stubborn man. That’s OK, since I trust this characteristic can be used FOR the fulfillment of the Lord’s purposes. Some even have a GIFT of stubbornness. But this characteristic may also serve to keep you mobilized around a set of church traditions that do not conform to the Word of God for His church. That would be a tragedy.
The word I have had from the Lord is that IF you will allow Him to operate in His church according to His precepts and Word and methods, then He will do a mighty work that you have yet to imagine, and many will be brought into the Kingdom, and this area will see ‘a great light.’ If you refuse to acknowledge that these things I write are faithful, Scriptural, and true… and minister as though this body of believers is your church and your people... then you may enjoy some success in the way that the world judges success (you are not without natural talent)… but your ministry will never live up to the calling that the Lord has placed upon your life.
Even worse, you will be responsible for failing the saints at a time when they need the ministry of gifted saints possessing the mind of Christ for them, more than ever before.
Eph. 6:1, 6: 1] Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 6] Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.
I Cor. 14:36-37: 36] What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? [Paul here is speaking to men… author] 37] If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.
Yours in love, and in the service of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Acts 18:24-26: 24] And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. 25] This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. 26] And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.
OPEN LETTER TO A CHURCH PASTOR [Brenda Imus] 1