In some Christian circles in the US, October is Pastor’s Appreciation Month. As a PK and a PW, I have been blessed with so much from so many for so long. Of course, there have been days … and weeks … and even months … that I wanted OUT. But mostly, I’ve loved being IN. Being “in the ministry” with my favorite person has been a blessing and a gift (although I can’t really speak objectively since it’s all I’ve ever known). God’s people have been good to me. To us.
That being said, I want to share my heart today … as a PW. A pastor’s wife. First I shall make a controversial generalization before my clarification:
There is no biblical support to say that a pastor (church leader) should be held to a higher standard than any other Christ follower. Seriously.
Now, to clarify.
The bible speaks much to the believer’s spiritual walk and witness. And by that, I mean every believer. As you read through the list of “qualifications” for leaders in the church, you won’t find any that are not taught elsewhere in scripture and given to the entire body of Christ. (The one exception being that they should be “able to teach”, which I would assume means to possess the gift of teaching that not every believer has). Every single person who chooses to follow Christ is choosing to die to self and to put on Christ’s righteousness in every way. Certainly a spiritual leader should be doing this as an example to those who look to them for guidance in their own growth process.
In Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3-5, we read about a spiritual leader’s responsibility and accountability before God and to those who follow.
In the context of these passages, biblical leadership – pastor or elder – isn’t as much about the leader being more mature in every area than all other believers, as it is about those who are not yet spiritually mature enough being placed into a position of spiritual leadership or authority when they should not be. In these passages of scripture, we see that the person who is to become a church leader should already be practicing these spiritual disciplines and habits. When someone has shown mature faith and Christlike character, they are biblically permitted to assume a position in which they are able to model what Christianity looks like for those who are learning and developing in their faith. Since this seems to be the process, I am unable to see any scriptural (contextual) evidence to support the common thought within the church that a Christian leader should be “held to a higher standard” than all the other confessing believers within the church. It’s not a biblical way of thinking.
This expectation of pastors and elders is an erroneous one.
So, as you seek to encourage your pastor(s) this month, pray that God will give them strength and courage to maintain their spiritual walk with Him. And pray that God will continue to raise up more leaders within the church who are willing to model for us what it looks like to follow Christ wholeheartedly.
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls and will give an account for their work. Let them do this with joy and not with complaints, for this would be no advantage for you.
[Addendum: 1) From James 3 one could argue that a teacher is held to a higher standard. And I would agree that in what they speak there should be great care – because speech can powerfully influence others. Words must be carefully spoken – whether that’s in not speaking gossip or in speaking truths. The Bible says that those who use their mouths to teach will be accountable for their words and “will be judged more strictly” than those who do not teach. 2) This is not a post about how to discipline a leader or member when accusations have been brought against them.]