Regrettably, American Idol is slated to return to an ABC channel near you this March. I did my best to avoid the show when it was running several years ago. I did so simply because I found its title and concept rather revolting. The problem is, however, that many of the contestants were extremely talented—they were entertaining to say the least. Nonetheless, I found the show “revolting” because it fed upon the superficiality of America’s pop culture. But even though the show was incredibly superficial, there were seasons in which the person with the most natural or God given talent won, instead of the one that was the most attractive or that had the most flair. Generally speaking, however, it was the exception rather than the rule that the most deserving and talented person won.
Regrettably a similar thing is happening to today’s pastors. Pastors seem more concerned with their image rather than conforming to the model given by Jesus or his immediate followers. Furthermore, churches unwittingly encourage their pastors to act more like celebrities instead of spiritual shepherds. The bottom line for today’s congregations is do they like “listening” to their pastors, as opposed to hearing the word of God taught to them. Similarly, pastors are more worried about how they are perceived, and whether they are being seen with the right people rather than personally investing in and training a new generation for service to the Lord and his gospel.
How do I know this to be true? It’s pretty simple, just look at the average pastor’s job description. It usually involves a set amount of hours in sermon prep, and then in hospital visits, and then in business meetings, and then in staff meetings, and then in etc., etc. (you get the point); all of which requires generating written reports. I would venture to say that in about 80% of the job descriptions for lead pastors for the average church there is no reference to “discipleship.” Moreover, in the minority in which it is referenced, it is bundled among dozens of other activities that comprise a sort of “other things to do bucket,” that is if time permits. All of which can only be vaguely measured, and for which no pastor can realistically be held accountable—given the many demands of the “more important” responsibilities. To put it plainly, discipleship is ancillary rather than essential to how most of American pastors function today.
The question is, however, is this what Jesus modeled? If one simply weighs the amount of time that Jesus spent in investing, teaching, and training his personal disciples compared to all of his other endeavors, then it is clear that discipleship was the most important component of his entire earthly ministry. Let me say that again: discipleship was the most important component of Jesus’ entire earthly ministry. And the same value for discipleship can be observed in Paul’s ministry as well (2 Tim 2.1-2). The importance and significance of effective discipleship to enduring ministry is obvious. The only thing of consequence that Jesus did by himself was to die for the sins of the world—which was something his disciples were unable to do for themselves, let alone for anyone else. The fact is that Jesus’ earthly ministry began with modeling discipleship (Mk 1.17-20) and then ended with his command to his disciples to go and make other disciples all around the world (Matt 28.18-20).
But are today’s churches looking for disciple makers? Apparently not, instead they are looking for “Christian Idols” (who by the way no longer need to be men). They want individuals who are young, good looking, have it together, and most importantly—they must “sound” good. People must like listening to them. So much for hearing from God about the offense of sin, his provision for it through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to the way of the cross. So, if you are wondering what kind of pastor your church has, start observing how much time he spends discipling others for the purpose of serving the Lord through evangelism and training for ministry. If you don’t see it happening with regularity or if you don’t even hear about it, then your pastor is presenting an “image” rather than following Jesus’ model of ministry. Your pastor may look and sound good, but the impact of his personal devotion to the Lord and his commitment to Lord’s method of ministry will disappear about the same time grass starts appearing on his grave.
Monte Shanks, Copyright © February 20, 2018. The Lantern & Shield Times LLC. All Rights Reserved.