I was having a conversation about church leadership with a gentlemen who had previously served a church in New England as pastor. In that conversation, the subject of Pastoral Accountability came up. Since we are talking about Spiritual Authority this weekend at Waters Church, I figured I would share an important note regarding accountability and where we are missing it as a church.
Usually when we speak of “holding a pastor accountable” we are speaking only about his moral life. Don’t get me wrong, a pastor is called to live “above reproach” as 1 Timothy 3 clearly outlines. Sadly, the only accountability we are looking for in pastors is what I call “Big 3 Avoidance”. We want to make sure he never commits adultery, fiscal mismanagement/illegality, or spiritual abuse of church members. Those are some heavy duty sins that cause serious damage. I have personally experienced the high cost of pastors who participate in those in my own church experience. However, my concern resolves around this one question: Can we legitimately call a pastor or church “successful” just by avoiding the “Big 3” sins for 50 years if hardly anything else happens as well? What if for all those years the church does not experience numerical growth, few conversions/
I’m all for holding pastors and churches accountable. I’m just for holding them accountable to what Jesus came to do. This may surprise you, but Jesus did not call the Church out of the world SIMPLY to avoid being like the world until we die and go to heaven! Sin avoidance is NOT the mission of the people of God. Making disciples of ALL nations is the mission of the people of God.
Sadly, many churches are quite comfortable with maintaining the status quo, seeing hardly any baptisms every year and ensuring our families are safe from the evils of society. I think God in heaven is grieved by that! There were times in Israel’s history when they were quite comfortable with their standing before God while other nations could go to hell (Think of Jonah and his disdain for the people of Nineveh). This was anathema to the heart of God who called Israel to be His Priestly Nation (Exodus 19:6) as a blessing to the nations of the world (Genesis 12:1-3). It may sound unloving to say this, but some churches need to close their doors and cease to exist. When any church becomes a waiting room for heaven and no one in the community even knows it exists because there are zero good works for others to see (See Matthew 5:16), that church has forfeited its right to call itself part of Jesus’ movement. Any church that does nothing for those outside the church is disconnected from the God who sent His Son to die for people who hated Him.
Does this make you uncomfortable? Jesus made many comfy Pharisees uncomfy. Jesus was not a Sunday school teacher only concerned with Bible memory verse challenges. Jesus made a whip and drove people out of the Temple. The reason? Not what we typically think. Selling sacrificial animals to Jews who travelled far to worship in Jerusalem was fine. It was WHERE they were doing business that bothered Jesus. They were taking up room in the Gentile court to make money instead of keeping those places open for people far from God to hear from God!
So I’m all for pastoral accountability. But let’s go all the way. Let’s move beyond “sin avoidance.” Let’s get serious about being the “light of the world and city on a hill” that Jesus said “CANNOT BE HIDDEN.”
This is why Waters Church is committed to launching 2 (TWO) campuses this year in Milford, MA and Woonsocket, RI. If you are interested in being involved, head over to the campus pages (here and here) and sign up! We want to send people OUT so that God can bring more people IN. THIS is our mission. THIS is why we exist.
And it is so much more interesting than just trying to “not be bad.”