This article was originally published as part of my Beyond the Church Door series in the Florida Baptist Witness.
by Rod D. Martin
June 12, 2015
Two weeks ago, I made the case that every legitimate vocation is a calling, and that the work of the scientist or the farmer is as important in the Body of Christ as that of the pastor or missionary.
I also made the case that too many Christians, and far too many pastors, don’t really get this point.
The world does though. The world has understood it all along. There’s a reason the Romans persecuted the early church, and there’s a reason persecution is in full crescendo across the world today.
Understaffed, underfunded, and overwhelmed with the practicalities of running everything from the nursery to the A/V system to the Wednesday night business meeting, many pastors understandably see themselves as the harried leaders of a tiny band, barely able to cope with the day-to-day management of their specific church (institutionally speaking). Too often, they can’t even handle the outreach required by the Great Commission. There’s just too much else to do.
It’s easy to see why such overburdened men might not see the church “terrible as an army with banners” that Christ’s enemies see quite clearly: an enormous number of people who
1. Hold a moral code that is immutable and demanding of loyalty and even sacrifice in the face of any contrary social convention or law;
2. Voluntarily gather every week, in hundreds of thousands of auditoria, to hear lectures on that code and its application;
3. Reach into all professions and every area of human endeavor, transforming them according to standards beyond any human opinion or control.
Caesar saw this quite clearly. He saw it as a political threat, and no quantity of reassurance that “My kingdom is not of this world” would placate him. People who refuse to change their beliefs at society’s whim are dangerous: at best they challenge the conscience, at worst they represent an existential threat to a state or a civil order gone bad.
Nor does that threat need be of armed rebellion, though clearly Caesar feared such. Christianity works its way through society and institutions like yeast through dough. It changes what it touches. It is the most revolutionary force in the history of the world.
If you’re invested in some different order, you feel the need to rip Christianity out root and branch. Robespierre did. Stalin did. The Chinese Communist Party does. And growing numbers within the American left do now as well.
This revolutionary transformation is the real work of the church, whether seen from a Creation Mandate or a Great Commission perspective (indeed, these are really just two sides of the same Gospel coin). We are each and all helping our Father finish His Creation, of both the physical world and the fallen men within it. The gates of Hell itself will not prevail against Him, or us.
The pastor – or the flock – who is overly consumed with the internal workings of his local church misses the majesty, the power, the transformation in all of this. Pastors are not poorly provisioned viceroys ruling tiny one and two acre kingdoms. They are the beating heart of a vast, diverse and powerful body. And while the body will die without its heart, the body’s purpose is far more than just maintaining good circulation.
When pastors start to grasp this, they’ll truly equip and unleash their flocks. Not incidentally, when that happens, their flocks will take far better care of their pastors. Pastors are not ill-equipped because the tasks before them are too great. They lack because their visions – and therefore those of their followers – have been far too small.