12. Perils of the Preacher (Part 2)

The “Church” Paradigm (a la Tozer)

Neil Girrard

Scriptures Referenced in This Article:
          (Follow the Scripture links if you want to study the Scriptures for yourself.)
1 Sam. 16:7 π Mt. 23:7-10 π Mt. 23:8 π Mt. 23:27-28 π Jn. 7:24 π Jn. 20:21 π Rom. 1:1 π 1 Cor. 12:24-25 π 1 Tim. 1:1 π 1 Tim. 3:6 π Jas. 1:1 π 1 Pet. 1:1 π 1 Pet. 4:11 π 1 Jn. 5:19

All quotes from A.W. Tozer are from his book, God Tells the Man Who Cares unless otherwise specified.

Tozer wrote:

There is, for one, the danger that the minister shall come to think of himself as belonging to a privileged class. Our “Christian” society tends to increase this danger by granting the clergy discounts and other courtesies, and the church itself helps a bad job along by bestowing upon men of God various sonorous honorifics which are either comical or awe-inspiring, depending upon how you look at them.

Seeing whose name he bears, the unconscious acceptance of belonging to a privileged class is particularly incongruous for the minister. Christ came to give, to serve, to sacrifice and to die, and said to His disciples, “As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you.” ( Jn. 20:21 ) The preacher is a servant of the Lord and of the people. He is in great moral peril when he forgets this. (“Perils of the Preacher,” p. 91-92)

The minister. Even in labeling the “pastor” or preacher as “the minister” Tozer is giving evidence that he has unconsciously accepted the “minister” as a superior class of being and we have entered a place that is quite different from the New Testament. Peter wrote, “If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies…” ( 1 Pet. 4:11 , NKJV; top) If we read that with the foggy lenses of the “church” paradigm, we will end up with a mental picture similar to Tozer’s “the minister.” But the Greek word rendered “minister” here really (and simply!) means “to serve.” Peter is simply saying that whether God has gifted one to speak or another to serve, everyone should do so with the words or abilities God has given so that He alone is glorified. The “church” paradigm causes us to see things differently than they actually are in the pages of the New Testament – and this is far from the only instance in which it does so.

As we have discussed in previous chapters, the New Testament clearly forbids and precludes the clergy class. ( 1 Cor. 12:24-25 , Mt. 23:8 , etc.; top) Inherent in the nature of institutionalized Christianity (as we saw earlier in this series from Tozer’s quotes from this same chapter) is also the lure to make the preacher think he is part of a privileged class. It is a part of the nature of churchianity to tempt a man to think of himself differently than he ought to. It is a built-in part of the nature of institutionalized Christianity to do the work of the devil in tempting a man to sin! This is what Tozer is saying though even he does not recognize the full implications of what he has said.

Tozer says, “Our ‘Christian’ society tends to increase this danger by granting the clergy discounts and other courtesies…” When the world grants favor to the clergy, it is time to wonder why the world, which is under the influence of the wicked one ( 1 Jn. 5:19 ), is giving favor to the clergy class. Though the world sees many clergy members as doing good things – the same opinion they hold of many godless philanthropists – God sees a different picture. God reproved Samuel by saying, “For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” ( 1 Sam. 16:7 ) Jesus rebuked the Jews, saying, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” ( Jn. 7:24 ) The scribes and Pharisees, the clergy class of Jesus’ day, had perfect their public image, but Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like white-washed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside you are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” ( Mt. 23:27-28; top ) Though this indictment may not be true for every single “pastor” – some preachers of smaller congregations in more localized settings are sometimes less guilty of this – it is true of the vast majority of “pastors” of the present day “church.” Even when the “pastor” is filled with good intentions (as many truly are), God also sees the hidden motives that truly drive the “pastor” (especially of a mega-“church”) to be a power-mongering, attention-seeking public figure.

“…the church itself helps a bad job along,” Tozer wrote, “by bestowing upon men of God various sonorous honorifics which are either comical or awe-inspiring, depending upon how you look at them.” The “church” bestows honorifics (titles) on men – an honorific being an expression indicating one who is a social superior. This is completely different from the New Testament, where Jesus says, “[The scribes and the Pharisees love] to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi,’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ.” ( Mt. 23:7-10; top ) It is neither comical nor awe-inspiring to disobey Christ’s clear commands here – it is sin, rebellion and error. And these are the building blocks of the “church”!

In the “church,” it is appropriate to use whatever giftings one has received (or claims to have received – it is not always germane whether one truly has that gifting or not) as a title, a means of accruing honor to one’s self. Thus we have “Pastor Smith,” “Prophet Michael,” “Apostle Joseph,” etc. This is different from the letters written (a more formal means of communication in itself and therefore perhaps an even better indication as to how the writers referred to themselves in person) in the New Testament where we see things like:

“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ…” ( Rom. 1:1 )

“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ…” ( 1 Tim. 1:1 )

“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” ( Jas. 1:1 )

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ…” ( 1 Pet. 1:1; top )

The gifting and calling is consciously and overtly linked to God, not the man – and this is not just a difference in semantics. This gives all glory and honor to God. Today’s “church” gives the honor to the man who is then supposed to reflect all or at least most of this adulation and praise upwards to God. This is only yet one more difference between the “church” and the practice of following Christ as is seen in the New Testament.

“Seeing whose name he bears,” Tozer wrote, “the unconscious acceptance of belonging to a privileged class is particularly incongruous for the minister.” Why is it particularly incongruous for “the minister”? Because deep in the back of our minds, we simply know “the minister,” the “man of God,” is supposed to be something different, something superior, something above, something other than a normal, average sheep – except that, according to the New Testament, he’s not supposed to be any of those things. For Tozer to even see a different standard for “the minister” betrays that there is already the “unconscious acceptance,” a hidden paradigm, that accepts “the minister” as belonging to a privileged class. This is exactly how subtle the “church” paradigm is! One of Satan’s best lies at work in the people who claim to follow Christ is that the devil is not very good in his work of deceiving the people of Christ!

Tozer wrote, “The preacher is a servant of the Lord and of the people. He is in great moral peril when he forgets this.” This is not very well said. The preacher is a servant of the Lord who serves the people in His name and in His Spirit. That is, the preacher serves the Lord by serving the people – but he is only a servant of the Lord. This is more than a linguistic or semantic difference. One can serve the people and, by doing so, make the people one’s lord. Bowing down to the pressures placed upon the preacher by the best tithers is also a usual fruit of the nature of churchianity. But only when the servants of the Lord are uncompromisingly loyal to the Lord are they able to truly serve the real needs of the people. Too many “pastors” and other “leaders” choose for themselves how they will “serve” the people and they end up becoming mere tools of the enemy used to ensnare others. (see 1 Tim. 3:6; top )

The preacher who fails to separate himself only to the Lord and to His will is not only in great moral peril, he is in great spiritual peril also. Deviating from the will of God is simply the first step toward error and apostasy.

11. Organization: Necessary and Dangerous (Part 3) π 13. Artificial Divisions Are Harmful
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