15. The Responsibility of Leadership (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.)
Mt. 13:41 π Mt. 20:25-26 π Mt. 25:40 π Mt. 25:45 π Mk. 10:42-43 π Lk. 22:25-26 π Acts 17:1-2 π Eph. 4:13-15 π 1 Ths. 1:6-7 π 2 Tim. 4:3-4; 2nd π Jas. 1:27 π 2 Pet. 2:18 π 1 Jn. 2:27

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

Tozer wrote:

It is not complimentary to the masses that they are so easily led, but we are not interested in praising or blaming; we are concerned for truth and the truth is that for better or for worse religious people follow leaders. A godly man may change the moral complexion of a whole nation; or a corrupt and worldly clergy may lead a nation into bondage. The transposed proverb, “Like priest, like people,” sums up in four words a truth taught plainly in the Scriptures and demonstrated again and again in religious history.

Today Christianity in the Western world is what its leaders were in the recent past and is becoming what its present leaders are. The local church soon becomes like its pastor, and this is true even of those groups who do not believe in pastors. The true pastor of such a group is not hard to identify; he is usually the one who can present the strongest argument against any church having a pastor. The strong-minded leader of the local group who succeeds in influencing the flock through Bible teaching or frequent impromptu talks in the public gatherings is the pastor, no matter how earnestly he may deny it.

The poor condition of the churches today may be traced straight to their leaders. When, as sometimes happens, the members of a local church rise up and turn their pastor out for preaching the truth, they are still following a leader. Behind their act is sure to be found a carnal (and often well-to-do) deacon or elder who usurps the right to determine who the pastor shall be and what he shall say twice each Sunday. In such cases the pastor is unable to lead the flock. He merely works for the leader; a pitiful situation indeed. (“The Responsibility of Leadership,” emphasis in original, pp. 60-61)

“It is not complimentary to the masses that they are so easily led,” wrote Tozer, “but we are not interested in praising or blaming, we are concerned for truth, and the truth is that for better or for worse religious people follow leaders.” Here again we see Tozer tumbling down a slippery slope – a mistake he does not make often – and landing in a heap at the bottom. Let us start at the bottom, then, and untangle some lines and straighten what is bent and askew.

“For better or for worse religious people follow leaders,” he wrote. Did God miss this trait in human nature? Did an infallible, all-wise, all-knowing God overlook this detail and leave us with an imperfect design for our gatherings? Should we then say, “Oh well, I’m not perfect, my leaders aren’t perfect, so I should just settle in with them wherever they go.”? I think not.

God’s plan for His ekklesia was to overcome this tendency toward waywardness. “…until we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ.” ( Eph. 4:13-15 - emphasis added; top) Is Christ easily led astray? Is Christ tossed to and fro and carried about by the leadings of men? No! And aren’t we supposed to grow up in all things until we are like Him? Yes! “Like priest, like people,” Tozer transposed – and then gives evidence that Christ is not the real priest over the people who claim to be His but he just cannot correctly identify what he sees!

John wrote, “But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.” ( 1 Jn. 2:27 - emphasis added; top)

Had Tozer been concerned with truly finding out where the problem lies, he would have reached a conclusion he reaches later in this quote – “The poor condition of the churches today [c. 1960] may be traced straight to their leaders.” – but he would have reached this conclusion for a different reason. The leaders for decades now, even centuries and millennia, have been allowing the demonic to deceive us away from key steps in the spiritual maturation process and, as a result, the people remain easily led. It is not, as Tozer supposes, an unchangeable fact in human nature, it is a gross failure on the part of leadership to practice discipleship as Christ prescribed it.

The leaders are supposed to quickly lead you to Christ so that you in turn can quickly lead others to Christ (compare Acts 17:1-2 with 1 Ths. 1:6-7 ) This is how the 1st and 2nd century followers of Christ overturned the world in only a few generations. The “church,” because it has heaped up teachers who tickle ears ( 2 Tim. 4:3-4; top ), leads us into a permanent symbiotic relationship whereby we must come to “church,” be “fed” by the “pastor’s” “sermons,” pay our club dues (“tithes” and “offerings”) and simply trust all this will be enough to get us into heaven when we die.

“The local church,” wrote Tozer, “soon becomes like its pastor…” Whereas the fivefold men produce followers who are like Christ, the local “church” produces followers like the “pastor”! This is what Tozer is saying. This is the sick symbiotic relationship the “church” has substituted for a true life with Christ. This is the “church” paradigm in action!

“…even in groups who do not believe in pastors.” Tozer, writing around 1960, here gives evidence that even then some groups were opposed to the Nicolaitan error of “pastors” over the people. In his next two sentences, Tozer’s usage of the word “pastor” betrays his underlying notion that “pastor” means something besides “a shepherd caring for the sheep” which is the true New Testament meaning of the word mis-rendered “pastor.”

“The true pastor of such a group,” Tozer wrote, “is usually the one who can present the strongest argument against any church having a pastor.” This statement is based solidly, squarely and only on Tozer’s own faulty belief that a local assembly should have a “pastor,” a more mature man than the rest who directs the religious and spiritual activities of all. This is Ignatius of Antioch’s Nicolaitan error and heresy in modern language! There should be many elders and many mature servants (deacons). There should be local shepherds and teachers with trans-local apostles, prophets and heralds passing through on their various missions. But in even saying how it ought to be, those who read it through the foggy lens of the “church” paradigm look at their “church” with its Nicolaitan “pastor” and staff and say, “But our church is like that!” Oh, my. The deception is thick upon those who claim to follow Christ but who do not, in actuality, live for and with Him in spirit and in truth.

How do we decide what is the “strongest argument” in regards to how we should assemble as followers of Christ. Did Christ really leave it up to us to take our best guess? That Tozer places it on the level of reason and rational argument shows just how influenced he really was by the “church” paradigm. Even though he could lament and denounce the lack of Christ’s Headship in the “churches,” for some reason he would not or could not or did not submit his definition of “pastor” to Christ. Or perhaps better stated, Christ did not reveal the truth of this matter to Tozer and Tozer was left to select for himself that which he considered the “strongest argument.” He chose the “church” paradigm and it colored every single one of his writings about the “church” and the “pastor.” Tozer, 50 years ago, had the liberty to do so – today we are 50 years closer to the day when the angels will remove the tares from among the wheat and God is graciously giving today’s tares an opportunity to repent and become true wheat. (see Mt. 13:41; top )

The question is not just whether a genuine group of Christ’s followers should have a “pastor” over them – that question is a resounding “no!” They should have apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, teachers, elders and deacons around and under them - but none of Christ’s true followers should be over other believers. ( Mt. 20:25-26 , etc.; top) The question is also should a shepherd have a group of believers. There really is no question that a “pastor” over a “church” is a completely unScriptural notion. But the question arises as to how many sheep should be in a true shepherd’s care. The answer is twofold – and both answers contradict usual “church” practice: A true shepherd should care for no more sheep than the Lord gives him to care for and no more than he is able to realistically care for. This spiritual reasoning simply cannot be filtered through the “church” paradigm.

“The strong-minded leader of the local group who succeeds in influencing the flock,” Tozer wrote, “…is the pastor, no matter how earnestly he may deny it.” If we turn this sentence around, we see Tozer’s underlying definition of “pastor.” A “pastor” is the man who by virtue of his strong mind influences the flock into going in a given direction, “for better or for worse” as Tozer said earlier. In Tozer’s mind, this leadership influence can only be found in a “pastor” – not an elder or deacon or any of the other fivefold men. This stunted vision is surprising in a man of Tozer’s caliber. We truly need to erase the words “pastor” and “church” from our vocabulary – they simply carry too much deceptive baggage with them. Let us completely forsake the notion of the Nicolaitan position called “pastor” and embrace those true shepherds and the other fivefold men the Lord gives to bring us to real spiritual maturity.

In Tozer’s last paragraph, we see the unseeing acceptance that “church” is all as it should be as Tozer gives us the example of the “church” that turns out its “pastor” for preaching the truth. What is unseen is that if the “pastor” did not hold a titled, paid position – something which the New Testament knows nothing of – there would be no possibility of turning him out for preaching the truth. And if the “pastor” did not hold a position of power over the people – something else the New Testament knows nothing of – there would be no prize for a power-mongering “elder” or “deacon” to seek after! Nor would there be any board of “elders” or “deacons” selected by virtue of their wealth and worldly wisdom who can gain control of the “church” by virtue of a few votes. The whole of the ekklesia, after exposure to the genuine work of the Lord in His fivefold men, can serve the needs of the people and can operate in one accord. They do not need one man or a small group of men to act as lords over them because those men inwardly consider the people to be too inept to conduct “church” business anyway. “Church” business is pattered after the world because the carnal, unspiritual “church” is enamored with positions, salaries, wealth and real estate and have little of anything whatsoever leftover for the orphans, widows and leasts of Christ’s brothers. (see Jas. 1:27 , Mt. 25:40 , 45; top ) Unasked is the whole question, “Why should the saints be dismissed from having input just because they don’t know about worldly business practices?” As the fruit, so the root. This is only yet one more indication of where the “church” really comes from.

“Behind their act [of removing the pastor for preaching the truth],” Tozer wrote, “is sure to be found a carnal (and often well-to-do) deacon or elder who usurps the right to determine who the pastor shall be and what he shall say twice each Sunday. In such cases the pastor is unable to lead the flock.” Turn these sentences around and we find another glimpse into what Tozer believes a “pastor” to be – the “pastor” is one who leads the flock, whether that be few or thousands, by what he says twice on Sunday. This vision is a vastly stunted definition of what it means to be a shepherd caring for the Lord’s sheep but it is exceedingly adequate for the “church” who is quite content to heap up teachers who speak great swelling words of emptiness. ( 2 Tim. 4:3-4 , 2 Pet. 2:18; top )

The question of whether the “pastor” should be controlled by the elders or the elders controlled by the “pastor” is older than the “church” split between the Episcopalians (the bishop-ites) and the Presbyterians (the elders-ites). The truth is none should lord over the other ( Mk. 10:42-43 , Lk. 22:25-26; top ) and the mere fact that there are power struggles for these positions is only evidence that the “church” is made of the same fabric as the world. Wherever the “pastor” or “elders” wield power over a “church”, the devil is laughing at the foolishness of all involved and a more pitiful situation is difficult to imagine or envision.

14. The Responsibility of Leadership (Part 1) π 16. Perils of the Preacher (Part 3)
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