“Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” -the LORD
David and I have been in many churches over the years. We have been privy to many a backroom meeting. We have seen many leaders make Biblically wrong decisions. We know how the church world works. What we have learned from these many experiences is this: There is no perfect church and there is no perfect pastor. If you are looking for something, you will always find something that you don’t like, that you don’t agree with or even that you don’t agree is Biblically correct. Pastors are human…GASP! Just because they have received a call of God on their lives does not mean that God put “super spiritual” powers inside of them. They have strengths and weakness. They struggle against sin daily. They zip their pants up the same way we do. They are human.
And what’s more, I bet that you don’t often think about the level of attack that the enemy throws at a pastor. Here is a man responsible before God for the souls of any number of people. As a matter of fact James wrote, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” God holds pastors and leaders in the church to a higher standard. If a man (or woman) holds the interpretation of His Word in their hand for others around them, they should wake up every day reminding themselves that they are held accountable for the souls in their sheepfold. This makes for a pretty big red target for the devices of the enemy. Boy, he is just itching to get at a God-called pastor. He will use every tactic necessary… temptation, stress, attacks from outside the church, congregation members…
Did I just say congregation members??? Surely not the very people that are eating from the table this man is preparing for them every Sunday. Surely at least these people that he is placing meals before would fear God before they ever spoke a word against the man he has put in charge and given such a heavy responsibility of caring for the souls of men. Surely we would make EVERY effort to exhaust all Biblical avenues for our concerns before we began to spread them in our communities or among our friends. Surely a man of God can trust that he will be protected by the very people he cares so much for. Surely…
Heartbreakingly, that is not the case…not in most churches and I am beginning to think, not in any. If there was such a church, in these days and times it would be labeled a cult.
Now let me stop here and clarify that there ARE false prophets. Wolves in sheep’s clothing that have infiltrated the church to manipulate, make money, or get worship from people. No doubt there are these oppressors out there. There are also pastors who have put there hands to the plow and then turned back and fallen into sin. These types of leaders must be prayed into the light and rebuked by other leaders and by the leadership of the church according to the standards set forth in the word. Frustratingly, these type of leaders are usually the ones that are protected because they have gathered flocks too blind to root them out.
But even when dealing with these types of leaders, let’s remember the story of Saul. He was anointed king over Israel. He got caught up in disobedience and God promised to remove the Kingdom from him and give it to another. He then had Samuel anoint David king. David did not actually become king until after Saul’s death. Should David or somebody following him have organized a campaign to remove Saul. Should David have started telling everyone in the Kingdom that he was king now and Saul was not? You know what David did? He let Saul live TWICE when he could have killed him in self defense. “David sneaked over and cut off a small piece of Saul’s robe, but Saul didn’t notice a thing. Afterwards, David was sorry that he had even done that, and he told his men, “Stop talking foolishly. We’re not going to attack Saul. He’s my king, and I pray that the LORD will keep me from doing anything to harm his chosen king.” The second time his followers urged him to kill Saul and he once again stated that he feared God too much to touch His anointed.
Wait a second. I thought that Saul had already ticked God off. As a matter of fact, the Lord was even sending an evil spirit to torment him. Yet David won’t touch him or even speak against him to the Israelites. Perhaps he knew something that we don’t. Perhaps he really believed that “the king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the LORD; He guides it wherever He pleases.” and that “He changes the times and seasons and that He removes kings and sets up kings.” Perhaps he believed that “there is no power but of God and the powers that be are ordained of God.” He trusted God and was humble enough to let God deal with it EVEN when that meant his own temporary suffering. THAT is faith and humility.
“So what are you saying, Candace? Do I never have a right to speak up when I see truth and it seems the people around me do not? Cause my pastor just makes me so mad sometimes. I don’t agree with him. I think he says things that aren’t Biblical. I have caught him in sin. I know things about him that would make you cringe. And I am just discussing them with a few close friends who feel the same way. We are supporting each other through this.”
I think Biblically that EVERY Christian needs to consider motives, methods, and desired outcome before ever opening our mouths to criticize a leader.
Our motive must be completely godly. Honestly, we need to know that we are called of God to address the weaknesses of said leader. We need to be scared to open our mouths before we have received that call and we need to consider that if this leader is already receiving stricter judgment from God for his actions, what will we receive if we unjustly (or even justly in David’s case) criticize him. This is what God said to Miriam and Aaron, “With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” Yes, this is Old Testament. The veil is torn. The God who said this is the same. We need to be as afraid to step into this calling as a missionary would be to sell everything and move to another country. Ugly words should never just slip off of our tongue when we are talking about any shepherd in the church.
Our method must also be determined by the Lord. Matthew 18 is fairly clear about confrontation. First you confront the offender alone. Next you would take a witness. After that, you would bring it to the church leadership. ALL of this must be heavily smothered in prayer and directed by the Lord. Why would your pastor listen to you? Because you have already determined you have been called by God to confront him. Why would he give you a meeting with Him? Because the Lord has already told you that you are to confront him. If God is calling you to do this, He will open the doors and he will provide the opportunity. And here’s where I will say that if your method is “sharing” or “commiserating” with church members, people outside of the church, or a myriad of “close” friends, there is no Biblical grounds for that. If your method is to approach people under or close to the pastor, who get privileged access to him and know better than anyone his weaknesses, to discuss your “concerns” with them or worse, to bait them into giving you more “concerns”, there is no Biblical grounds for that. If you simply need to get it off your chest without confronting someone directly, the best route you have is your spouse or another very close and intimate friend who will deal with this and encourage forgiveness in a godly manner…not in a “let me tell you all the things that I know” manner.
Our expected outcome must be restoration. In a word, we need to desperately love the leader that we are confronting…love that leader enough to pray with all our heart that they will find restoration with the Lord. “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; Or the LORD will see it and be displeased, And turn His anger away from him.”
I was in a situation once where it would have so pleased me to see a false leader be destroyed. My attitude and heart was very wrong and so were some of the things that I said and did. It was a stumbling block to my relationship with the Lord. Looking back, I wish I would have come across someone who would have challenged my attitude, but sadly, everyone that I “shared” with simply jumped into the pastor bashing. It may be why God had to wait so long to call us to a really good church…so He could work in my heart and attitude and teach me that I am not called to criticize my leaders. I am called to follow them until the Lord calls me to follow someone else. To teach me that I can be right and Biblical in my opinions, but completely sinful in my actions. To teach me that I better be scared not to back up my pastor when I am sitting at his table every Sunday and enjoying the fruits of his labor every Wednesday night…when my children are learning and growing in the Lord and being uplifted by weekly activities, camps, and Sunday School classes that are under his watch. To teach me that the man of God has special privileges with God and much more responsibility because of those privileges. To teach me that I can build the Kingdom, but I can so much more easily try to tear it down.
I am not advocating a blind “drinking the Koolaid” faith in man. Again Paul’s wisdom comes into play here… “Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” Obviously I believe our devotion should be to Christ…and included in that devotion should be a respect for the leaders that He has placed over His Church…a healthy fear of God’s protection on their lives because of the heavy call upon them. Because this is the kind of protection I am talking about…
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
3 my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield[a] and the horn[b] of my salvation.
He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—
from violent people you save me.
4 “I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and have been saved from my enemies.
5 The waves of death swirled about me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
6 The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me.
7 “In my distress I called to the Lord;
I called out to my God.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came to his ears.
8 The earth trembled and quaked,
the foundations of the heavens[c] shook;
they trembled because he was angry.
9 Smoke rose from his nostrils;
consuming fire came from his mouth,
burning coals blazed out of it.
10 He parted the heavens and came down;
dark clouds were under his feet.
11 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
he soared[d] on the wings of the wind.
12 He made darkness his canopy around him—
the dark[e] rain clouds of the sky.
13 Out of the brightness of his presence
bolts of lightning blazed forth.
14 The Lord thundered from heaven;
the voice of the Most High resounded.
15 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
16 The valleys of the sea were exposed
and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at the rebuke of the Lord,
at the blast of breath from his nostrils.
17 “He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
18 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
19 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the Lord was my support.
20 He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.
21 “The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.
22 For I have kept the ways of the Lord;
I am not guilty of turning from my God.
23 All his laws are before me;
I have not turned away from his decrees.
24 I have been blameless before him
and have kept myself from sin.
25 The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to my cleanness[f] in his sight.
26 “To the faithful you show yourself faithful,
to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
27 to the pure you show yourself pure,
but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.
28 You save the humble,
but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low.
29 You, Lord, are my lamp;
the Lord turns my darkness into light.
30 With your help I can advance against a troop[g];
with my God I can scale a wall.
31 “As for God, his way is perfect:
The Lord’s word is flawless;
he shields all who take refuge in him.
32 For who is God besides the Lord?
And who is the Rock except our God?
33 It is God who arms me with strength[h]
and keeps my way secure.
34 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
he causes me to stand on the heights.
35 He trains my hands for battle;
my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
36 You make your saving help my shield;
your help has made[i] me great.
37 You provide a broad path for my feet,
so that my ankles do not give way.
38 “I pursued my enemies and crushed them;
I did not turn back till they were destroyed.
39 I crushed them completely, and they could not rise;
they fell beneath my feet.
40 You armed me with strength for battle;
you humbled my adversaries before me.
41 You made my enemies turn their backs in flight,
and I destroyed my foes.
42 They cried for help, but there was no one to save them—
to the Lord, but he did not answer.
43 I beat them as fine as the dust of the earth;
I pounded and trampled them like mud in the streets.
44 “You have delivered me from the attacks of the peoples;
you have preserved me as the head of nations.
People I did not know now serve me,
45 foreigners cower before me;
as soon as they hear of me, they obey me.
46 They all lose heart;
they come trembling[j] from their strongholds.
47 “The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock!
Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior!
48 He is the God who avenges me,
who puts the nations under me,
49 who sets me free from my enemies.
You exalted me above my foes;
from a violent man you rescued me.
50 Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing the praises of your name.
51 “He gives his king great victories;
he shows unfailing kindness to his anointed,
to David and his descendants forever.”