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June 15, 2022

The Office of Pastor and Abuse Versus Purpose Driven Hireling Complaints

By Anthony Wade

The difference between pastors and hirelings is eternal...


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I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. - John 10:11-13 (ESV)

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This was one article I was going to stay away from but there are many important teaching points in here for pastors as well as congregants that I could not ignore it. So, let me start by saying that pastoring is not easy. I have seen the turmoil it can cause in the man and his family. I have seen vicious attacks on true men of God as sheep rose up to destroy a work of God because they could not see how the devil was using them. The carnage left in their wake ruined a local church to this day. Because God honors those who truly serve Him, my pastor is still a blessing to the body of Christ to this day and though God used the wilderness to refine him, he came out for the better despite the evil plots of men. So, to be clear, I am on the side of true pastors who understand their role as under-shepherd is to lead people to Christ and not themselves. I have also witnessed the opposite, which is spoken about in our key verses for today. I have way to often witnessed the hireling in the pulpit of God. Any pastor will tell you that it is not a job. It is a calling from God. For the hireling unfortunately it is very much a job. They could be very well educated to perform that job. They could put together stirring sermons that challenge the intellect but are devoid of the anointing of the Holy Spirit. They may follow the teachings of Rick Warren to develop the mega-church fiefdom many only dream of but in the end they do not care about the sheep. They care about their silo. They care about their brand. They care about the next book deal. They care about politics. They care about who they can hate in the name of Jesus but the sheep? They are expendable to the hireling. They can be blessedly subtracted for having the temerity to disagree, or even ask a question. I say all of this as a backdrop to review the above linked article from Charisma News and the mind of Pastor Joseph Mattera. Pastor Mattera is a dominionist but this piece deals with 11 ways he feels pastors are abused. Let us reason once more beloved.

"With the deluge of news reporting instances of scandals and abuse committed by lead pastors, I thought it necessary to balance this by showing how shepherds (pastors) are also occasionally abused by the sheep (church members). (To be clear, this fact does not justify any scandalous behavior by spiritual leaders.)" - Joseph Mattera

C'mon Joseph. That feeling you are experiencing may just be conviction! You admit as much in the very opening that you are only doing this article to respond to the various news stories about scandals and abuses in the pulpit! What you are specifically doing is trying to justify the unjustifiable! Are you suggesting that we should go easy on Brian Houston because pastoring is a tough job? Never mind the victims he leaves behind or the millions drawn away from Christ? What about the victims of Carl Lentz? What about the $200,000 in stolen tithe monies by Mark Driscoll? What about the plethora of victims of Kenneth Copeland or the untold numbers going to hell because of the greasy grace of Joseph Prince? The issue is not that stories were reported about these hirelings. It was that they did what was reported. I am sure that some sheep spoke poorly towards Carl Lentz but that does not justify his seduction of his babysitter and trying to ruin her marriage. Your premise is pitiful.

"Over the past five decades, the overwhelming majority of pastors I have worked with have been sincere Christ followers who have paid an enormous price and suffered much while walking out their sacred calling. Satan, the accuser of the brethren, will target lead pastors since he knows that when the shepherd is struck, the sheep will scatter (Zech. 13:7). Based upon my own experience as a pastor and the thousands of pastors I have co-labored with while serving movements and networks, the following are 11 ways that sheep abuse their shepherds. (I am not referring to any particular pastor or church but am speaking generically.)" - Joseph Mattera

What is your point? That because YOU think these people you work with are good that they must be? Nearly everyone believed Ravi Zacharias was a phenomenal brother in the Lord until it was discovered that he was sexually using and abusing masseuses from here to Singapore, literally. You are right though that the enemy will strike the shepherd but creating excuses for their unchristlike behavior is not the answer. We have to start holding pastors to the list of qualifications found in scripture. They are difficult for a reason. Let's get on with the list now.

"1. Pastors are criticized for taking time off to go on vacation. I will never forget when my wife was criticized for having a tan after coming home from a family vacation. As young pastors, that put us both on edge and made us leery of sharing anything regarding our personal lives. Evidently, some people think pastors are superhuman and never need a break from work and ministry. This, in my opinion, is a form of shepherd abuse." - Joseph Mattera

Odd place to start. Perhaps the personal account explains why. I have no disagreement. Pastors are human beings. If anything, they need more vacation than the average job because it is not an average job at all. While we are on the subject, we mean real vacations. Taking a group of congregants to Israel or leading a missions trip to Guatemala are not vacations.

"2. Pastors are often criticized for having nice things. I have heard of pastors being criticized for having a home, a nice car, nice clothes, nice watches, etc. Some people have a religious spirit and expect pastors to take a vow of poverty! Besides, most people don't know the backstory of how and why pastors have nice things. Often things such as clothes, watches and even cars are given to them by people in the church, or a family member may have given them money for a home. (Every watch I have and all the clothes I wear have been given to me by people who desire to bless me.) True, there are high-profile pastors who receive excessive compensation and/or live lavish lifestyles (although much of their income can be from their book sales or legitimate business deals not related to the church). However, in my opinion, the vast majority of sincere pastors are underpaid. It is a form of abuse to accuse a pastor of misusing church funds because he or she has nice things without knowing the backstory." - Joseph Mattera

This seems like a mishmash of different issues. The usage of the "religious spirit" lie is telling. Apostate church leaders like to wield this against those who properly discern against their false teachings. No one is expecting pastors to take a vow of poverty. That is absurd. The issue is when pastors are more known for their things than their doctrine. The issue is when their bling is far in excess of the sheep they are tending to. When "Pastor" Jon Gray gives his wife a $200,000 car after being accused of cheating on her and then defends the gift, that is the problem Joseph. Might I suggest also that if a pastor of a lower middle-class church is "gifted" a 10K watch that maybe he does not need to wear it to church. Maybe he can save it for special occasions. Maybe he can use some discernment. Lastly here let's address the often-used excuse that book sales or side business deals have nothing to do with the church. That is patently wrong. I am glad that Joel Osteen does not take a salary from Lakewood Church but to pretend that his millions do not come from the church, who are the very people buying his books, is ridiculous. If the pastor is leveraging his name or celebrity, which only came because of the church, then it is directly related to the church. When you write off your six-million-dollar mansion as a "parsonage" to the IRS as Kenneth Copeland does, methinks you deserve the criticism.

"3. Pastors face constant violations of private and personal boundaries. I cannot remember how often pastors have told me that their vacation was interrupted and/or personal family time disrupted because somebody had a need and desired prayer, counsel or comfort. When people in a congregation fail to respect the personal family time of their pastor, it is a form of shepherd abuse." - Joseph Mattera

Yeah, no. Look, what you describe is a pastor who needs to set better boundaries but you keep acting like the sheep are peers with the shepherd. There is a reason why Jesus used this analogy. I agree the shepherd needs breaks but the sheep cannot take breaks from their need for direction and protection. This is also a direct result of creating the purpose driven cult of personality pastorships that Rick Warren has taught for decades. I remember after my first year of being a non-profit executive, I was expecting a glowing review and my boss let me have it because I had created a workspace that could not survive if I left. She was right. I had to empower the people around me and have them trust in their own decisions. When a church is led by a pastor that is everything to that church, it is no wonder why the sheep feel so much more lost when he takes a vacation. My experience has always been that a good pastor has an awesome pastoral staff specifically because he cannot do everything!

"4. Everyone's emergency has to be their emergency. Most pastors eventually learn that when an immature person in their church is hurting, they go into self-preservation mode and expect their emergency to be the pastor's emergency. They expect the pastor to drop everything and come to their aid, irrespective of the circumstances of their pastor's life and family. When this continually happens, it is a form of shepherd abuse." - Joseph Mattera

Look, every time a sheep behaves like a sheep that is not "shepherd abuse." When this continually happens, it indicates that the solutions implemented by the pastor have not worked. It would not surprise me if there was the paradigm mentioned above at work. My pastor had an Assistant Pastor who was in charge of pastoral care for example. When we were in the hospital, we knew he would visit, not the lead pastor. Quite frankly, it was more of a gifting for the Assistant Pastor! I might add here that if you are put off that sheep want to speak with their shepherd when things go sideways in their life than maybe you are not called. Maybe you are the hireling the key verses warn us about.

5. Pastors face gossip and slander regarding leadership decisions. Every pastor has had people in their congregation slander and second-guess decisions without understanding the context or investigating the reason behind their choices. When a church culture develops a critical spirit toward its pastor and leadership, this is a form of shepherd abuse.

Wow, sounds like someone should not even be a leader, let alone a pastor. Throughout the years I have had many of my leadership decisions questioned. You have to have thicker skin than this. You have to approach criticism with a couple of views. First of all, you must always assume the critique could be right! I know this goes against the purpose driven teaching that no one questions the high and mighty vision caster but the reality is that maybe there was a better way to do something. As long as you explain your heart and why you chose to do something your way, it is ok to say hey maybe you are right. The second view we must have as leaders is to use every situation as an opportunity to grow. Second guessing leadership is the one constant in leadership situations but it is not "slander." We need to remember that the sheep belong to Jesus - not us. He is the Great Shepherd. The pastor is but a caretaker for the Great Shepherd. Jesus knows everything. We do not. Sorry, but we don't. That is why the closer we stick to the bible for all of our decisions the closer they will be to Christ and the more defensible they will be. So, please stop with the critical spirit" nonsense. The pastor is not a dictator.

"6. Pastors experience consistent betrayal. Betrayal is perhaps the most challenging part of a pastor's job. Every pastor I know has been betrayed by people who they thought were loyal to them but forsook them without notice or explanation. Often, they feel used by people in the congregation who turn on them if they don't get what they want. It can be an overt form of betrayal, like a close associate splitting the church or a friend leaving the church without a legitimate reason. When this happens, it can be a form of shepherd abuse." - Joseph Mattera

Sigh. This is what happens when you view the pastor as some kind of elevated position, floating in the clouds apart from all the trappings of humanity. Let's come back to reality and realize the deep theology for today - everyone gets betrayed. Everyone. We have all had a spouse cheat on us. Or a business partner screw us over for money. Or a boss give the promotion to someone else. Or a friend who turned out to not be so friendly. This is all part of the human condition. We are sinners and thus we sin. As I said, I saw it up close and personal in my old church but at the core of the disagreement were human beings who thought they knew better and who felt privileged to ruin a church because the one thing Christians can leverage to explain poor behavior is faux-righteousness. We can view ourselves as overturning temple tables when we really are taking the thirty pieces of silver.

"7. Pastors are expected to give without receiving anything in return. Most pastors constantly pour their lives and energy out to their churches without anybody pouring life back into them. They preach, teach, pray for people and give godly counsel. Many pastors are burned out, stressed and trying to put out fires. Despite this, most people take them for granted, and very few people take the time to pray for them, bless them and pour life back into them. This is a subtle form of shepherd abuse." - Joseph Mattera

Really. I am reminded of the exchange in Field of Dreams where Kevin Costner exasperatedly says that he never once asked what was in it for him. What is Mattera saying here? This is a textbook hireling to demand what is in it for them. Expected to give without getting anything in return? The heck you say! Wait a minute, aren't you getting paid? Don't you have a benefits package? In many cases don't you have a parsonage to live in for free? As for the rest of these complaints, how is it the fault of the sheep? This is a direct result of building the purpose driven church. Pastors constantly burn out because they are trying to do God's job. You see, contrary to Rick Warren, the bible teaches that the pastor is responsible for the vertical growth of the sheep not the horizontal growth of the church. Seriously. Go read the end of Acts 2 and you will see the people devoted to the teachings of the Apostles and to fellowship while God added to their number daily as He saw fit! The purpose driven church teaches pastors they must cast vision to continue to draw goats to their church, so it grows. Well no wonder they get tired and burnout. I would too if I was trying to do God's job.

"8. They are expected to work insane hours. Many pastors work 12-14 hours every day without an entire day off. Sometimes this is the pastor's fault for not honoring a personal sabbath, but often it is because of the pressure they feel to fulfill the intense demands of the ministry. When a congregation expects their pastor to work 60-80 hours per week, it is shepherd abuse." - Joseph Mattera

Let me see if I have this right. It is the fault of the sheep that the shepherd cannot organize his work? No Joseph, just no. My old pastor had some guardrails. He used his pastoral staff. He had scheduled vacations away, far away. He and his wife had date night once per week. He still ran into the "I have to do everything" problems but he had a multitude of counselors he could rely upon. The pastor that thinks he is the end-all, will always fail in these areas because he does not view anyone at or above his level that he can talk to. While it certainly is a shame it is not the fault of the sheep.

"9. Many pastors do not receive retirement benefits. Most founding pastors of nondenominational churches have no one on their board that ensures they receive retirement benefits. I have heard of countless pastors who have nothing saved in their later years, which forces them to work way past their prime. When a financially established church doesn't provide for its founding pastor's retirement, it can be a form of shepherd abuse." - Joseph Mattera

I will assume this has become less of a problem as time has gone on but simply put - pastors should have a retirement plan they can pay into like any other employee does. While it is a gross oversight if this does not exist, it should be easily fixed. Seems like Mattera is running out of complaints.

"10. Many pastors are used for their influence and lack true friends. Many pastors are lonely and lack true friends in their church. (I am not one of them.) Often, they don't know who to trust and confide in because so many people desire to use them for their influence. When few people are willing to cultivate true friendship with their pastor, it can be a corporate form of objectifying their shepherd. This is abuse." - Joseph Mattera

Let's be frank. This is self-abuse. There are plenty of God-fearing, scriptural brothers in every church that is preaching the gospel but too often the pastor does not rely upon them for fear of seeming needy. Same reason he will not rely upon his pastoral peers. I hate to bring this back up but this is simply the shared human experience. It is sad in many cases but does not belong on a list such as this.

"11. Pastors are expected to be experts in everything as well as theologians. Many pastors are expected to have all the answers related to financial challenges, real estate issues, people challenges and strategy. On top of this, they are expected to be theologians who give in-depth weekly messages. No wonder so many pastors burn out and leave the ministry! When a congregation expects too much of their pastor, it may be a sign of shepherd abuse. - Joseph Mattera

This is a direct outgrowth of preaching things other than the gospel. When you do seven-part sermon series on finances, you can expect that people will assume you are an expert on finances. When you are constantly making deals for your satellite churches perhaps that leaves people with the impression that you must know something about real estate. I would again offer that these are not reasons why pastors leave their pulpits. This entire list was a sham that does more damage to the profession of pastoring than good. Perhaps because it was born out of a desire to defend fallen pastors, who deserve every criticism they receive. Oh, that we would be more concerned with the sheep than the hirelings who God exposes! The damage Mattera does here is to trivialize real problems that pastors deal with by constantly claiming it is a form of abuse. Pastoring is a calling not a job. The true pastor preaches the gospel and points people to Jesus Christ. The rest of this is just purpose driven window dressing. All of these problems are derived from mutilating the church system that God set up in favor of the bastardized version we see today in this country. Until we expel the wolves from the pulpits this too will continue. Beloved if you have a good pastor who preaches the uncompromised gospel then cling tight and pray for him every single day because what you do not protect can be taken from you. Mattera is right about the devil striking the shepherd. Do not let it happen to yours as it is difficult to impossible to replace them, especially in these end days.

Reverend Anthony Wade - June 15, 2022

Authors Bio:
Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.