SOME CHRISTIANS have decided to disassociate themselves from organised churches led by pastors. They say they do not want to be shepherded by any pastor; they simply want to be independent Christians worshipping God in their houses. One of such people, who wrote to me recently in relation to one of my articles, said he had no business following any pastor except Christ Jesus alone.
He said he could not associate with the many pastors who have gone astray following their own paths instead of following Christ Jesus, the Author and Finisher of the Christian faith, and the only Way to Eternal Salvation. Many Christian believers, like the man I mentioned, stay away from church gatherings. In fact, the man may have a genuine concern to express, but his decision is problematic and inconsistent with the sound doctrine of Christ and church practices.
God does not want believers to uphold the practice of always isolating themselves and worshipping Him individually in their houses. Rather, it is His will for everyone who believes in Jesus Christ to join fellow believers and be tended, fed and cared for by pastors, shepherds or overseers. It is for this reason, God spoke through the mouth of Jeremiah, the prophet, saying, “And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3:15).
Jesus Christ does not only want His followers to gather in His name, but also be ministered to by one another's spiritual gifts especially that of the pastors or elders. Thus, after determining how deeply Peter loved Him, Jesus Christ asked the Apostle to tend and feed His sheep (followers) (John 21:15-17). The writer of the book of Hebrews also understood this so he instructed Christian believers not to forsake the assembly of the brethren (Hebrews 10:25).
No disciple of Christ can be smarter and more intelligent than the Master. After all, we know that a servant is not greater than his master. It is the will of Christ that His followers be led by ministers who have been trained in the Word of Righteousness. Thus, He gave the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to equip the saints (believers) for the work of the ministry. They are to feed Christ’s disciples to grow in the grace and knowledge of Him so that everyone may grow up spiritually (Ephesians 4:11-14).
How can these ministers, who are often described as facilitating ministry gifts, train or prepare the saints for the work of the ministry just as Jesus Christ did for the foundational apostles, if the saints worship God individually in their houses? And what is wrong if a believer follows a genuine pastor to be nurtured in the ways and acts of God? Timothy followed Paul just as Elisha followed Elijah and Gehazi also followed Elisha.
Now, the word, “pastor” has been used in the heading to refer to any minister who shepherds, teaches, counsels, exhorts, encourages, corrects, rebukes and prays for, and with believers in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is, however, sad that many people follow pastors without adequate knowledge. You can be worshipping God with a well-known church and still be following a false pastor. A popular and prestigious church is good but a gospel-focused and Christ-centred pastor is better. He is an honourable vessel.
Every believer needs a pastor and fellowship with other believers. But then, before you choose or select a pastor to shepherd you, you need to be properly informed. In other words, many factors may influence the choices we make. First, we must pray for the Holy Spirit to lead us. As Christians, we must first pray about everything we decide to do to determine the will of God. And before we pray in a situation like this, we ought to have been trained in the Word of Righteousness to distinguish between genuine and false pastors.
Today, a counterfeit bishop can be found in an Orthodox, Protestant, Pentecostal or Charismatic church. You can only identify a true servant of Christ if you have read and studied the Bible to uncover the uniqueness of the calling, preparation/training, commissioning, ministrations, character and aim of the biblical servants of God. Genuine pastors minister by the mission and vision of God which are set out in Scripture.
Now, it is not proper to follow a pastor merely because of his bodily stature, oratory skills, seminary training, priestly garment or ecclesiastical titles. Many are influenced by these, but they are certainly not the criteria. In this world, there are many apostles, prophets and bishops but not everyone is a servant of Jesus Christ. A servant of Christ follows Christ; he is Christ-centred and gospel-focused. So, choose a minister who follows Jesus Christ. Choose a pastor with Christ in mind. Choose a pastor with eternity in mind and choose a pastor with the salvation of your soul in mind.
For example, a Christ-centred pastor will explain to you how God the Father wants to be worshipped. The Owner and Head of the church made it plain that God cannot be worshipped on our terms but on His terms. We do not determine how we should worship our Maker. He does. Jesus taught that worshipping God in Spirit and in Truth is the only way that pleases the Father. There is no alternative.
He explained this to a Samaritan woman he ministered to in the days of His flesh: “Jesus said to her. “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him.
“God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth” (John 4:21-24).
BY James Quansah