Scattered across our fair land are a great many fine seminaries and other institutions of training for those who are heading into the ministry. These institutions and the people who work in them perform such an indispensable task; they are training those who will stand before the multitudes and proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ.
That said, after a lifetime of 46 years thus far spent in churches and around preachers, I am troubled greatly about one particular thing. Many men who stand behind the pulpit each week have somewhere along the line received some very faulty training about the level of obedience and honor they believe they are entitled to receive.
Let me say it this way: no human being has a blanket right to be obeyed and lavished with honor in all things.
The 66 books of Scripture often seem to get very small coming from the mouth of mistaught men. In fact, at times the Bible seems to them to only be made up of these two verses:
- Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
- Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
A pastor friend of mine had to deal with a young married student fresh out of seminary. He had been taught that because he was the man, and because he was a preacher, everyone around him had to view him as being right even if he was wrong. Everyone around him had to shower him with honor no matter how wickedly he was living. Everyone around him had to follow him as he dictated the terms, no matter what those terms were.
Let me say it again: no human being has a blanket right to be obeyed and honored in all things.
Acts 5:29 says, “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” When pushed into a conflict between what God says and what any human authority says, our allegiance and obedience always goes to Christ.
Another pastor dealt with a lady who had been brainwashed into believing that she must always do as her husband ordered her to do. This proved to be incredibly “problematic” to the pastor, since her husband was a pedophile who expected her to provide him with access to children.
The greatest thing that trainers of ministers could ever do is to inculcate them with the same humility and servant’s heart of the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Neither the male gender nor the position of ministry gives anyone right access to haughtiness or a dictatorial spirit. I recently preached a marriage conference where I made this statement. “I have been married for nearly 23 years. In all that time, I have never one time demanded that my wife submit to me. I have not even asked her to submit to me. I have spent my time focusing on loving her as Christ loves the church, and as an outgrowth of that, she has easily and naturally submitted to my leadership without me having to ask.”
Pastor, member of the clergy in whatever position, no one is of greater authority than Jesus himself. And yet that same Jesus of all authority wrapped a towel around his waist and lovingly washed the filthy feet of his disciples, including the one who would betray him. Husband, no one had a greater right to demand submission from his “bride” then Jesus did when it came to his bride the church. And yet he loved that bride so much that he laid down his life for us. We love him because he first loved us. We obey him largely as an outgrowth of that love.
You who train ministers, do so carefully. If you are producing ministers who are arrogant enough to believe that they must be obeyed and showered with honor no matter what they do, you are doing something wrong somewhere along the line.
Bo Wagner is pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, N.C., a widely traveled evangelist, and the author of several books. Dr. Wagner can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.