I am constantly asked, “Chuck, why don’t pastors take a stand and speak out?” I’ve been a pastor most of my adult life. I believe I am qualified to answer that question. Here is the stark reality: the vast majority of pastors today are “success” oriented. Beginning in Bible College or seminary, and continuing throughout a pastor’s ministerial life, the emphasis is success. And that means church growth, larger congregations, bigger buildings, bigger offerings, burgeoning statistics, greater notoriety, denominational praise, invitations to speak at conferences, applause from fellow ministers, not to mention the financial perks and benefits that come with pastoring a “successful” church.
And the way to learn how to build a successful church is to learn from those who have done it. Pastors regularly attend church growth conferences to learn from the “big” church pastors on how it’s done. They purchase books, magazines, newsletters, etc., that are all geared towards telling pastors how to build a successful church. They are constantly being schooled in the latest and greatest “how to” strategies of church growth and success. This usually entails more and more sophisticated programs, music, sound, lighting, atmosphere, classes, seminars, organization, etc. Everything, and I mean everything, is geared toward success as described in the aforementioned paragraph.
Most pastors today are in reality not spiritual shepherds as much as they are corporate CEOs. The same mentality, philosophy, and strategy that drive corporate boardrooms also drive the boardrooms of modern churches–to a tee. Pastors act like CEOs, dress like CEOs, talk like CEOs, manage like CEOs, and think like CEOs.
Dare I say that even the way pastors and churches cater, and “reach out,” and “minister,” etc., has mostly to do with “good business.” Church members are babied and pacified and stroked and petted and fawned-over because it is “good business.” Today’s Christians are so spoiled and petted that any dereliction or lack of attention by a pastor, church, or staff usually results in them “moving their letter” down the street to a place that will more readily cater to their temperamental demands.
Have you not noticed how most pastors spiritualize away the great examples of Bible heroism and defiance against tyranny and despotism? Ask them point blank about Daniel and the lion’s den or the three Hebrew children in the burning fiery furnace or Queen Esther or scores and scores of other acts of defiance lauded in Holy Writ and they will say, “That was another time.” Or, they might say, “This shows God’s great deliverance and protection.” But the overriding principle that drove the great heroes of the faith to challenge and defy evil government is never even acknowledged, much less addressed.
The great lesson of the above-mentioned heroes and heroines is not that God delivered them, because many of them were NOT delivered. As Paul notes in Hebrews 11: “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance…And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented…they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in caves of the earth.” (Hebrews 11:35-38 KJV). The great lesson of the above-mentioned heroes and heroines is their willingness to defy evil authority–regardless of outcome. Listen to the three Hebrew children:
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden calf which thou hast set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18 KJV)
These men knew that God COULD deliver them, but they did not know if He WOULD deliver them. And to them, it didn’t matter: they were willing to defy the tyranny of King Nebuchadnezzar regardless. They were not going to bow to the unlawful, illegitimate authority of the state (in whatever form it appeared). That is the glaring lesson of every single one of these great stories of defiance.
Furthermore, most pastors and teachers absolutely refuse to tell the truth of Hebrews 11:34: “[They] waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.” This Biblical passage lauds the courage of past believers who took up the sword against tyrants and despots. In the same breath that Paul extolled the sacrifice of believers who were willing to die for their faith, he also extolled the bravery of believers who were willing to fight for their faith. But you NEVER hear that from the vast majority of pastors today.
If you hear any mention of, say, America’s Founding Fathers from today’s pastors, it is that the founders were wrong, that they violated Romans 13, that God did not lead them to declare independence and revolt against the British Crown. Such is the ignorance and cowardice of today’s ministers.
And while we are on the subject, the misinterpretation of Romans 13 is one of the chief reasons why most pastors and churches are so utterly indifferent or nonplussed about resisting evil government. This is why my son and I coauthored the book, “Romans 13: The True Meaning of Submission.” I encourage readers to get this book and share it with as many of your Christian friends as possible. In the book, Tim and prove from the entire Bible–including Romans 13–that nowhere does God expect (much less demand) believers to submit to evil, wicked authority.