Thursday, December 27, 2007

Pastoral Responsibility and Accountability

In my previous post, I discussed the recent gaffe by televangelist Joel Osteen during an appearance on Fox News Sunday. To recap, Osteen told host Chris Wallace that he considered Mormons true Christians, much to the dismay of not only apologetics ministries, but also to pastors and church leaders who take the Word of God -- not to mention their responsibility before God -- seriously.

And that is what I want to discuss briefly. I can already imagine the defenses that will be thrown up regarding this incident. Some of the defenses we've heard before when other high-profile Christian leaders have made similar stupid, unbiblical statements. The one that really incenses me is "Well, I am not a theologian. I'm a pastor (or evangelist)." What garbage!

A pastor by the very nature of his office is a teacher. He's the spiritual leader and shepherd of his congregation. He bears direct responsibility before God as to what his flock is being fed. Here's what God's Word has to say:

An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach (1 Timothy 3:2).

Did you note the "able to teach" part? That's important in the role of a pastor. And the teaching role of pastor comes with a very sober warning:

Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment (James 3:1).

I don't know about you, but that particular warning from James -- the brother of the Lord -- always makes me very nervous when I am called on to fill a pulpit or teach a class. God forbid that I misrepresent the Lord when opening His Word to others.

When it comes to false teachers, there is an element that often gets overlooked by Christians. Whether it's because a lot of attention is given to cults on the outside, or because they simply don't hear the warning from the pulpit, this very important truth gets overlooked despite the warning of Scripture. False teachers often come from among us, and because of that, they can do a serious amount of damage before they are called on the carpet and expelled, or brought to repentance. Here's what the Apostle Peter had to say on that subject:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves (1 Peter 2:1).

Look at that verse closely. It says false teachers "AMONG YOU." And how do they introduce their "destructive heresies?" Do they do it loudly, with a megaphone? No. They do it secretly, more often than not. And by the time the people in a church finally wake up to what's going on, half the church is carried away by the error and a split takes place. Those who call attention to the error and sound the warning are called "divisive." They get accused of fomenting dissension and disunity. They're called "unloving." But in truth, the disunity is caused by those bringing in the false teaching, not the ones who are making the stand for biblical truth.

What about Joel Osteen? I do not know the man's heart. I don't think much of his preaching and teaching. He's really more of a motivational speaker than he is a pastor. He really ought to step down, or go get some theological training so he can really fill the office of pastor/teacher as he should. A man of true godly humility would do that. He'd admit his error publically and welcome correction. Will Joel Osteen do that? Time will tell, but for the time being, I am not confident.

I am reasonably certain that some will want to blast me out of the water for posting this. "How dare I attack a man like Joel Osteen, who has brought encouragement and hope to millions?" Encouragement and hope is fine, but if it's not encouragement and hope according to the truth of God's revealed Word, it's worthless. Cotton candy that melts away and leaves a bitter aftertaste. Or more accurately, it tastes sweet like anti-freeze tastes to a dog, but in the end it kills the dog.

I believe we are in the last days, and as such, deception will be increasingly rampant. As Jesus Himself asked . . . When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth Luke 18:8)?


Jonny McCormick said...

interesting and coherent article. Enjoyed it.

Palm boy said...

Hear hear.

kingdavid said...

I'd be curious to see what the membership stats are from the period when elder Osteen passed away to today.

How many members did they lose because of the watered down message, and how many did he pick up with his Tony Roberts approach?

We had joined a church with a membership of 40, that grew to about 200, where I always said of the pastor--"he could punch me right between the eyes, but do it in such a loving way that I'd thank him afterward." That's how he preached. Unfortunately, that's a gift that is rare, and one that I'm sure is hard for pastors to get a hold of; pastors are humans first.


Mrs. W said...

Brother you are RIGHT ON.