Our Unhealthy Obsession with Pastors
In today's ongoing debate over women's leadership in the church, the discussion has focused on God's intention for men and women and which of them can preach, teach, and lead. But we've overlooked another factor: how the pulpit has become a coveted idol of contemporary Christianity.
Many of us have come to believe, consciously or unconsciously, that the man standing up front every Sunday is the only one doing real ministry. Sure, our church might have a "music minister," a "children's minister," and so on, but we see those positions as ancillary. We have made the pastorate and church eldership idolized positions. We have turned preaching into the enviable celebrity focus of ministry. I'm afraid that in this Internet age, mass-media pastors (deserving as they may be of accolades and honor) have often become an ill-fitting archetype for what congregants expect of their local ministry.
Of course, preaching the word remains a central point of Christian ministry, but we have celebrated it at the expense of minimizing and diminishing many other ministerial works. We tend to elevate the position of pastor to an unhealthy level that I believe was unintended in the New Testament, where we are told that all the saints are to be equipped for work and service. Ephesians 4:11–12 says:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.
Yes, we should open the doors for women to participate in the body of Christ through effective, meaningful, productive ministry, and we urgently need to.
In her Relevant Magazine article, "Why We Need More Women In Ministry," Jenny Rae Armstrong raises valid concerns regarding Christian women who are undervalued or not used to their potential. She writes:
The body of Christ requires a balance of male and female leadership to remain whole and healthy. To allow one half of the body to atrophy while the other carries the weight (whether it's men or women doing the heavy lifting) results in a lopsided image of the Church that is frightful to behold.
Although she and I may not agree on every point of solving this problem of a lopsided image of the church, I too believe the church must involve women in ministry in a fuller way. In pursuing solutions the church should be reminded, contrary to some contemporary presuppositions, there is far more to ministry than just the pastorate. In our celebrity-driven society, we find it easy to put pastors in very lofty and precarious positions.
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