Unhealthy pastoral care for church members
We are in the Lent Season of reflection and repentance, as we think about the life of Jesus, His supreme finished work on the cross of Calvary for the forgiveness of our sin, and His powerful resurrection to bring us back into a perfect relationship with God. (see Romans 4:25).
In the Christian Church in Ghana today, what are some of the Church life and ministry practices that are a departure from the Biblical standard, and from which we need to repent and follow healthy Biblical pattern?
One of such practices is what some Bible teachers call the seduction of Christ’s bride the Church. What do we mean here by “seduction of the Bride”? Let us explain this with the following true story. I had given a talk at a Full Gospel Business Men Fellowship International (FGBMFI) meeting followed by a prayer ministration time.
A number of people had stepped forward, and we were praying with them one after the other. When it was getting to the turn of Kpakpo Agyeman Klufio, l noticed him removing the wedding ring on his finger. He put the ring in his shirt pocket as he sobbed. Kwabena told me his story briefly as he cried. I am devastated.
My close friend and my Best Man at my wedding have run away with my “wedded wife”. They are now in a relationship, living together as a couple. In fact, very tragically, Kwabena’s “Best man” had seduced his wedded wife. His bride has been stolen and bonded into a new relationship by Kwabena’s own “Best man.” A very sad story of the seduction of Kwabena’s bride! The story of the prayer time with him and counselling cannot be told here!
The Bible says that the Church, the body of believers, is Christ’s bride. Jesus bought His bride- the Church with His precious blood. In fact, He died on the cross and rose again to save the believers who make up the Church, from the pollution of sin, the punishment for sin, the power of sin, and ultimately from the presence of sin (in Heaven).
The Bible describes the Church as Christ’s bride. The Church is the flock of the Lord Jesus. Today, Church members are looked upon as the flock of the Pastor, the Prophet, the Bishop, the Founder; and to these they are to give their total allegiance and supreme loyalty.
Isn't it strange, sad and unbiblical, what some Pastors are doing to keep their members, especially those with deep pockets under their thumb? In some practices, there is almost a cult-like relationship between the Pastor or Prophet or Bishop and members.
What the Prophet or Pastor or Bishop says become the rule and regulation in the married life and family life of the member -the colour of the set of anointed oil to smear on their genitals before sex; the particular colour of anointed oil to give to their children to go and use in the boarding house in school; the colour of “anointed oil” to use when going for promotion interview at work, and more.
And some Church members are literally hooked to the dictates and instructions of the Pastor or Prophet or Bishop. The Church members carry out these practices religiously, regardless of whether there is a sound Biblical basis for these.
These flock, the Church members, the Bride of Christ have been seduced from the Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus, the Head of the Church.
For some Church members there is a prayer written by the Pastor or Bishop or Prophet which they must recite every midnight or before sunrise. And in some Church congregations, has participation in Church communion become a covenant thing between the Pastor or Prophet or Bishop and the flock, or some designated Church members?
In other Church congregations, are the membership class, the Christian maturating class, or the shepherds development class, so run as to promote supreme loyalty to the Bishop, or Prophet or Pastor, and not to Christ? Yet in Biblical Christianity, we have only one Hero-Jesus Christ the Head of the Church. Supreme loyalty must go to Christ alone and not to any human authority. Christian believers are to obey their Church and Civic leaders, “in the Lord.” That is, if these leaders' instructions conform to sound Biblical principles on the matter.
Perhaps, Church members must be wary about misleading beliefs and practices in their Church that will make the Pastor or Bishop or Prophet the supreme spiritual authority over them instead of Christ and His word, the Bible.
Christ and His word, the Bible (accurately interpreted) is the final and supreme authority in what we believe, how we behave; and what we practice in Christianity.
We find in the Apostle Paul, a good biblical model for caring well for the Church members as their spiritual shepherd and teaching and guiding them to have supreme and utmost loyalty to Christ, the Head of the Church.
The Apostle Paul testifies: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility. Testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” (Acts 20: 18-19a, 21, 26-28 ESV).
The Apostle Paul continues to testify about his godly spiritual leadership: “Watch out! Remember the three years I was with you—my constant watch and care over you night and day, and my many tears for you.
And now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself. I have never coveted anyone’s silver or gold or fine clothes.
You know that these hands of mine have worked to supply my own needs and even the needs of those who were with me. And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20: 31-35 NLT). That is godly Church leadership!
What is most critical is for Pastors to build up Church members in the faith; helping them in the spiritual formation process to become Christ-like, and to so live that in all things Christ will have the first place in their lives. No Prophet, Bishop, or Pastor should have first place in their lives.
Indeed, the Apostle Peter speakes: “Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God.
Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor.” (1 Peter 5: 2-4 NLT).
We need to repent this Lent Season, and recover the practice of true Biblical leadership in the Church. We are to give spiritual leadership that the supreme focus of Church members will be on the Lord Jesus, and not on the Pastor, or Prophet or Bishop. Jesus alone is Lord!
(The author is a consultant in authentic Christian Spirituality and Discipleship and former CEO of Scripture Union)