Lack of respect in today’s church

The modern church has largely turned away from the biblical pattern of pastoral respect and authority.

The Israel of God is always severely tempted to "spoil the Egyptians" in an unlawful manner. Ever since the early Apologists, right through the Scholastic era, and up to this day, the church has largely departed from her governmental pattern shown to her in the Scriptures.

Even during the Reformation, for all its conquests and attainments, the area of church government was not tackled as radically as one would wish. By this I mean that either the pastor was looked up to beyond scriptural warrant, or else he was merely a figure-head, with a name to lead but in actual fact the leadership was in somebody else's hands.

Especially in independent churches, the type I grew up in, the pastor was expected to preach, keeping a safe distance from the congregation. His preaching was generally welcome. But when it came to private counseling, his (biblical) admonition was hardly appreciated. The wayward Christian looks askance at him as if to protest, "What right have you to intrude into my private affairs?"

The biblical pattern for the elder (pastor) is of a morally upright man, labouring among the people, and yet having oversight over them in the Lord. But I find from experience that though he is dedicated to his ministry, oftentimes the congregation accords him lip-honour, calling him "Pastor, Pastor," but is hardly willing to follow his doctrine (even the doctrines of grace) and his example.

It follows that the church in general is anemic: everybody wants to do what is right in his own eyes. The lessons of history are brushed aside as unimportant. Pragmatism is the order of the day: we will accept to do this and that if it works, if it renders certain results.

The democratic ideal, taken from the Greeks, and so popular in our politics (assumed to be necessarily the best form of government) is borrowed and imported into the church. The people expect to have their individual vote. I do not see this in Scripture. Decision-making is not in the hands of the people, but the people are brought up to think that they manage their own affairs, and are never confronted with the biblical ideal. Christ gives gifts to men (pastors to lead), but these gifts are unappreciated.

In saying all this I do not mean that the eldership is to be tyrannical and unheeding to the cry of the congregation; what I mean is that the eldership should emulate to get their order from Christ (through the Scriptures) and not to be dictated to by the congregation. But this is hardly to be seen today with any consistency.