Semenary Students, Is This Your Call?
Are you setting yourself up for disaster? Before you become another Statistic, please check this out. Is it possible for 87 percent of those in your chosen profession [Pastors] to say they are very satisfied while 70% constantly fight depression? Isn’t it is possible that these men are living lie?
This is just one of the many contradictions exposed in the following article.
Here’s a short excerpt:
• Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.
• Fifty percent of pastors’ marriages will end in divorce.
• Eighty percent of pastors and eighty-four percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.
• Fifty percent of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
• Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
• Seventy percent of pastors constantly fight depression. —end excerpt—
Pastors, self proclaimed ‘men of the Bible’ seem to misunderstand a good bit of the Bible, especially about their role. The Bible explains that Worldly authority models do not apply in the Body of Christ. Here the leader is the slave, the unpaid servant of all. The Bible calls for Pastors to Sheppard the flock, encouraging them from behind (keeping them moving forward) and limiting those wandering off to the sides. There is no Biblical model for the lecturing and bossing around we see today. Although this is what we would expect from a worldly boss this is simply not God’s way! “Servant Leadership”
This is well explained in the following links. This link is Frank Viola’s web site, a presentation for pastors.
The following link details Paul’s call to a volunteer Priesthood. Here Paul even calls those who accept salaries “false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ”. I highly recommend not only this chapter, but the Russel’s entire book. This book is an expanded version of his PhD thesis so it is backed by scholarly research.
This is an article I wrote on Servant Leadership
These issues are also verified in the The Didache, written about 100 AD,
a writing of the early Apostolic Fathers, makes a clear distinction between Prophet – Seers & Prophet teachers. Seers were entitled to church offerings, but Prophet – teachers were never to be paid money, Prophet – teachers followed Paul’s “tent makers” example living off their trade. This is clearly the Biblical assignment that Paul gave to all who preach, all true Pastors.
Today’s church system is far from Biblical. You don’t need to take my word for it. Take a look at this quote from Bob Blitz’s update of William Wilberforce’s 1797 book ‘Real Christianity’, Wilberforce was the man who successfully outlawed slavery in England,
“The result is that in the Christian world in the West, we settle for a cultural version of Christianity that is far from the real thing. I’m not talking about unbelievers here. I am speaking of those who say they believe the Bible is the Word of God and who claim to have committed their lives to Jesus Christ. They have given in to a nominal faith.”
Will today’s church ever wake up from its coma? Will the men of the cloth ever truly be able to claim the title “men of the Word”, or are they better identified as “teachers of the Law”. Let’s take a look at what the Bible says about Teachers of the Law. Mat 23 calls out many of their sins so we can see how today’s Preachers measure up.
NIV Matt 23:1-38
1Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2″The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
5″Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’
8″But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. 9And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
13″Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
15″Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.
16″Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.’ 19You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22And he who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.
23″Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
25″Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
27″Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. 28In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
29″Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!
33″You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.
37″O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. 38Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’
Summarizing the sins of the Teachers or the Law in Matt 23 are:
1. They do not practice what they preach.
2. They put heavy loads on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger.
3. Everything they do is done for men to see: love the place of honor (fancy titles…)
4. Not entering and leading others to the Kingdom of Heaven, but creating son’s of Hell (shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces, and not entering, nor letting others.
5. Following/teaching stupid foolish traditions (“Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple…)
6. Ignoring the important/hard stuff (justice, mercy and faithfulness.) (keeping the trivial/easy stuff – tithing from their herbs garden…)
7. Full of greed and self-indulgence & everything unclean, full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
8. Following in the footsteps of those who murdered the prophets. 35And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, [if they continue in that Method of Operating]
9. Keeping God from gathering his children together, they were not willing.
The following verse tells the teachers of the law to become disciples:
NLT Mat 13;49 That is the way it will be at the end of the world. The angels will come and separate the wicked people from the righteous, 50 throwing the wicked into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 51 Do you understand all these things?” “Yes,” they said, “we do.” 52 Then he added, “Every teacher of religious law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a homeowner who brings from his storeroom new gems of truth as well as old.”
Law teachers are praised when they are also true disciples. Virtually all other references to Teachers of the Law are very negative. Perhaps the requirements for disciples will point out key deficiencies. Here are some key verses on discipleship.
MSG Luke 14;25-34 “Figure the Cost“ 25 One day when large groups of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them, 26 “Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters-yes, even one’s own self!-can’t be my disciple . 27 Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple. 28 “Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? 29 If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: 30 ‘He started something he couldn’t finish.’ 31 “Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty thousand troops of the other? 32 And if he decides he can’t, won’t he send an emissary and work out a truce? 33 “Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple . 34 “Salt is excellent. But if the salt goes flat, it’s useless, good for nothing. “Are you listening to this? Really listening?”
Following Jesus, carrying cross, willing to let go of people and stuff, committed and consistent.
MSG Matt 16; 23 But Jesus didn’t swerve. “Peter, get out of my way. Satan, get lost. You have no idea how God works.” 24 Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead . You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. 25 Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. 26 What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for? 27 “Don’t be in such a hurry to go into business for yourself. Before you know it the Son of Man will arrive with all the splendor of his Father, accompanied by an army of angels. You’ll get everything you have coming to you, a personal gift. 28 This isn’t pie in the sky by and by. Some of you standing here are going to see it take place, see the Son of Man in kingdom glory.”
Letting Jesus Lead, embracing self-sacrifice
Can’t be my Disciple if Not following, not carrying cross, not willing to let go of people or stuff, Not letting Jesus Lead, not embracing self-sacrifice
NIV 2 Tim 2;1-26 ‘Successful disciples’ 1 You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. 3 Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 7 Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this. …
11 Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; 13 if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.
‘A Workman Approved by God’ 14 Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 16 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. 17 Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”
20 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 21 If a man cleanses himself from the latter[not noble], he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. 22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
Summarizing, disciples should:
1. Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus
2. Endure hardship – please (only) his commanding officer.
3. Compete according to the rules.
4. Work hard (The hardworking farmer) should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 7
5. Endure [with Jesus] – we will also reign with him.
6. Don’t quarrel about words; [recognize that] of no value,
7. Present yourself to God as one approved unashamed, a workman correctly handles the word of truth.
8. Avoid godless chatter, turn away from wickedness.”
9. Cleanses himself from the latter[not noble]
10. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments; be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.
11. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct
Recombining the work of a disciple:
Work hard, enduring hardship, following the rules, Present yourself to God, unashamed, a strong workman, correctly handling the word of truth, turning from wickedness and foolishness, to honor, wisdom, gentle instruction, and grace.
There is another verse that shows how teachers of the law can please God, but that good news is preceded by some very bad news (bad news for teachers of the law).
CEV Luke 11;38 The Pharisee was surprised that he did not wash his hands before eating. 39 So the Lord said to him: You Pharisees clean the outside of cups and dishes, but on the inside you are greedy and evil. 40 You fools! Didn’t God make both the outside and the inside? 41 If you would only give what you have to the poor, everything you do would please God. 42 You Pharisees are in for trouble! You give God a tenth of the spices from your gardens, such as mint and rue. But you cheat people, and you don’t love God…
49 Because of your evil deeds, the Wisdom of God said, “I will send prophets and apostles to you. But you will murder some and mistreat others.”50 You people living today will be punished for all the prophets who have been murdered since the beginning of the world. 51 This includes every prophet from the time of Abel to the time of Zechariah, who was murdered between the altar and the temple. You people will certainly be punished for all of this. 52 You teachers of the Law of Moses are really in for trouble! You carry the keys to the door of knowledge about God. But you never go in, and you keep others from going in.
First we see Jesus’ request for teachers of the law to give everything they have to the poor. We see this same request for the rich man in Matt 19:21
NIV Mat19;21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven . Then come, follow me.”
The problem with the rich man that prompted Jesus to ask him to give his possessions to the poor was that he had no treasures in heaven. His perspective was too worldly, too materialistic. I suspect these teachers of the law have the same problem.
I see two ways we can interpret the second portion of Luke 11;50. Perhaps Jesus is only addressing the “teachers of the law” of his day, but I think that all those who operate in the same mode, all those throughout history who persecute the prophets will share the same punishment. God’s will have a special wrath for all who persecuted prophets thru history. Could this be blasphemy against the Holy Spirit – Saying that something that comes from the Holy Spirit [thru a prophet] is wrong?
These problems have persisted for many generations. God has not fixed the problem because he gave us that assignment. The church is assigned the task of keeping herself clean.
CEV 1 Cor 5;12 Why should I judge outsiders? Aren’t we supposed to judge only church members? 13 God judges everyone else. The Scriptures say, “Chase away any of your own people who are evil.”
I think the body of Christ has done a pretty bad job in this assignment. I’m praying that we can finally seek one mind on these issues. Remember, our assignment is to correctly divide the word of truth. Not just the easy parts, not just the trivial stuff, but the main things: (Mat 23:23 says the main things are) justice, mercy and faithfulness. Is it just for a slave to claim pay, for that slave to take authority the word specifically denies him, to rob the body of Christ many of the things that she desperately needs to grow in her relationship with Christ, her assignment to seek to prophesy, her assignment to spread the Gospel (not just inviting folks to church).
One final verse to guide you;
AMP 2 Tim 2;15 Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth.
This verse tells that we can not simply follow what we were told. All are charged with both correctly analyzing and skillfully teaching. Those who keep repeating the same mistakes generation after generation will be ashamed. Pls don’t allow yourselves to be counted among that group.
Perhaps, you still feel called to attend seminary. Perhaps you can bring some light to these dark halls, to challenge these strongholds with God at your side.
Dear God. May there be some both strong enough in faithfulness and bold enough overcome these deceptions in today’s seminaries! In Jesus mighty name I pray, Amen.