Years ago I consulted with a young man (not in the Vineyard) during a conference in the Midwest. He had been an evangelist in a certain denomination for several years, and had wearied of that, and wanted to pastor. His denominational leader had said to him, “Why don’t you go up to this community here. We have a little church that hasn’t done too well. Go up there and see what you can get stirred up, and if you do well, then I’ll give you a more choice position later on in a bigger church.” We met at a restaurant and he brashly told me what he was going to do. He wanted my advice on how to “jump start” the church. I said, “I can’t do that.” “Why?” “Because there’s no integrity in what you’re doing. You’re going up to that little community like a gigolo, pretending you love this part of the bride of Christ. You’re going to have intercourse with her in hopes of having children, but you have no intention of raising them. No intention of loving, protecting, or caring for her. You just want to have a few babies with her so you can get a chance to have some other babies somewhere else. I can’t bless that, and I don’t want any part of what you’re about to do.” John Wimber
Our Theme: ON UNITY.
The church in America is in the midst of a severe identity crisis. This crisis has been going on now for some time. Wimber’s story from the early 1980s points to the crisis being in full bloom even back then. The crisis, you ask?
As I see it, we simply have forgotten who Jesus commissioned his shepherds to be.
Sadly, over the last fifty years, our American business culture has trumped nearly everything we do in church life; and we baby boomers, the generation to which I belong, decided, long ago, to buy into three underlying truths that drive our American economy.
Truth #1: Bigger is always better.
Truth #2: Success can always be measured in numbers.
Truth #3: Winning isn’t everything…it’s the only thing!
Take these three business truths that drive American capitalism, surround them with a few Scriptures hand-picked from the New Testament, and there you have it. The foundational planks to a church culture that produces a “gigolo” pastor like the man who was confronted by Wimber back in the 1980s. Today, I prefer to use the term I’ve referred to earlier, the 3-B pastor, one who has given himself/herself over to measuring his/her success in ministry by using three major components; (B)uilding size, (B)ucks in the offering, and the number of (B)utts in the seats.
As I see it, Jesus of Nazareth, points to the “gigolo” pastor or the 3-B pastor by calling them a “hired hand.” In John’s gospel, (10: 11-13) Jesus talks quite plainly about it.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
One very well-known church leader in America recently said that he believes Christians should strike the word “shepherd” from our ministry vocabulary. “That word needs to go away,” the leader is quoted as saying, “It was culturally relevant in the time of Jesus, but it’s not culturally relevant anymore.”
Yikes. Are you serious?
Remove the word “shepherd” from our ministry vocabulary? I guess we should then proceed with this leader’s suggestion and rewrite Psalm 23 so it reads, “The Lord is my CEO, I will never want for business leads?”
My fellow men and women of the cloth, this nonsense has got to go! How about if we throw off the heavy weights of being a 3-B pastor, a CEO, or an executive-manager for the church, and we take back the original shepherding call that Jesus modeled to his generation?
Hmm. Shepherd or hired hand? Which title is on your resume?
Father, as a baby-boomer-pastor who got caught up very early in ministry with the 3-Bs, I now forsake my ungodly ways. I refuse to measure my success in ministry, or my church’s success in ministry, by using components that Jesus never used in his generation. As a pastor, called by your name, restore my identity as a pastoral shepherd who faithfully serves under the good shepherd, caring for souls along the way, one person at a time. Nothing more. Nothing less. For your name’s sake. Amen!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO PONDER
- If loving the sheep and laying down my life for the sheep was the gold standard Jesus set for pastoral ministry, how can I jettison other ministry models that my society forces upon the church?
- What might the church of Jesus Christ look like in America if more pastors stepped away from the 3-Bs and became exclusively obedient to Jesus’ commission of shepherding the sheep?
So what is God speaking to you today as you ponder the Wisdom of Wimber?
Between Easter 2016 and the end of August, we are sharing with you a blog series we call The Wisdom of Wimber: As I See It. In order to keep all 64 blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Wisdom of Wimber page for ease of use. Might we also suggest that you order a copy or two of our book by the same title! It’s available in both paperback and e-book formats…and will soon be available in Spanish! Click here for more info. ENJOY!
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