I received a call today from a good friend who recently after much prayer and wrestling believes God lead he and his family to change churches. He called to share with me how his now former Pastor recently called him to inquire why he and his family did not bring their thoughts on leaving the church to him so they could together be sure it was the right decision. The Pastor continued on by explaining to him “God would have told me if it was time for you and your family to leave my church so you should have consulted me prior to making any decisions”. When he asked the Pastor wouldn’t God speak to he and his family directly, the Pastor told him it’s possible however the Pastor went on to explain it is his job to “Cover” his family and that he is the shepherd called and anointed by God and that my friend and his family are his responsibility…. WOW!!!
I will begin by saying I do not at any time advocate not being submissive to authorities. What I do encourage is that we are to make sure that what we are being taught is correct based on scripture (1 Thess. 5:21 “Test all things; hold fast what is good”) how do we do this? 2 Timothy 2:15 tells us we should “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
When this type of instruction comes from our spiritual leaders it has the potential to be a hindrance to our walk with God. It wasn’t until recently that I had ever heard this question myself, “Who is your covering? This question carries with it the idea that your pastor or someone else other than God is you’re covering. When I hear phrases like this, the kind that I don’t recall ever coming across in scripture I cringe as you should. I mean if a phrase is this widely known or can be considered common place in Christian circles with an inference that it’s in the bible in some form I would hope that I have at least read it once and would be able to recall a portion or at least be familiar with it if I read or heard it again….Unfortunately, I got nothing.
I don’t know about you, but I want to be “covered and protected” by the blood of Jesus and follow His commands, not by a mere man that could and fall into sin or be deceived by the devil. Hosea 4:6 “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.”
God tells us not to put our faith or trust in any man but only in Him. After realizing there are pastor’s that use methods such as this to possibly manipulate those in the congregation to follow everything they teach, you quickly realize why God commanded us to only trust in Him, to only submit to His covering and protection. Now, if a pastor is fulfilling his biblical role, he will look something like this:
1) Be a true servant to the congregation (Servant First)
2) Teach God’s word in its correct meaning and be humble in response to correction
3) Lead in a way that would be pleasing to God
4) Warn and protect his (flock) congregation against false teachings, false movements, false teachers that are used to draw people away from the truth of God’s Word. These are examples of a pastor that we can sit under the knowledge of, but still allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us.
The pastor’s purpose is to help people grow and mature spiritually. Paul explains that God gave some to be pastors “for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12-13). According to these verses the work of a pastor is focused on helping God’s people grow and mature spiritually. The pastor does this by living an exemplary Christian life, providing spiritual guidance and counsel, and instructing the body of believers through teaching and preaching. He or she also helps people master the practices that open a person to the spiritual formation of the Holy Spirit.
It cannot be emphasized enough that this purpose of the pastor is only fulfilled as he models this lifestyle and then instructs other how to cultivate that same way of living. This underscores the importance of “being” before “doing.”
“Who is your Covering?” Is it a shepherd that is using the word “covering” or perhaps a sincere friend who is genuinely concerned about your spiritual safety and feels you need to quickly find a pastor so you’re covered? Or are you covered by the one and only Jesus who has already paid the ultimate price for you and has covered your sins and sealed you to protect you from the enemy?
While I believe that relational leadership and spiritual leadership are priorities of a pastor’s ministry, I fear that these get lost or at least pushed to the background in our pragmatic focus within the church. We want the church to grow as an organization. We spend more time and effort employing the best practices of business and secular leadership then we do seeking direction from God and His Word. It seems to me that pastors can easily become more concerned with growing their church than they are with forming people spiritually.
As Christians we do need a pastor to help educate us in God’s word, but we need to also take some responsibility upon ourselves and use all the tools that God has given us so that the Holy Spirit can teach and equip us correctly. We need to listen to the pastor’s sermons, then check the sermons by studying God’s word for ourselves, pray so that we will spiritually grow in the way God wants us to so we are not led astray by detrimental or unbiblical teachings. Above all we need to recognize and acknowledge at all times that Jesus Christ is our true covering and that God DID NOT appoint any man to take His place, not even the pastor. So again, “”Who is your Covering and who are you called to?”” Pastor/ Bishop/ Etc… or Jesus?