A Singapore pastor has been arrested for swiping to the tune of 23 million dollars. Others are implicated. This set off a round of internet comment, including one that made the uncharitably audacious and (sadly) outrageous claim that all megachurch pastors are manipulative and deceptive. A friend of mine then posted a comment worth examining. Here is his comment:
Here is where I find some agreement with Jim, ”Such Pastors (Mega-Church Pastors) aren’t truly pastors – they are merely functionaries, public speakers. Pastors know their flock just as shepherds know their sheep. It is no accident at all that the early Church seized on the analogy of the Pastor as shepherd. For that reason a church which is so big that the Pastor can’t or doesn’t know those who come is no longer a Church as such but a group, an ‘audience’, nothing more.“ Although I would not word it so strongly, and I certainly wouldn’t say all Mega-Church pastors aren’t truly pastors, I do have problems with the term “Mega-Church pastor.” In my mind a minister cannot pastor more people than those he knows personally.
Being a pastor is a personal profession. When someone uses the term mega-church pastor for me my vocation and calling is cheapened. It is kind of like saying a person who prepares McDonald’s burgers is a chef. Don’t we think that a real Chef who has spent years studying and training for their vocation might be a little miffed at being compared to someone who slaps sauce and a patty on a bun? If we are going to call ourselves pastors then we must take seriously Scripture’s call for us to be Shepherds. True Shepherds know their sheep. True Shepherds are involved and actively participate in the lives of all of those in their congregation. In my opinion the sheer size of a large church hampers the vation. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it can’t be done, I just think it is far more difficult in a Mega-Church (We mus’t become dogmatic about these things). But hey, maybe I am simply jealous!?!?
I happen to attend a megachurch. So the original blogger in the original post has also accused me of not knowing any biblical theology (hey, he was on a roll of accusation) … but I do have an observation to make that might calm the waters a bit.
First, the model being used by both of these bloggers is the one church, one pastor model. If knowing everyone in the church is required, then a church can only get so big. I would have a hard time disagreeing that you can’t pastor those whom you don’t know.
But, second, who says there is only one pastor for every church? Why can’t churches have multiple pastors? In fact, I know of some megachurches that have hundreds of “pastors” or “under pastors” or folks who genuinely do pastor those in their small groups. While those pastors don’t preach on Sundays (another assumption worth reconsidering) they do shepherd their flock.
So we get to this question: What is a pastor? Someone who spiritual overlooks/guides and mentors or someone who preaches on Sunday, who “runs” the place, who is paid, who is ordained?
I wonder if either of these bloggers would consider the multiple pastor model as speaking into this situation.