how close do you follow the shepherd?

follow the shepherd cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
“Follow the Shepherd” (by nakedpastor, David Hayward)

If we read this post carefully, “What Should I Do If I Disagree With Something My Pastor Said?”, we can see that, right from the start, questioning a pastor is a problem to be dealt with rather than a normal dialogical process. A few major elements need to be in place to make this kind of prescription work:

  1. First of all, one of the key words appears in the fifth point: “leadership”. This, I argue, is one of the major problems with the church. I’ve written a book on it, called “Without A Vision My People Prosper”, in which I claim that visionary thinking is the death of community and the church. Visionary thinking requires visionary leaders. And for there to be leaders the church has to be going somewhere. Rather than being a community, it has become another business with goals to be met. If you don’t subscribe to its goals, then you can’t belong. This necessarily demands a homogenous collective, rather than a diverse community that I believe Jesus talked about. If the vision isn’t universal enough to include all, then it destroys true community.
  2. We are also informed that the questioner is the problematic party. Here are all the implications ascribed to the one questioning the pastor’s teaching: you are to pray for humility and understanding; you must ask someone else who agrees with the pastor; you are the one who has to be open; you probably misunderstood; your thinking likely needs to be adjusted; you are in a unique and rare position of questioning and being concerned; you must be gentle; you must ask humbly; you have to patiently hear;  hopefully not, but you may find you still disagree; humbly accept what you’re told; keep it to yourself; be cheerful; continue to submit; profit from his teaching; contentedly submit; leave quietly; lovingly find another church; etcetera. To me it sounds like a threatening scenario, like a lowly serf appealing to the King in fear and trepidation with the great possibility that the King will subdue you, be angered and lop off your head or banish you from his Kingdom. Basically, the questioner is to doubt her own questions, find someone else to talk to that agrees with the pastor, be nice during the whole process, constantly humble, and if no agreement can be found, to leave quietly. Do not disturb the calm waters of acquiesced agreement!
  3. The words and phrases ascribed to the pastor, however, lean heavily toward the fact that the pastor is right and just needs to explain himself again to the questioner. Actually, there is never any suggestion that the pastor might be wrong or even willing to adjust what he said. (I say “he” because the article assumes the pastor is a “he”.)There is no hint of dialog or of the pastor changing at all. The pastor leads and teaches and it is to be received wholesale and the questioner agrees or leaves. It is incumbent upon the questioner to fix a problem that she has created by disagreeing with the pastor. The pastor, it is assumed, will not change. Either the questioner comes aboard or disembarks.

We can see how problematic this is for community. In fact it isn’t community at all. There is nothing shared, which “co-” implies in the word community. It is a top down ideological process where there is no recourse but to wholeheartedly agree or quietly leave. There’s no discussion unless it’s to persuade you to agree.

But here is the ramifications that we are seeing today: the questioner, who is advised to lovingly find another church, is thereby launched into a life-long pursuit of seeking a church where she must agree with everything that is taught. Which is, for a questioner, impossible! The question, rather than accepted as the natural lifeblood of intelligence, is treated as a dilemma. This, in part, explains why the world outside the church is filling up with people full of unanswered questions without a venue in which to discuss them.

I see a new kind of community in which the members have questions and those who have the answers will be the problem.

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  • Gary

    I did leave quietly. Sometimes I wonder if that was the right decision.

  • Carol

    That’s so funny! I love it, made my day.

  • Carol

    BTW, now that I’ve been able to stop laughing and give the matter some thought, I don’t think it is “community” that is the problem. The problem, IMO, is dogmatic absolutism and the collectivism that it creates, which is the opposite of authentic community.

    “Why is it that our popular established religions are so shaken in the face of the visible problems of our civilization: drugs, war, crime, social injustice, the breakdown of the family, the sexual revolution? Is it not because somewhere along the line belief took the place of faith for the majority of Jews and Christians? Faith cannot be shaken; it is the result of being shaken. And we can see in the writings of the early Fathers that the primary function of the monastic discipline was to shake man’s belief in his own powers and understanding. This was not done simply by visiting upon men situations they could not handle or which caused them pain. Such experiences by themselves are useless, and even dementing, unless they are met by an intention to profit from them in the coin of self-knowledge. Mere belief that one has already found the way and the truth is the exact opposite of such an intention and was recognized by the early Fathers as a weapon of the devil.”~Jacob Needleman, The New Religions

    “Not necessity, not desire – no, the love of power is the demon of men. Let them have everything – health, food, a place to live, entertainment – they are and remain unhappy and low-spirited: for the demon waits and waits and will be satisfied.” –Friedrich Nietzsche

    “The instinct to command others, in its primitive essence, is a carnivorous, altogether bestial and savage instinct. Under the influence of the mental development of man, it takes on a somewhat more ideal form and becomes somewhat ennobled, presenting itself as the instrument of reason and the devoted servant of that abstraction, or political [or theological] fiction, which is called the public good. But in its essence it remains just as baneful, and it becomes even more so when, with the application of science [or religion], it extends its scope and intensifies the power of its action. If there is a devil in history, it is this power principle.” ~Mikhail Aleksandrovich Bakunin

  • Shary Hauber

    I often question my pastor, we disagree about things. He is one of us not above us. I could not attend most churches because the pastor has to always be right. I have to ask myself a lot of questions because what I believed in the past may not be true. It is wonderful to be always learning.

  • We, too, question our pastor…and quite often. His job is to steward us with respect to the Word of God.

    If he gets away from that, then we bring him back onto the rails.

  • Kris

    LMAO….there are always those people. Even if you go to a house of worship, it is a good idea to question those in leadership b/c they have a lot of power. We often give away power to people and then never question what they are tell us to do, be it religion or government or something as small as a country club. Very scary.

  • Caryn LeMur

    Gary: I think leaving in peace and blessing is a good path to follow: wise as a serpent; harmless as a dove. Leaving in peace often shows that you have a deep faith in a God that is greater than the church, and a hope in a God that will honor a questioning heart. ‘A tree is known by its fruit’ – Judging from your many writings, and the depth you show in your words, I vote that you did the right thing.

    Doubt is often like a rift in the garden soil of our mind – cracked open deep by a drought that we personally sense. Other gardens may be doing well… but we see the dry earth, the lack of water, and the realization that growth has stopped in our personal spiritual garden. Into that depth we can plant seeds of hope and searching, questions about God and concern about others, and grieving the loss while learning to press forward with the new.

    When these seeds sprout, they intertwine into a young vigorous vine like wisteria – ‘a cord of three strands is not easily broken’. As if wild, the twisted vine lurches forward, growing inches in a good day, and bending in wind storms that rip off nearby tree branches… the vine is almost unstoppable. The young vine is searching and moving in so many directions at once… did you know that no one can predict the final shape of a wild wisteria?

    But in a few years, it is wisteria that has rooted in multiple locations so that no drought can kill it; it is wisteria that draws sun from so many points that it is always healthy; it is wisteria that blooms in stunning displays of purple flowers that can slow the spring traffic to a crawl… and, it is wisteria that will ultimately outlast and outlive the nearby oaks.

    By the way, as a gardener, I can tell you that wild wisteria is trimmed and cut a hundred times a year within small church gardens, and forced into the tightest constraints of an arbor – or it is poisoned and killed entirely. If our Lord made you into wisteria, then you can only grow to fullness in the forests. Granted, one day, a branch of you may touch a church and bless it with colors in abundance… but I doubt they will ever fully trust the new nature that God gave you.

    So, again, I think you did the right thing. Keep growing. We need a forest wherein every plant lives to its fullness as created by God.

    Much love in Christ always and unconditionally; Caryn

  • Angela

    Hilarious. I want a copy for my wall…not sure whether home or office…or home office. I’ll look for prints on your sales site.

  • Bobbye


    Ileft hard. They had to throw me out. I was not alone. About 40 people were purged. Did you make a mistake by leaving quitely? Depends on what you have learned from God since. I have learned to trust only God, be accountable to only God, to be taught only by God. I also learned that God and religion are not the same ; sometimes religion has nothing to do with God. Sometimes religion is the enemy of God. I also learned that often the weakest Christians are the pastor, elders and deacons. I also learned that sometimes a pastor is a strong and mighty man of God. Hopefully ,Gary , you are still following Jesus, living every day thankful He allowed you to wake up in His wonder-filled world. Took me 20 years to get over the leaving that first church. I hope better for you. All healing is in Christ Jesus. Bless you.

  • Ciera

    I slowly faded away. I had gotten a full time job, nightshift, and just couldn’t keep up with the day shift schedule if the church. And it was only after I was gone that I truly realized his good of a thing it was! We weren’t allowed to disagree at all, and if we had questions we had better be respectful about it.