Monday, December 19, 2011

Asking Questions Is OK!

I read something I liked a lot this morning from Mark Altrogge. Mark’s post, It’s Not Wrong To Question Your Pastor, makes the point that it is not only OK but healthy to compare what you are taught with Scripture and
It’s not wrong see if what a pastor preaches lines up with the Bible. A pulpit doesn’t make you infallible.

Some pastors give the impression that to question them is insubordination. Pastors aren’t a different breed of Christians, but sinners just like the people they preach to. I always try to discourage people from calling me “Pastor Mark” or “Reverend” (though I will accept “Your Highness” from my wife). I tell them “pastor” is just my job description. I say if you’re going to call me Pastor Mark, then I’m going to call you Carpenter Bob.

I like that he recognizes that the laity are not “subordinates” to the pastor. I also really like that he discourages people from addressing him by the title “pastor”. That drives me crazy, especially when people use their title in their facebook profile or when commenting on the internet, as if we are supposed to give them special deference because of their job title. "Well sure your comment was inane but you have 'pastor' in front of your name so I will keep quiet!". Baloney!

I am more concerned that this is even an issue, that Christians are uncertain if they are “allowed” to question their pastors. I posted this comment on Mark’s page:
What should trouble us is that this is even an issue, that the church culture often leads to Christians feeling as if they are not permitted to raise questions of their pastors. Elders are supposed to be servant-leaders who equip the less mature members for the work of ministry and provide examples in their lives of how Christians should live. I work for a very large corporation and wouldn't even think of calling our CEO and questioning him but we should never have that same distance between the servants we recognize as elders and the rest of the Body.

Where do we get the notion that holding the title of “pastor” or “elder” makes one above question? Certainly Christians shouldn’t be in the habit of nitpicking and seeking ways to tear someone down but in my experience in the church it is far more likely that Christians feel intimidated into silence rather than emboldened to badger their pastor with questions. I recall quite clearly when my friend James asked a very pertinent and respectful question to the pastor of a church we both attended. As soon as he mentioned he had a question, you could see this pastor tense up and assume a defensive posture. His question was pretty much dismissed by this man. Needless to say neither of us attended that particular gathering for much longer.

We are supposed to be a family, a family that believes in a priesthood of all believers. A family can’t function if some brothers are intimidated into silence by their more elder brothers. If a man claims to be an elder but sees your questions as impertinent or insubordinate, he isn’t much of an elder and probably isn’t someone you should be following in the first place.


sammyze said...

My husband was actually told by a senior pastor that an assistant pastor who questions his senior pastor is wrong and likened it to a child questioning his parent. Subordinate much?

Arthur Sido said...

Sammyze, I can say with all seriousness that a man who says that bears no resemblance to a pastor no matter what his title may be.