Admonishment to Religiously Ambitious Neophytes
An admonishment to religiously ambitious neophytes is long overdue. If I can put it into simpler language: those who deliver God’s Word and are not currently leading a congregation, be careful where you tread.
I. Religious Neophytes Misunderstand Leadership
II. Novice Faith Blinds the Immature Christian
III. Neophyte Preachers Should Avoid Multi-Tasking
IV. Novice Neophytes Must Learn to Pray
V. God’s Will Never Over-rides God’s Will
VI. Elijah, Elisha, Gehazi and Succession Planning
Religious Neophytes Misunderstand Leadership
Inexperienced leaders, such as assistant preachers, misunderstand Kingdom Leadership. They suppose “length of service” and “faithfulness “to a body of Believers mean they will be the next leader.
Wrong! I am sure you understand His Word doesn’t agree with YOUR conclusions. Your integrity in ministry is the most valuable thing, short of salvation, you possess and such blind-spots damage it.
Any minister who has walked with a Pastor, for some time, has heard it oft repeated: “you have to have strong faith.” This is true not just in the life of the ministers who are “neophytes” in leadership, but in the life of any Believer.
Your faith isn’t tested when you receive the thing you have entreated the Lord for. Rather, your faith level is measured when God withholds the very thing you desire most.
The Prophet Jeremiah was sure of his calling (Jeremiah 1: 4-7):
However, after years of preaching to the Babylonian captives, nothing seemed to change. The Prophet had gotten to such a point, that he question both his faith and the delivering power of God.
He voiced this lack of faith like this (Jeremiah 20:7-9):
Jeremiah, essentially, called God a liar. This outburst happened because after years of suffering, things weren’t changing and had gotten worse.
These times of discouragement must not go unaddressed in the life of Servants to the Man of God. The closer you are to the Shepherd, the more Ha Shatan will try to use you to ‘Touch God’s Anointed.’
Yes, some pulpit servants are being faithful but what is that faithfulness based on? Love for the LORD? Obedience to HIM? Or are you expecting a “prize” you which catapults you into the limelight?
As a God anointed leader and Shepherd (in this season anyway), I well know that most of you are simply “lying in wait” for “your hour.”
Novice Faith Blinds the Immature Christian
Brethren, you must accept that you may never reach the office of church leader. Just because that is your desire, doesn’t mean that is God’s desire for you. Are you willing to defer your desire for His desire for you?
Having been a Preacher for the better part of two (2) decades, I know the answer is NO! That is not only evident by the way such men seek the “office” but the large number of church's residing in the same neighborhoods!
In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul dedicated an entire chapter to the issue of a Believer’s ‘Called Vocation.’
Paul opened Ephesians 4 like this:
Just because God anointed you to “preach” doesn’t mean He anointed you to watch His Sheep in the role of local Pastor. There are other ordained callings/offices, in the church, despite the false “successionist” teachings of people such as John McArthur.
For instance, in Ephesians 4, beginning around verse #11, Paul outlines church leadership structure beginning with the Office of Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, and Teacher.
The thought Paul was teaching the Ephesian Church was the need for ‘Unity in the Spirit’ which should result from those “calls.” When that is combined with what was written in verses 1-3, these gifts should unify and not divide.
So, why are you allowing your gifting to divide the church in seeking that which God may not have for you?
Let’s quickly look at verse#1: “I therefore (Paul) the prisoner of the LORD, beseech (beg) ye that ye walk worthy of the VOCATION wherewith YE ARE CALLED.”
Which of these Ephesians 4 vocations are you called to? Evangelist (Exhorter) yet you stand in the pulpit trying to Pastor? Are you a Teacher whose chief concern is “making disciples” yet show more concern with “title”?
The confusion in the church is staggering with respect to “gifting.” Ministers of Music Pastoring, Teachers trying to be Evangelist, Pastors who are doing so without the heart of a Shepherd?
It is all a “ball of confusion” as an old song said and we know (1st Corinthians 14:33):
Can there be Teachers who are Pastors? YES! Can there be Apostles who are Teachers? YES! More than one gift is not beyond the ability of God.
However, this multi-disciplined gifting must be ordained of God and not men.
Neophyte Preachers Should Avoid Multi-Tasking
Although a desirable quality in the world, a Believer must not be tempted to spiritually multi-task. This behavior ushers in an attitude, and expectation, that one must be multi-gifted to be effective in ministry.
It isn’t in the multitude of gifts that one is effective, rather, in the gifts of multiple Believers. WOW!
Listen to the text on the matter (1st Corinthians 12:4-7):
Rediscovering God’s Heart for you will mean committing to going from being un-prayerful to a prayer focused existence. Do not misunderstand the phrase ‘Prayer changes things’ to mean that you can change God’s Perfect Will.
The exact opposite is true - your prayers must align with His Divine Will and then things will change.
Here is proof your prayers have become selfish: when is the last time you didn’t ask Him for anything and just “listened” for His Voice? How does it make you feel when family, friends and co-workers can’t have a conversation with you and not beg for something?
From personal experience, this bothers me to no end. I recently had to deal with a congregant who only shows up to “beg” for the church to “bless” him. Quite frankly, it is sickening.
Some will undoubtedly use the scripture: “the fervent effectual prayers of the righteous availeth much. Remember that you can be fervent but the key word is “effectual.” A fervent/effectual prayer is only so if is aligns with God’s Will.
Novice Neophytes Must Learn to Pray
Effectual prayers are those which edify the Body of Christ and ultimately bring glory to His Name.
What all church leaders must grasp is that like anything else, one has to be prepared for prayer. Too often, we go in “unprepared” and wonder why God’s Will is not fulfilled in our lives.
Yes, prayer, itself, prepares you but a “prepared” spirit heads into this sacred time with “expectation”.
Not expecting God to “glorify us” rather that we “glorify Him.” Too often this conversation with God turns into the “vending machine” business model.
The Saints are great at getting prepared for:
Sunday morning celebrations, as if Sunday is better than any other day to worship. Prayer, whenever and wherever it occurs, is just as important.
Waking up early to get to work on time. However, we are much more “slack” when it comes to our service to Jesus Christ. Most can count, on one hand, the days (non-vacation) of work missed in an entire year. However, it takes all of our fingers and toes, and those of others, to count the times we miss worship (at home in prayer or Sunday).
Getting our spirits ready to hear ‘What thus sayeth the LORD GOD.’ That is, until what He says doesn’t align to our own personal agendas.
When we do not prepare ourselves to faithfully and properly worship, we’ve disqualified ourselves from making an ‘Effectual Prayer’.
Novice ministers are great at “believing” it (Pastoring) will happen but come up short on asking God “should” it.
If Jesus truly sent you to Preach His Word, how is it you do not know that Pastors are no more special than anyone else (to God)? How is it you desire something He may not for you? Do you not know if you are “out of place”, you are dangerous to everyone including yourself?
Here is a challenge question: How often do you just sit in a quiet place and say to the LORD “Here I am?”
Whether you are a Shepherd, Pastor, Associate Minister or Believer, prayer is about first, acknowledging that God is Sovereign. If HE isn’t, why are you praying to and begging Him for your heart’s desire?
Jesus Christ said (Revelation 3:20):
The door JESUS spoke of illustrates the barrier that stands between the world and God. Without question, that barrier is one’s heart! Lack of intimate relationship with Him makes any prayer ineffectual.
Everything begins with an effective prayer life. As we’ve discussed, effectual prayer starts with understanding what prayer, at its’ core, truly is.
God’s Will Never Over-rides God’s Will
Being a pulpit neophyte has nothing to do with age, necessarily. There are young servants who are sold-out to serving God and old preachers who yet scheme against the same.
It must be understood that God: “is not the author of confusion but unto sound mind given to all the Saints.” Therefore, God is not confused and will not over-ride His plans for your convenience.
His Will is between you and Him so refuse allowing ambition to overcome your allegiance to God.
Further, allegiance must exhibit faithfulness to the one He sent to watch for your soul according to Hebrews 13.
As such, your leader’s main duty is to equip you for God’s Service and this is accomplished through being discipled. There is nothing more beautiful than a preacher who understands they do not know it all!
Sure, many make this claim (of not knowing everything) but few actually believe it. This is wholly discerned through their immature actions in ministry.
God has allowed me super-natural knowledge of His Word. Scripture says this is one of the giftings He provides along with healing, tongues, wisdom, etc. Further, I find it difficult to listen to preachers who do not have a solid grasp on the Word they preach.
You have heard them: they say really wise and cool sounding things, but rarely attribute it to the Word of God.
However, I ran into a Bishop recently who humbled me in a way that blesses my soul! You could see the anointing on him and after he preached, we spoke about the philosophical points of his sermon.
I asked very probing and direct questions about his posits. His answer proved a few things. First, this brother was much more biblically intelligent than I! Next, I understood that I still need to be discipled even though I am a church Pastor.
If, as a tenured Pastor, I admit this, on what basis can those not leading believe opposite and act so?
Leaders desiring discipleship must do what is against their nature: submit to the authority of another man, on a voluntary, and perhaps unpaid basis. Further, this must be done with no expectation of receiving some “tangible” reward like being the “next” church leader.
It takes the spirit of the living God to serve while not reaping tangible benefits to justify such servitude.
Those who don't receive their "just reward", run away in a fit of lust and anger! The un-discipled assistant preacher, who leaves the covering of a Shepherd to ‘start their own church’, are eternally dangerous.
This is so because;
They have forsaken the covering of their Shepherd to pursue self glorification
In un-godly haste, they are ignorant of the reality that “disobedience” only breeds more “disobedience.”
They stand, proclaiming a Word that, not only are they disobedient to, but do not believe based on their unrepentant actions
Elijah, Elisha, Gehazi and Succession Planning
Part of our responsibility, as local Shepherds, is possessing a discernment not common in other men. Such a leadership role demands direct confrontation with unregenerate preachers.
Yes, Elisha took over where Elijah left off, but did Gehazi take over for Elisha OR did Gehazi’s disobedience get him sent away with leprosy?
Shepherds, as with Elisha’s confrontation of Gehazi, we must confront wicked neophytes whose destruction is close at hand.
Here are just several issues with their “unseasonal” planned departure:
They have misused the ‘Great Commission’. These Words, spoken by “The Word”, must always be viewed in light of “truth.” The gospel is “truth” so those who go preaching it must do so “in spirit and in truth.” If these rogue ministers are “lying” about why they are going, how can anything they plant be based on truth?
He misunderstands the nature of what he is really pursuing. Such confused men suppose “going forth to preach the gospel” is their goal when they are “drawing away disciples after themselves.” Scripture speaks against this adamantly!
He has corrupted himself because of his desire to be ‘Promoted to Pastor’ and not ‘Exalted to Shepherd.’ Bible Students remember a man named Korah who stood against God’s Man (Moses) right? These sorts are the same.
As with this confrontation, there is New Testament confrontation as well. An instance of this is Paul confronting Peter at Antioch.
If you have leadership issues in your church, get up off your knees and take that wayward preacher “to Antioch!”
No church has ever been split without the Man of God, or people’s, consent. Silence is a product of cowardice, apathy, or both. There are simply men who have no business Pastoring or otherwise leading God's People.
Whether God would have them do so, in a later season, or not at all, the damage is still massive.
I met such a man with his own ambitions in Denver, Colorado some years back. He seemed like a humble guy and committed to God’s Word. He had been a preacher for a few years so I was excited to see what God would do.
One day, not long after, I opened a local Christian Newspaper to discover this novice had started a new church! I will never be able to communicate how stunned I was.
I had heard him preach and he was still “feeling his way” through. But so quickly leading God's people and being yet incapable of leading himself?
My shock came from:
Me talking to him enough to know that he was in desperate need of strong leadership/discipleship as a minister, let alone Pastoring. This guy was much less mature in the faith (and Word) than I, and I knew I had no business leading!
He had not been under anyone’s authority long enough to discern his own gifts and vulnerabilities. This means he didn’t even have an idea of “how to pray” let alone “interceding” for the Sheep.
He was puffed up because of local ‘Pats on the Back’ from Pastors instead of these men speaking the “truth in love” to this man.
I went to a service where he preached after this shock announcement. As I listened, the little bit of power he did preach with, as the new minister, was absent. All that was left was this “shell of a man” who looked like a fool quite frankly.
Pastors must be discerning about who they allow into leadership and deal with these rogues immediately.
If they leave having being dually confronted, praise God! As Ezekiel three (3) teaches: "their blood will not be required at your hands." However, if you say nothing, God is going to deal with you Brother Pastor!
Although this post seemed harsh, it is meant to lovingly challenge “pulpit seekers.” I truly understand the desire to be who God called you to be. I do not, however, understand the “power lust” to Pastor.
That is the whole tragic point brethren. Those who truly understand the stakes avoid seizing things which put us deeper into the battle yet are less equipped to do so.
It is crucial for the neophyte preacher to understand you are wading into waters you are not equipped to swim in. Here is an example with a minister I knew whose desire to Pastor almost destroyed a congregation.
He desired to lead God’s people but based on his home life, and penchant to get arrested, couldn’t even lead himself. Further, he caused demonic chaos in the church for almost eleven (11) straight months before the new Pastor was chosen.
Praise God it wasn’t him!
This man is the archetype for someone who, although God gave the the Word to Preach, will not allow them to lead His people. In your quest to lead, you must accept that there exist various levels of leadership in the Kingdom.
We do not all occupy the same spaces because God made us, all, for different tasks.
Check you ungodly desire at the door and only then, will you truly understand both who you are and what you are called to be.
Header Image Courtesy of Duncan Sanchez @ Unsplash