Most pastors seem to be, in their own ignorant way, sincere in their intentions to serve God and to organize others who share in those intentions. But in practice, pastors are figureheads who lend the appearance of respectability to religious organizations that hold no real spiritual power at all. In the court of public opinion, in the past few decades, church leadership titles such as pastor, priest, deacon, and the like, have acquired more sinister overtones in the wake of financial scandals and every sort of sexual scandal imaginable. It’s not that such behavior is new, it’s just that news travels a lot faster and further than it used to.
Pastors are fascinating, tragic characters. They are chosen and called by God. They are equipped by God with wisdom, humor, and conviction. And then, in the name of Christ, they boldly and unwittingly go to work for the dark side. The purpose of the dark side, what Jesus calls “the power of darkness,” is to draw attention away from the Light of the World, that is, what Jesus claims to BE.
While the institutional church itself has a long history of political and social influence, people are slowly but surely realizing that the clergy are no longer a mighty force. This awareness is increasing exponentially, because people now have the opportunity to examine practically anything and everything that institutional church has ever done. People have been given, to a limited extent, the means to see the rotten fruits of the kingdom of religion as God sees them. This reminds me of the writing on the wall in the book of Daniel:
And this is the writing that was inscribed: mina, mina, shekel, half-mina. This is the interpretation of the matter: mina, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; shekel, you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting; half-mina, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians. —Daniel 5:25–28
Pastors may hold the power of the great religious machine, winning the admiration and respect of all the little cogs, wedges, and levers, but the machine itself is breaking down. Why? First, it is was poorly assembled at the whim of power-hungry murderers. Then, it was maintained with an inappropriate set of standards that were hidden from the masses by language barriers (Latin) and man-made barriers (exultation of clergy, infallibility of the pope, etc). And finally, it was misaligned, unbalanced, and overloaded with tradition. For the longest time, the failure of the machine has been cleverly disguised and delayed. A little bit of spiritual bubble gum, duct tape, and safety pins go a long way.
The greatest power a Pastor holds is in giving up his faux-power. You’ve heard and heard again the words, “based on scripture” as a means to an end that may not necessarily be in agreement with the Light of the World. Take slavery for example. Meanwhile, clergy argue emphatically against one another about scripture interpretation. Audiences of listeners gather weekly to hear what the Pastor has to say – what is supposed to be (and may in fact, be) a word from God, but based on mistranslated scripture, filtered through the dying machine, and then delivered to them by a well-intended Pastor who may or may not have the slightest idea how that scripture ought to be interpreted, who may or may not be using the same translation as a Pastor down the road. The result is a jumbled mess of rusty mixed messages.
I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the Light of Life.
The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.”
Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.”
When people look to Jesus as the only Pastor, they begin to see distance between their perspective of truth, as a fallible human being, and the truth revealed to them in relationship with the Father. If the Light of Life is in you, then it’s impossible to walk in darkness, because wherever you go, even if you go into the machine every week, there the Light is.