How Much Does Our Faith Depend on Our Pastor's?
What if you went to church next weekend, sat in your usual spot, sang along to worship songs with the usual worship team, watched the pulpit expectantly as your usual pastor took his place to face the crowd and then instead of uttering the usual sermon, admitted that he now found it impossible to believe in the premise of Christianity? That he had discovered his faith could not stand up to the evidence against it, or that believing in a God that would allow cruel things to happen to loving people no longer made sense. He was sorry, but he had officially for the record lost his faith and his resignation as church pastor was effective immediately.
Would this shake you at all? Make you, in turn, question what you believed?
I have often struggled with my faith and sometimes just knowing that the person standing up and preaching each week believes in his faith so fervently is the only thing that prevents mine from unraveling completely. I can be extremely dependent on my spiritual leader’s faith.
And I can’t help but see how this weakens the argument for Christianity. If we are all a bunch of people dependent on someone else’s faith who is dependent on someone else’s who is dependent on someone else’s… then who actually really believes?
But then again, that is the legacy Jesus left, right? The early church began not long after Christ’s death. They were close to Jesus, maybe some had seen him pass through their town or perform a miracle. Perhaps one guy told a few friends about his eyewitness account of Jesus, and then those friends multiplied into a crowd which turned the first guy into their leader–their pastor. He was simply relaying what he knew to be true to those who then relayed it to others.
In this sense, being dependent on your pastor’s faith is being the church. I can’t imagine having faith on my own. A fact that used to make me feel weak and question what I believed, but now I think has more to do with being the way Jesus intended his people to be: dependent on him, dependent on each other.
I can so relate to this. I often find myself thinking – “Their belief helps me believe.”
Andrea, have you read Chasing Francis by Ian Cron?
No, it would not affect my faith! My pastor, Rev. Allen Buss, has 4 kids, a wife, our congregation, a church he is planting, and is supervisor of our northern Illinois state district. He is a great fan of Max Lucado and reads all his books. If my Lutheran pastor got up one morning and said there was no God and he had lost his faith, I would consider he had a break with reality. Stress had finally broken him. I’d pray over him, then slap him up side the head, grab him by the ears and get nose to nose with him and say “There is a God! Now repeat the Nicean Creed with me!”
I left a church because the pastor changed his mind on homosexuality and decided it is not a sin and also came to believe that the path to heaven doesn’t necessarily go through or depend on Christ
More recently, I left another church (and ultimately the denomination in which I was raised) because the new pastor refuses to discuss hell from the pulpit because “it scares people.” This pastor also does not believe in the inerrancy of Scripture.
Thank God my faith does NOT depend on the faith of my pastor.
My faith isn’t dependent on my pastor.. To be honest.. I really don’t care for him..So why do I stay there.. I love the church…yet many of the staff have hurt me personally.. When they preach on reaching out to the special needs kids of the community..Yet..when you ask for someone to be in Sunday School with your special needs daughter so that you can attend service and told that SHE’S not a mission field.. Well… I am still struggling to Forgive.. Too many times we put our pastors up on pedestals and when they fall .. it hurts.. My own brother was a pastor.. A man of God.. A man who could explain deep theological thoughts so that any one could understand..Yet he suffered from depression.. and finally 10 yrs ago hung himself.. If my faith was dependent upon these two examples.. it would no longer exist..
I love hearing how God is working in peoples lives..and it does help renew my own faith when I read of the things happening to friends who are on the mission field.. But my faith is comes from that personal relationship with Christ.. In times of distress.. it helps looking back..to see how God has and is working in my life.. People fail.. God doesn’t .. People hurt others.. God loves his kids..
I am so sorry that you were hurt in your church and that your daughter’s needs could not be met there. It is a tragedy. People can be very insensitive.
wow.. haven’t though about it in this way.. thanks for sharing it
We tend to forget that Pastors are Human beings and as such, are fraught with many imperfections like us the Members. I have learnt to draw strength from my experience with God and guidance from the Holy Spirit. I pray for every single thing concerning my walk with Jesus, my children, marriage…..everything! And I always hear from Him and he is constantly teaching me. He is with us if only we believe
Hello, thanks for sharing this blog! I have had the same struggles about my Faith in Jesuschrist marvelous redemption masterpiece. Please remember that if we are all together as a church is because we were adopted and called to be His Body, His Church. My pastor is not the best example in many ways of a perfect man,but he is a man of God but actually he is totally imperfect, I find it a relief because I can trust completely in the fact of what the scripture say on Romans 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God and also that Jesus said in John 5:39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. One last comment, please remember that in the way that we keep our personal relationship with Christ as a priority therefore all the others relationships will have its correct weight and measure in our live, even with those inside our church had hurt us or ignore our needs. Love and Grace to you all!
Regards! Bela =)
Amen Tamara – my faith also comes from my personal relationship with my Savior Jesus Christ… You are so right people fail… God does not! To often I have been let down by my christian friends. But have forgiven them and moved on! It is interesting to me that a christian can say they are mad at God. If I relyed on their faith – where would that leave me? That would be a real downer and I would have to ask “why God”. Instead I prefer to keep steadfast as I can in my faith and pray for them! Just sayin’!
Andrea- Good thoughts! The variety of response supports your point. Church is messy but necessary. My husband was a minister for many years and I was really careful about who I shared with when I just had to grouse about him. If he was driving me nuts (in that normal way that married people routinely drive each other nuts) I would only blow off steam with someone who would love him anyway and not have their faith shaken because the preacher was a human being! Thank God for an awesome church secretary and my BFF! They loved him like a son and a brother, gave me a safe place to share about my talented, grouchy, type A, brilliant, thoughtless, generous man. Grace upon grace!
No. My pastors have often inspired me to seek Christ more, but my faith does NOT depend on any person. Faith is based on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. You are not a Christian because your parents are or grandparent were or because your pastor it is. It is not something you inherit or gain by proxy or proximity. It is a strictly personal decision to follow Christ, yourself. And if your faith depends on another person, a human being whose natural inclination is sin, your faith can be snapped like a twig. In John 14:6…Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” I think you will find that daily reading of the Scripture with a seekers heart will strengthen your personal faith so that you do not look to men but to God alone. Psalm 118:8… It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. I am praying for you!! 🙂
Great thoughts. We must never let our faith in the Lord hang on things other people do. Christian faith is a very personal thing. If you find your Pastor believing and behaving as an unbeliever, leave that place.
First, thanks for this sincere post. I saw it as a retweet by Max Lucado. Since it is so difficult (impossible?) to convey tone in writing, please know that my comments are written with a humble spirit, simply hoping to help.
I strongly belief that many, if not most, believers in America today are in a rut and not passionately seeking after GOD with all their heart. (I don’t mean this judgmentally…just stating my observation.) GOD says in Heb. 11:6 that without faith we (I) cannot please Him. He desires a personal relationship with each of us but that takes effort on our part. As you know, relationships are built on communication — two-way dialogue. We must talk (pray) and listen (read the Word) to GOD on a regular basis in order for our relationship to be intimate. Faith is built this way (Rom. 10:17). So, if we want a faith of our own we must seek GOD with all of our heart; only then will we find Him (Jer. 29:13). In the day of judgment we will stand before GOD alone — no pastors beside us.
Lastly, everyone please please study the biblical concept of a “pastor”. The word pastor is a synonym for elder, bishop, presbyter and shepherd (see 1 Pet. 5:1-3). Look at NT examples of pastors/elders/shepherds and see if you see an example where there was one pastor per church (which is what is common today). If not, why do we do that today?
As a Pastor I have to admit this scares me. What kind of pressure does the thought that the faith of those in the pews of my congregation depends on how I am feeling with God at the moment, put on a Pastor to remain strong in the faith even when they have times of doubt or questions? Is there not room for us to to examine and grow, to have moments of doubt, all of which God can work through to strengthen our faith?
Pastors also stumble and God forgives them. However if the faith of the congregation is dependent on that of the pastor, might such a stumble shatter the faith of many?
Yes Jesus gave us the gift of the church, of one another to journey together in faith, but I don’t believe to the point of do-or-die dependence upon the faith of another. My faith is dependent on the Spirit of God alone and I hope that those I point toward God find the same place to put their dependence.
No because my faith does not rest in man but God alone. Good thought though. Especially since most Christians only go to a certain Church because of the pastor.
Andrea- good article! No, my faith absolutely does not depend upon that of another person’s, whether that person is a pastor, a lawyer, or a plumber. Too often, in modern religion we mindlessly follow the “sage on the stage.” This is just plain wrong and, IMHO, not at all what Jesus had in mind. The Church that Jesus established focused on building relationships & community with those God placed in your life. Today’s “church” is all about meetings, procedures, and following the status quo. Sad…
A church I know of was founded and run by a pastor who had a strong personality and will, with a lot of influence on those around him. Because of illness, he had to step aside. The church ended up splitting over who his successor would be. Most who left either joined or led other churches. But there were those whose walk with the Lord was shaken. It highlighted for me that you follow a man who follows God, but you never should just follow a man. I can have my faith and relationship with God enhanced by someone else’s preaching and teaching, but I’m committing spiritual suicide if my walk with God is primarily based on one man’s preaching and teaching. I still have to study and meditate on my own. When I stand before the Lord at the end, I’m the only one responsible for my choices and decisions.
My question is: where in the New Testament do we find fulltime, paid pastors? I cannot find them. A “pastor” is not so much a title or position, but that what a person does. In the early church there were no pastors as we know them today, but people were pastoring eachother by coming together daily in their homes, share the Word and share their lives.
Today I can only rejoice that God is restoring His worldwide church in that direction again !
Alex van Nes, Belgium
I stopped going to church because the pastors in church are starting talk gibberish. Same thing over and over again. And hypocrisy is what i see in them. I missed a Sunday or two in church and they have a new perceptive of me. What i read in the bible in and what the pastor preaches do not match at all in some cases that I have encountered. So i have totally given up in going to church but not entirely. I have my own faith in God, my own relationship with him and i know more. Maybe this is wrong to some as I have been told. The epiphany of my religion and the church and the pastor is too complicated. Although I have come across few sermons where the pastor is quite the pastor. Maybe in todays world we need the pastors of today who understands the world and the people. As years go by the world changes and people change as well. But whatever it is in God i do find a lot of peace and comfort.
Last night I was sharing with my finacee some thoughts about God ‘toward’, Spirit centered men I have known in my life. We had many great times of fellowship together both in and away from the church building and several of these men were ministers and men training to be ministers. We were quite actively involved in each others lives out of friendship/love/spirit fellowship/education. We laughed, cried and sang together in our worship services. We had small group meetings long before they were ever considered the thing to do. We had bible study groups and many, many fellowship activities to help keep us strong and together as a worshiping community. But through all that and as wonderful as many of these experiences were I would not for a minute have put any of these men at the center of my faith. Yes these were some fantastic very God centered men but to make them the center of it all wasn’t/isn’t going to make my faith grow. God gives us our faith. God causes our faith to grow. God provides the means by which our faith can grow. God allows us to participate in our faith unlike humans who sometimes try to reverse our faith. God causes our faith to be an action rather than an idea alone. God uniquely connects to us in our faith like no human can possibly do; He is there with the every beat of our heart in a way that no human can be. YOU! ARE! NEVER! ALONE! God is the center of our faith not humans. Unlike humans God is Truth and that Truth is a strong and sure foundation. The who, what, where, when and why of faith is pretty simple, it’s Jesus and Jesus alone. It’s possible to learn from our ministers about faith but they are not the object of that faith, only Jesus is. Ask yourself this question: Where was and What was faith during the time a badly beaten Jesus was nailed to and dying on the cross?
Andrea..how can one so young have such deep thoughts? I never thought about my faith being dependent on the pastor. I do know that when a pastor I respect makes a statement I tend to take it and run with it, but not anymore. I have finally realized I need to challenge it in my mind and really get my arms around it and compare it to the Word. Make sense???
I’ve wondered this very thing. I’m pretty sure my faith would be shaken, but not broken. Or perhaps I’m not as strong as I’d like to think. Well written. I’ll be chewing on this for a while.
Great post Andrea! And a super question that I wrestled with for MANY years.
So, I will say this…for a long time, my faith depended on my parents’. My pastor could have hit the road and I wouldn’t have been too heavily bothered, but my parents, that’s another story. Maybe because yours are intertwined, then there is a deeper connection.
During my 20’s when life and very dark difficulties hit, my faith began leaving my parents and began becoming my own. Three years ago when the storms got so fierce in my life, I fully surrendered to Him and I got to fully experience God’s amazing grace, mercy, and FAITHFULNESS. My faith fully became my own through all of that. That’s why I title those years, “Experiencing heaven during the year from hell.” 🙂
Growing up in church and ONLY knowing Jesus and God…never knowing anything different, our faith, just like everything else our parents teach us, must eventually become our own choice, our own relationship. If I were to guess, you are sifting through that road right about now. A very natural and necessary road we must all travel.
Can’t wait to see you in 4 days. This week is NUTS and it will be a miracle if I get everything done in time to leave town.
One more thing…I vividly remember when I was younger thinking, “Even if none of this is true, I want to go where my parents are going, so I’m sticking with them.” 🙂 Thankfully, my parents, just like yours, had incredible relationships with the Lord, so when the storm of life hit, I knew what to do and Who to turn to, and you know what, they were right!
This was an interesting blog and something that I think so many Christians fall into, it’s the basic idea sometimes of the mega churches. We fall into the name of the pastor, he can almost become an idol, and a slip or fault can be devastating to the “believers” faith. Like one responder already said, they forget they are just men, subject to the same cursed flesh we all are, tempted by the same sin nature, and forever and always imperfect until the return of Christ. So how can w place our faith on something that is flawed?
It is really an intriguing argument and one that could go off in so many ways, from questioning salvation, to idolatry, to who knows what. The simple and plain fact. I find the biblical comparisons to the modern church interesting, my only response would be that they are two different churches and two different worlds, there is so little biblical description of churches back then, in fact most disciples went to preach first in synagogues and because the early church was so small compared to the church today you really can’t compare the two. It would be like describing a start-up company to some large international company. While I do agree that the church today has lost it’s purpose I don’t think it’s fair to compare something that really is not really described in detail and declare differences in structure.
The fact is when it comes to faith, our faith doesn’t come from our pastor, our faith doesn’t even come from ourselves; faith is provided and supplied by God himself, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Romans 12:3 ESV) Faith is bestowed on us by God to produce fruit, believers don’t start off as disciples of great faith, their belief, obedience and disciplines prove them worthy of receiving great faith. Faith, like all the Fruits of the Spirit, is cultivated by our actions.
I totally love that you wrote about this! But I do feel that God intended is to be believers together, I mean we are the body of Christ, we complete each other, we encourage each other, etc. of course, sometimes we can pull one another down. Regardless, it is so important to stand firm in the Lord on our own, he needs to be our rock and we need to know why we believe he is our rock. Meaning, we can’t believe in him the same way our parents did, or the way our pastor does. We need to have that relationship with Jesus all on our own, so we know from our own experiences why we believe in and love Jesus.
First of all, Andrea, thank you for your honesty and transparency. I think this is an important issue, especially in modern America.
Even as recently as a week ago I would have disagreed and said our faith should not be dependent on our pastors. Well, over the last week or so as I’ve been wrestling with God, I have found myself grateful for the faithfulness of my pastors and their willingness to be used by God. Their faith has impacted mine deeply and I will admit that I have relied on theirs. I like the argument you make in that this is not a bad thing based on the early church. But like other commenters have mentioned, we need to remember that pastors are people, too. Somewhere there is a precarious balance between using the faith of others to support us and remaining in our own faith despite the trials around us.
Thank you for asking these hard questions. They’ve helped me grow!
I feel that we need both a personal relationship with God and a faith community around us, because one without the other simply doesn’t work well for our spiritual health and growth. When I am having doubts, when my spiritual well is running dry, I know I’m buoyed and re-inspired by the people in my church community. I like your question, because I think we are very much influenced by our leaders, and I also believe that during the times when our spiritual leaders are having their faith crises, they are relying on OUR faith, too. I think we influence and inspire them, and they need our prayers as much as we need theirs. Perhaps when we acknowledge our interdependence, we will be less likely to be devastated when our leaders fail us.
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