Many Churches Teach a Roman Catholic View of Pastoral Authority

Mat 7:15-16 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (16) You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?

In this passage, the Lord Jesus was exposing the hypocrites. Specifically, the hypocrites who were the “clergy” of the day. Scribes. Pharisees. That crowd.

Are we to understand that Jesus would have us submit to the authority of false prophets? Of course not. He is teaching the very opposite here. Even when He said:

Mat 23:1-3 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, (2) “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, (3) so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.

…He cannot mean that we are to submit to the evil commands and teachings of false shepherds. Yes, do what they “say” because what they “said” was the Law of Moses which they read. But as to the application of that Law? Nope. They preach but they do not practice. Don’t do as they do.

And yet very commonly in today’s churches we are being told by pastors and other teachers that we must obey them. Without qualification being added in their teaching. Let me show you their favorite verse to pervert:

Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

What I mean “without qualification” is that they commonly emphasize the “obey and submit” part of this text while ignoring the qualifier – “for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” In other words, TRUE pastors of Christ’s flock are genuine. They are not false shepherds. They really do watch over our souls and they do so with the constant awareness that the Chief Shepherd is the one who has appointed them and therefore to Whom they must give an accounting.

False shepherds do not watch over our souls. No. They devour the sheep. They use the flock for their own glory and gain. We are not to obey and submit to such men, but rather we are to expose them and put them out of the church.

Now, as you probably know, Rome teaches that no matter how corrupt a pope or priest might be, their office as dispenser of sacraments and so on is still genuine. The pope is the pope. The priest is the priest. So really, in the end, it’s all good.

And this is the same kind of thing I think that we see in Protestant churches so often. He is the pastor. Submit to him. They are the elders. Obey them. But the necessary qualifier is ignored – IF they are true shepherds. IF they are truly watching over the souls of the flock.

When an oppressed and downtrodden person comes to their pastor or other church leaders for help and is told, essentially, “suck it up and trust God,” then that so-called shepherd is not speaking for Christ. He is not watching out for and caring for the soul of the poor widow or abuse victim or the target of the sexual predator. He is giving false counsel and at least in that realm is a false shepherd.

I think that one of the most common ways to identify a false shepherd is by holding them up to this standard:

1Pe 5:1-3 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: (2) shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; (3) not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

False shepherds always, always, always “lord it over” the people. Oh they may put on some pretty convincing shows of “humility” at times, acting the “nice, kind” role and “washing the saints feet” while having trumpets blown, but in reality, when the mask is off, they are bullies. False shepherds are always bullies. Watch for it and you will see the bully make an appearance when the guise goes down in unguarded moments.

The Lord is in the business of taking bullies down. Stop fearing them. Pick up your sling and let fly at Goliath. But do not think that the Lord requires you to obey and submit to such an evil. He does not.

 

Why is Our Default Tendency to Focus on “Fixing” the Evil Person Rather than Helping His Victim?

Deu 13:6-10 “If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which neither you nor your fathers have known, (7) some of the gods of the peoples who are around you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other, (8) you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. (9) But you shall kill him. Your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. (10) You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

If you have experienced being the target of a wicked person – a domestic abuser, sexual abuser, sociopath, narcissist, etc. – or if you have followed the stories of abuse victims then you know what I am about to say here is absolutely true. Here it is:

When a case of abuse is exposed, there may initially be some short-lived empathy for the victim, but quite soon the focus of most people familiar with the case will shift. It will shift from the victim to the abuser. It is the evil one who is pitied, counseled, prayed for, and even comforted. And when the victim refuses to enter into that new focus, she is made into the culprit who is standing in the way of the poor abuser being restored.

It’s true. You have seen it over and over and so have I. A great rotation occurs so that north becomes south and south becomes north.

Now, consider what the Lord says in the verses quoted above. Take careful note of what he tells us NOT to do in regard to the evil person:

  • Do not yield to him
  • Do not listen to him
  • Do not pity him
  • Do not spare him
  • And do not protect and conceal him

The Israelites, under the Old Covenant, were in fact commanded to put such a person to death. And EVERYONE was to be in full participation in doing so.

We do not live in that Old Covenant theocracy, and therefore we leave the execution of punishment to the civil authorities God has ordained. Nevertheless, the Lord’s commands to the Jews are also commands to us. Do not listen to him, pity him, spare him, or conceal him. Yet this is exactly what most all people do when evil comes among them and is exposed. And this error (this disobedience of the Lord) is especially common among professing Christians.

“Let’s get him some counseling. Let’s forgive him. Let’s listen to his story of how he was so abused himself as a kid. Let’s not report his evil to the police. Let’s permit him to keep being a congregant in the church.” And on and on it goes.

This is rank rebellion against God’s clear commandments.

Why, we ask, is the lay of the land in such cases sloped toward pity for the abuser? Why is that the direction most everyone drifts toward? Let me suggest that this happens because it is the easy road to travel. Furthermore, helping the guilty one is a way to gain personal acclaim – “just look at how loving and gracious those people are in forbearing with that fellow.” The Apostle Paul rebuked the Corinthians for doing this very thing (see 1 Cor 5).

I saw this very thing happen in our own church a decade ago when an evil wickedness occurred among us. Initially all eyes of pity were on the victim and the victim’s family. But that was quite short lived. Soon the empathy and energy swung over to the perpetrator. Far, far more energy was expended for him than for the victim. And ultimately in fact people left our church in a huff when, in their opinion, we did not show enough “mercy” to the guilty one.

Standing with a victim is far more costly than to conceal and protect and stand with the perpetrator. And I suppose that this is the fundamental reason that it is the perp who gets the pity party rather than the victim.

So, if your eye is on the abuser or the liar/deceiver or the sociopath or molester, it is way past time for you to get your eye off of him and turn your gaze upon his victim. Your eye shall not pity him. THAT is God’s true Word which we are to obey.

 

Beware the Typical Distortion of the Biblical Doctrine of Accountability

Heb 4:13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

1Pe 4:4-5 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; (5) but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

The Bible plainly teaches that all of us are accountable. Ultimately of course this accountability is to God, but He has commissioned certain overseers in this world such as the civil authorities (see Romans 13). Pastors and elders in local churches are to watch over the souls of the flock, remembering that THEY must one day give an account to the Chief Shepherd as to their faithfulness or unfaithfulness in this oversight. Woe to those who abuse His sheep!

So it is not my point in this article to throw the infant out with the dirty bath water and cast away any and all sort of accountability. We are accountable. Children to parents. Citizens to the law. Employees to employers. And Christians, understood the right way, to one another. It is this latter example of accountability I want to focus on here.

Twenty or thirty years ago it seemed that the evangelical church was all abuzz with this thing called “accountability.” Every church had “accountability groups” to which every member was assigned, like it or not. You had to meet regularly and “give account” of how good or bad you were doing in you Christian life. This “accounting” process was taught as a biblical doctrine and verses like this were thrown out there as proof:

James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Christians are indeed accountable to the body of Christ. There is a proper, biblical authority given to the local church for the healthy oversight of the flock. The man in Corinth who claimed to be a Christian but who was sleeping with his stepmother was it? – well, he was to be immediately booted from the church. We are accountable to the Lord for how we live, and thus we are accountable to our brothers and sisters in Christ in this regard as well.

But this truth about accountability is very typically perverted and used by false shepherds and other evil people to gain power and control over others that the Lord has never given them. This malignant form of “accountability” does great harm.

For example, let’s say you are a member of a local church and Fred, a fellow in the church who is regarded by the masses as a “pillar,” comes up to you and offers to “disciple” you. “We all need accountability you know,” Fred tells you. “If we are going to grow in Christ then we need to be accountable to one another.” And so it begins. Fred gets his hooks in. It sounds so believable, but in fact the Lord has never called us to be accountable TO FRED! To the true church, yes. To the Lord, yes. But I don’t recall seeing Fred’s name in the list.

If you have read my books and blog posts over the years you have probably heard me tell of one experience I had with just such a “Fred” who used to be in a leadership position in our church. My wife and I were able to finally purchase our own home rather than live in the church parsonage as we had for years. We looked and looked and finally found the place we live in now (this was nearly 20 years ago).

Well, this “Fred” didn’t like it. He saw this as a challenge to the control he wanted to have over “the pastor.” And he also saw it as an opportunity for him to put on his typical “super-saint” act in front of others. So, at the next church board meeting, Fred said “Pastor, you are moving 16 miles away from the church building. You are distancing yourself from the congregation. And now you are going to be ‘down there’ with no accountability. Why, you will have the internet there and no one to hold you accountable.”

If I had the wisdom I have now, I would have stopped the meeting right there, put a spotlight on Fred, and challenged all the other board members to think carefully about what Fred had just said and what his motive was in saying those things and he would have been reproved in front of everyone. But I didn’t fully understand Fred at that time. I thought he was just another one of those too typical “difficult people.” He wasn’t. He was an evil man out to enslave and control others for his own self-glory, in the name of “accountability.”

Wicked people (some are women as well) love to use this accountability business as a tool for enslaving others. And as you think it through biblically, you begin to see that the Christian, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, taught by the Lord Jesus, his way illumined by the Word, does not need some other human being in a weekly meeting running him through a checklist of questions, in order to walk in holiness. Yes, we meet together as a church to encourage one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10), but the spirit of fear has been cast out when we came to know Christ and instead we experience the Spirit of adoption as sons.

At best, these accountability gurus are rank legalists who do not know the grace of God in Christ. At worst they are out and out wolves prowling around looking for sheep to devour, agents of the evil one.

So beware. Beware this accountability business. As far as I can see, the large majority of it is false, unbiblical, and harmful teaching parading as Scripture but in fact is the mere creation of man.