Conflict of interest is common among those who lead. It is hard to avoid. To the amazement of many the Church we have the same issues. The many pastors find themselves here without recognizing it.
How does this work for pastors and elders? I do not think they are trying to get rich off the church in most cases. Their conflict is between the Message and advancing the Church. The pastor gives the people what they want. This helps grow the church but puts him at odds with Christ’s mission for the Church.
From a pastors perspective he wants to see people come to know Jesus. He wants the church to grow numerically and in maturity. In order to accomplish this he looks at how to communicate to this end. He frames the message to this audience. He tells them things that are important to them and of course he uses the Bible as a reference.
The message needs to fit what they expect from church also, which includes the Biblical stories and the lessons they learn from about improving their life. Here is a quote from the most popular church growth clinician, Rick Warren “Both the Old and New Testaments are filled with many examples of God choosing to reveal himself to man according to our needs and that Jesus Himself won people over by starting with their felt needs.”
The Gospel is matched to the audience. It is said in an understandable way using the audience’s language and background. They are asked to accept the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross for the forgiveness of their sins. They are told to receive by faith the free gift of eternal life. God will change them in His own way into the likeness of Christ.
To grow a Church he needs a core. He knows that the Church should contain elderly, youth, and poor but the center must be around middle class families. This is where the money and energy is for continuing the Church. He must pay the bills and hopefully expand the organization. These are practical matters.
So programs are developed around this core. Children’s ministries, marriage classes, youth group and financial planning programs are established to advance the Church.
For the sake of the Great commission more opportunities are given. They have mission trips for adults and youth. Opportunities are provided for foreign relief. Some include missionary giving.
For the ambitious, opportunities are given to serve in the Church. They have small groups, leadership opportunities, elders, deacons, Sunday school, children’s church, parking, greeting, working in the office, and grounds work…etc.
This is a very user friendly church. I think a lot of people wound enjoy attending. It is pleasant and friendly. It really helps the kids and family. There are lots of nice people and good connections to enhance a wonderful life. It is very clean, fun and positive.
From a pastor’s perspective, if the church keeps growing he is doing great. He is successful and even enviable.
From top to bottom it seems ideal. Where is the conflict of interest? It doesn’t stand out does it? Here is the problem that few can see.
The problem is serving the people’s needs to grow the church instead of propagating Christ’s mission.
When a person comes to the Church to fulfill his/her needs and desires, reinforced with the pastors example, Christ’s church never grows to maturity. They only mature as church goers.
The pastor told them what they wanted to hear. He showed them that they could be clean of sins. These sins hindered their prosperity and blocked them from Heaven. He showed them how the scriptures can enhance their family and community relations. He modeles this moderate life style of abundant living well.
In this context they never learn the sacrificial living granted us by Jesus. This church isn’t missional as Christ was.
The pastor doesn’t and can’t give the gospel of the cross. The cross is not only what Jesus did for us but what we do for the World, lost and dying in their sins. It isn’t simply recruiting by giving a half gospel.
Christ’s Church doesn’t focus on a demographic group to grow but serves whom ever in their path. It desires the sacrificial life of Christ in every “believer.” Success is measured by the passion to serve. If the church is serving and teaching others the , we can claim we are in His will.
It serves children, elderly, drug addicts, the poor, and those treated unjustly by the judicial system in the community. It stops at nothing to lift people from their various destitutions. It costs everything.
It is organized to put people to work. It gives opportunities and shows how to do it. The pastor leads in this type of living.
The conflict is that once forming a church on a flimsy foundation it is nearly impossible to go back. If he tells of the cross life style they’ll shop for another Church. Some will stay. But with the bills it could be tough for the pastor.
It is unlikely that the Pastor will consider this life style himself. It is foreign to him also. If he were to here of this message he would recoil instinctually.
In short, to get what he wants, he has to do and say things that are counterproductive to his perceived call. This cal is to draw people to Jesus and His mission. The best he can come up with is to give the half gospel message, feed the sheep what they like, and provide cool programs. Because they have obeyed the gospel he gave, he believes they are all saved.
Read these words of Paul:
Gal 1:8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
In the end he may be quite successful but find himself at odds with God. This is not an enviable position.