Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Mutiny in the Pulpit

On April 28, 1789, the Royal Navy ship Bounty was sailing in the Friendly Islands about a thousand miles west of Tahiti. Lieutenant William Bligh, the Captain of the Bounty slept in his cabin while Fletcher Christian and 18 other men conspired against him. They stormed his cabin and after a heated exchange Bligh and 18 of his men were set adrift in the Bounty’s launch. It was a mutiny. A junior officer rebels against the authority of the captain and tries to put himself in charge. In the Royal Navy it was a serious offense, punishable by death.
In the kingdom of God, it is an even more serious offense. The scripture makes it clear that the church has a head, a Lord – our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He died and rose again for the right of being Lord of all (Romans 14:9) and is the only rightful head of the church. When any other person tries to usurp the authority of the Captain, it is mutiny against Christ.
Satan was a mutineer. Before the creation of this world, he tried the unthinkable. He rose up against the Father and said, “I will be Captain.” His mutiny failed and he was cast from glory to roam the earth and enlist others in his rebellion. In the garden, Adam and Eve chose to side with mutiny of evil rather than being loyal to their Maker.
There is another form of mutiny, one I have witnessed often and even sometimes been guilty of, that in the church today. It is mutiny in the pulpit. It is a subtle problem, but that does not make it any less dangerous. Any man who steps into the pulpit, who serves as the pastor of God’s people, must realize that he is there to serve God, to shepherd’s God’s sheep and not to pursue his own ambitions or agenda. To use my place as pastor to advance my own kingdom rather than to serve the interests of the Kingdom of God, is mutiny; a rebellion against the rightful place of the rightful King of kings.
1 Peter 5:2 states it very clearly. “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care.” Note two very important truths from this verse. First, the sheep belong to God. These are not my sheep. They may be in my care, but they are not mine. They are not supposed to follow me or serve me. They are God’s sheep; designed to glorify Him, follow Him, and serve Him. I often talk about “my church” or “my people.” But that only means “the sheep under my care” not “the sheep I own.” They were purchased by the blood of Christ, not by my preaching or leadership skills. So, the sheep are His and His alone.
The second truth defines the pastor’s job. We are shepherds. A shepherd does not dominate his sheep, but gently guides them where they need to go. I am not to beat the sheep into submission by swinging the bat of pastoral authority. I do not use them to further my own ego-born ambitions. I devote myself to the welfare and spiritual health of those God has entrusted to my care. By faithful love, by humble service and by careful attention to the Word, the will and the ways of God, I can lead them to grow in Christ and to be like Christ.
I read long ago about the type of shepherding that was done in New Testament days. A shepherd lived with his sheep and cared for them. They grew attached to him and followed him wherever he went. He did not drive them, he led them. They followed him willingly, because they trusted him. That is the kind of shepherding we must do.
There is no greater privilege than serving God by leading others toward Him. When I do the job well, I become part of God’s plan to conform people to the image of Christ. But it is also a great temptation. We who are shepherds can often forget who the sheep belong to and try to take authority that only God deserves.
When I begin to regard the sheep as mine or to care more what they think of me than what they think of the Father, I am in danger of committing mutiny. I am taking what does not belong to me and stealing the glory and authority of God.
What a privilege to be a shepherd of God’s people. But what a danger as well!


Damon Steele said...

Timely words...

Todd Bacon said...

Your flock is blessed. An entire year between "camps" is, in my opinion, entirely too long. Jenny and I shall listen to your annoying, crass, grating voice preachin' the truth on your church website since we can't be there to endure the misery in person. =o)

Gloria said...

Thanks, Dave. This is indeed timely. We are going through some trying times right now with just that very thing--demands for "trust" in the appointed authority with no room for discussion. Needed to hear that we, though in the minority, have others who are like minded in this.