Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Who set the standard?

I need a little help. I keep running across a point of view that I can't find any scriptural basis for it. Perhaps you have heard it as well. It goes something like this.

"Pastors are held to a higher standard than others."

My guess is that somewhere in the history of the earthly church when we created a separate class of clergy, the idea of a higher standard of behavior was imagined. Perhaps it was the self-imposed orders that monastic communities lived by that created a separate standard for ministers. But there is no scriptural basis for a more "holy" standard of living for ministers/pastors/priests that is above all Christians.

I don't want to confuse standards of holiness for qualifications for positions. Paul writes to Timothy about the qualifications for elders and deacons. But when we read those passages we read that the life they were to lead was to be exemplary and without room for disgrace. If I read my Bible rightly, this is no less and no more than what all followers of Christ are to be pursuing.

Pastors are not called to a higher level of holiness just because we are ministers of the gospel. We, all believers of Jesus Christ, are called to "be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:49)." That does not say that preachers are to be perfect while everyone else can live mediocre lives. Every one of our lives is put next to the standard of God in heaven.

Pastors are not professional Christians. Pastors are professional leaders, shepherds, teachers, and proclaimers. They are called to equip the saints to do the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13). Pastors are not the example of Christ in our communities. We are all the embodiment of Christ in this world. We are all ambassadors of God in this foreign land, the earthly kingdoms. We are all the children of God, created in God's likeness, called to live righteous, holy, and true lives.

As we are constantly reminded in news reports, pastors are people. People who struggle every day. People who sometimes fail. People who strive to live up to the same standard that every other believer has been called to live. The next time you want to lift your pastor up next to that higher standard, take a moment, then raise yourself up to that standard with your pastor.