I’ve often considered the phrase our Lord Jesus spoke, when he said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” in Matthew 4:19 and in Mark 1:17. We catch and devour fish, why would He [Christ] use that analogy? Certainly, the Lord didn’t want his disciples to devour (spiritually) the catch, but He did speak to the understanding of his audience and knew what would illustrate the purpose he had for them.
Jesus made it clear that our purpose was to cast wide our nets into the sea of humanity and to drudge up all the men, women, and children we could from an aimless wandering in darkness, to follow after Christ, and then release them to do the same. Yet some, devour their catch instead of releasing them.
First and foremost, this post is in no way aimed to belittle or demean the office of the Bishop, or Pastor! There are good and bad apples in every bucket. The purpose of this article is to help people identify which type of leader they have and to make decisions based on that information.
It has been almost three years now since I first had an epiphany at my old church, two years before I made the choice to leave that church, February 2017.
“Why, in 40 (yes, forty) years, has this church not released a single preacher, evangelist, missionary? Why has not a single preacher been ordained out of a 40-year ministry? What is wrong?”
I had completed Bible College and got my non-accredited degree in Theology many years prior, was involved with Sunday School, leading parts of Bus Ministry, teaching, Bible Studies and doing all the ‘right things’.
I had felt called to preach the Gospel, I remember the days of internal torment, agony, sleepless nights, dreams when I did sleep, talking to my wife about it, reading and praying. Fear, excitement. Filled with self-doubt but in awe that God would think of me in such a way…
Later I was involved in a class that was supposedly geared towards teaching men how to be ministers. When I told the pastor about my experience, or ‘calling’, he [pastor] told me, “If that had been from God, he would have told me.” That calling died there.
Then, I got another epiphany;
Kings don’t like other Kings
You see, in my old church, the Pastor(s) were more Supreme Leaders than guides or shepherds. They had absolute authority over the people in the church, except those who ‘rebelled’ and left. What I mean by absolute authority is that they controlled many aspects of the congregants’ life, indeed demanded that control (for your benefit of course…) and marked you as a divider of the brethren if you didn’t play along.
Who you date (you seek permission, not guidance from the pastor) if you can marry, and when the time is right for you to marry, and who. They wanted to be involved in your home purchases, such as ‘where’ you bought a house. Moving too far away would make it too ‘easy’ to miss church. They demanded notification from you if you were going to miss a single service, and you needed to tell them about your vacation plans. Tracked your tithing very carefully. This list is too long to continue.
Would a King willingly give up reign (control and taxation) over his subjects, or worse yet, set them up on a pedestal of equal height and authority as himself?
Herein I found the problem of the heart with the preachers of the type of religion I was a part of, and why I’m glad I didn’t become one of them.
Their belief, that they were supposed to be a position of absolute authority (seat of Moses, Matt 23:2) led to a perversion of the Gospel. One in which they retained and devoured as many souls as possible, counting dominance/obedience as the measure of the success of their ministry, instead of how many souls they could catch and release.
When I began to contrast this with Paul’s ministry, who undoubtedly is the prime Scriptural example of what a Man of God should look like, I began to find very real differences.
First and foremost, Paul never demanded obedience;
Rom 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
Paul always used phrases like, “I would that you…”, or, “I beseech you…”. Paul asked people to imitate his lifestyle and works (1 Corinthians 11:1) because he was doing all he could to imitate Christ. And most importantly, Jesus Christ never made demands either!
The story of the adulteress in John 8 is something I go back to continually. Jesus did not set her up for weekly counseling sessions, accountability partners, a path of proving repentance, there was no berating or demanding. He released her with a gentle grace that would compel her to want to listen to His words.
Joh 8:10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
Joh 8:11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
Studying Scripture has so many benefits to your soul, your faith, and specifically in knowing whether or not you have a healthy leader, are in a healthy church and are being fed healthy food!
We are meant to propagate the Gospel, to create disciples. How can we create disciples if we never release them? If Jesus Christ had called the twelve and they all went to a cave and communed, would the Gospel be known to us today?
No, indeed, Jesus was a Catch and Release pastor, he called His disciples, instilled in them the purpose he had for them, and then sent them away, trusting them (knowing human failure would occur) and put His confidence in them.
Men wanted Jesus to be that King I spoke of, a man who would take authority and dominance over the land, but that wasn’t who He was, nor what He purposed for His disciples. I wonder then why, some men, think their place in Christ’ kingdom is to take dominance over other men?
Mat 10:5 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:
Mat 10:6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Mat 10:7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Mat 10:8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.
Mat 10:9 Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses,
Mat 10:10 Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.