Where are all the Abuser-Enabling Pastors Coming From?
“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:1)
It is a fact. Hundreds and hundreds if not thousands and thousands of our readers here at ACFJ will attest to it. Pastors and church leaders in local churches are (with some refreshing exceptions) dealing out IN-justice to the oppressed and enabling, protecting, and covering for the wicked who are doing the oppressing. Oh there are still many professing Christians who will say that such a charge is way harsh and exaggerated, but all we would have to do is point to the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of testimonies you all have given on this blog to support the charge.
Now, my question that is on my mind this evening is this – Where are these shepherds coming from? Where is the factory that is cranking out these “shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep” of Christ’s pasture?
Both prophet and priest are ungodly; even in my house I have found their evil, declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:11)
But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.” (Jeremiah 23:14)
Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.'” For who among them has stood in the council of the LORD to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened? (Jeremiah 23:16-18)
Where are they coming from? Well, some are simply self-appointed. You have probably known a person who just up and decided God had spoken to them and so off they went to start up a “church” and pass on their visions and dreams to the gullible. Some of them garner a pretty big following.
But more often what we are seeing in the reports of unjust false shepherds is that they were trained and taught in a seminary or Bible college or perhaps “discipled” in a large church. And the question remains then, how is it that such places are cranking out pastors who teach falsely, who protect the wicked, and who oppress the oppressed? I mean, you can go to these seminaries and colleges and on paper the thing looks pretty good. Holds to the Westminster Confession or some other statement of faith that looks to be solid. And yet…
Let me propose to you what I think is going on. I have two theological degrees. One from a graduate school and one from a seminary, so I have gone through the system and I think that gives me some accurate insight into the matter.
What do you learn in seminary? Greek, Hebrew, Systematic Theology, Biblical Theology, Bible study Methods, Counseling, Homiletics (preaching), Management skills and so on. But what is more important is what a ministerial student does NOT learn in seminary. Namely, they never or at best very very rarely hear about the real nature and mentality and tactics of evil. That is to say, there really is no one who formally and thoroughly addresses how wickedness actively and consistently creeps into the local church, seeking to destroy. Why not? Because that takes years and years of experience with the thing and real godly wisdom, and our academic structures are not looking for that sort of thing. They want academics. Professors with advanced degrees from Oxford or some other notable academic hall of learning. Furthermore, there is often a climate of willful blindness to evil – a kind of, “let’s not talk about un-pleasantries or we might discourage the students.”
The closest field of learning that could address evil and its manifestations would be the school of counseling. But we all pretty much know (having learned the hard way) that the evangelical church’s record in counseling as a means of protecting the victims of abuse is, well, pretty pathetic.
All the years I was in seminary, not one single professor ever stood up in class and said something like this – “People, close your books, open your ears, and listen like you have never listened before. I am going to tell you specifically how the enemy of our souls is going to come at you in the local church. If you fail to hear and heed what I am about to tell you, I assure you that you are going to go down! You will become an ally of the wicked.” Nope, never happened. Not once. And I am convinced that it doesn’t happen in all of these other pastor factories either.
The result? People are graduated, given a Master of Divinity degree, told they now have the finest education a pastor could have, and off they go. They just know that they can handle anything. They just know all the answers about marriage, about divorce, about marriage problems, about parents and kids and….they even believe they can easily know who is a Christian, and if the devil ever were to show up in their church, they would be able to spot him in a second. They are already well on the road to becoming a Pharisee, pronouncing the traditions of men to be the Word of God.
Denominations also reinforce these very same things. A culture is developed in which the “company line” (often unspoken) is fueled and it doesn’t take people long to realize that they better not step outside those traditions, or else. “I really think divorce is permitted for abuse, but don’t tell anyone I said that.”
We at ACFJ have tried. I even tried with the seminary I graduated from myself! I did really well there and even won the biblical languages award and was selected to preach at the final seminary chapel before graduation. So one would think that when I contacted the counseling department after our first book was published, someone would snap it up and begin to use it as a standard tool there. Guess what happened? Nothing. Nada. I received no response at all. And we have yet to make any inroads into a seminary or Bible college.
That is where I think most of these pastors who oppress the oppressed and justify the wicked are coming from. And churches continue to use faulty benchmarks to evaluate candidates to fill their pulpit.
Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who steal my words from one another. Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the LORD.’ Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the LORD, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the LORD. “When one of this people, or a prophet or a priest asks you, ‘What is the burden of the LORD?’ you shall say to them, ‘You are the burden, and I will cast you off, declares the LORD.’ And as for the prophet, priest, or one of the people who says, ‘The burden of the LORD,’ I will punish that man and his household. (Jeremiah 23:30-34)
Whenever seminary deals with marriage counseling, it is always with the focus of saving the marriage (comment by Ps Sam Powell on this blog)