Wednesday, August 30, 2006

More from Wylie Johnson

Here are some more nuggets from the address mentioned in the previous post. Johnson goes to some length to exhort young pastors to remember their place. He is no enemy of pastoral authority; but he does take dead aim at abuse of authority. He writes:

“Let no Baptist preacher ever seek to reimpose these barriers [priestly acts] that Jesus removed at so great a cost.
I believe Baptist laymen everywhere would like for me to say to young preachers here today, ‘Remember always, you are not a priest.’ You are God’s messenger to preach Christ as our only priest. . . . never get the idea that you are part human and part divine. Remember that no church congregation is obligated to follow your will rather than God’s will.”

“So never yield to that human temptation to substitute your authority for God’s authority, or to claim your will to be God’s will, or to make your goals to be God’s goals, or to accept self-praise where God alone ought to be praised.”
These are good words of reminders especially since the culture of self-aggrandizement continues to be encouraged in pastoral circles. This is worsened in situations where pastors think they are the only ones who hear from God and can simply tell their people God has told them to do something and the people should obey. The New Testament does uphold significant pastoral authority but only as it is rooted in the Scriptures. When pastors suggest their inner promptings are authoritative we might as well return to a Pope! Johnson even says (writing in 1954!):

“The greatest threat to our Baptist faith is our trend toward modernism in organization; the tendency to revert back to the priesthood and build a religious hierocracy.”

“Let us never forget that is was over-organized and over-commercialized religion that sent Jesus to the cross.”

These quotes also speak to the issue of what our churches need today- not primarily better organization or marketing. We simply need to teach and live the word of God, and we pastors can lead the way by actually taking the cues for pastoral ministry from the Bible- teach the Word, shepherd the flock, live holy. Then God will do His part.


Unknown said...

Great post Ray. But God told me to tell you that....

Just kidding.

Anonymous said...


Good reminder of my need to recognize my place and serve with humility. My struggle has been convincing people that I am actually trying to be biblical and not just 'different' or 'new.' This has not been an easy task, but the Lord continues to show me the power of His Word. I guess I am just skeptical at times of people telling pastors to 'be biblical' when they try and are then criticized for not following the tradition. We have a difficult assumption to face in our Churches, namely that Southern Baptist tradition (or any other tradition) is always biblical. Anyways, as always, thanks for the insights!!

Gordon said...

I wish I had read this fifteen years ago. It would have made my first pastorate so much easier!

Anonymous said...


Let me just say that I am watching what you described in this post happen at a church here in Nashville. The pastor has said, "God has given me a vision for this church," and it seems like anyone who questions that vision is being cast as an enemy of the Lord's will. It is extremely disheartening to watch, because the "vision" includes a bunch of things that aren't anti-scriptural but also are not explicitly biblical. How can you oppose that? It seems like "God's will" is used as a trump card too often to cover what you described in your post - a great desire that is in MY heart to do what I want to do. The situation is hurting a large number of people who have been part of the church for a long time - much longer than this pastor. May we be careful and faithful to remain tenaciously and relentlessly Biblical while also being careful not to go behind what the Bible says. God bless you, brother.

Chad Davis

Perry McCall said...

My prayers are with you, your pastor, and your Church.

Unknown said...


You need to read my post on Spiritual Intimidation.

Ray Van Neste said...

Ditto to Joel's recommendation

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the tip - it's a great post. This situation is frustrating to me for two main reasons:

1)A large portion of my family (though not my wife & I) attend this church so the issue is very personal. I know the hearts of my family and I know that they desire nothing more than that the will of the Lord be done.

2)Such an "intimidating" stance is the exact opposite of what Scripture commands of the shepherd of the flock. He is not to Lord his authority as the world does; he is not to domineer the flock (1 Peter 5). He is to serve them and protect them. There is a time to stand firm and strong, but those times are over explicitly scriptural issues - not whether to buy a piece of land or build a new building, etc.

My wife and I have discussed the issue of God's will at length and decided that we must be extremely careful anytime we feel the Spirit of the Lord moving our hearts to do/say something that is not explicitly referred to in Scripture. I do believe the Spirit leads people in such a way - but that leading will NEVER allow the disobedience or disregard of Scripture. Further, I would thoroughly question such leading if Godly people around me (particularly Godly, faithful people in the congregation I was shepherding) were questioning that leading. Thanks again for the post, Joel. It was great.

In Christ,
Chad Davis