"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Four Reasons Why Every Christian Should Feel Free to Question or Criticize Christian Leaders

I recently read where popular evangelical author and speaker Francis Chan warned Christians not to criticize 'anointed' Christian leaders like himself on social media.

Sigh. 

If a soldier could blindfold, beat, and berate my Christ - and the Messiah remained silent - then one might think we Christian "leaders" might want to imitate the Christ from whom we derive our name "Christian."

It seems Christ would have us remain silent in the face of attack rather than to issue warnings against the accusers.

But what about the verse many Christian leaders quote as support warning others that they should refrain from criticizing or questioning Christian leaders? 
"Do not touch My anointed ones" (Psalm 105:15). 
This phrase originates in I Samuel 24:8-15 when David was told by God not to kill King Saul. David would later write Psalm 105 as a reflection on that event.
"Do not touch My anointed ones" (Psalm 105:15).
Church leaders are taking this verse completely out of context when they warn people against criticizing or questioning them.

There are four reasons why a Christian should always feel free to question or even criticize a Christian leader.


1. "Do not touch" means "do not kill."

David finds King Saul sleeping in a cave. David knows he is not to kill King Saul. "Touch not My anointed" is God's injunction against killing a leader, regardless how much pain they've caused you.

But immediately after David finds Saul sleeping in a cave and refuses to "kill him," David questions and criticizes King's Saul's actions, words, and even motives (see I Samuel 26:18-20).

"Touch not the Lord's anointed" never means "question not the Lord's anointed." 


2. The Apostle Paul questioned Christian leaders, and so should we.

Paul considered himself  "the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God"  (I Corinthians 15:9).

But this least of the Apostles publicly questioned the greatest of the Apostles. "When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong" (Galatians 2:11).

If Paul opposed Peter, then you can oppose a spiritual leader.


3. The spiritual person refused to give spiritual authority to anyone but Christ.
"Brethren, if someone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness" (Galatians 6:1). 
Who are the spiritual ones among us? 

They are those who never accept what someone says simply because that someone calls himself "anointed by God."

Let me show you an example of those who the Bible deems "spiritual ones."
"Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11)
The Christians in the city of Berea never hesitated to question the words of Paul. They took nothing as authoritative except that which came from the mouth of Christ. So they questioned Paul to see if what he was saying lined up with what Christ taught.

The Scriptures tell us it is a more noble act to verify a leader’s words than it is to accept somebody's words without questioning their authenticity.

It is always a noble, Christian act to question a Christian leader to see if what he or she is saying, doing, or planning lines up with the words of Christ. 


4. The one in danger of God's judgment is the preacher who abuses God's people.
"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwells in you? If any man defiles the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. (I Corinthians 3:16-17)
The people of God are the temple of God. If a preacher "defiles" the temple, then God shall destroy him. 

Mr. Chan would have been better off by declaring:
"It is my solemn Christian duty to refrain from disparaging those of you who question or criticize me on Twitter." 
Pastors should refrain from using "touch not My anointed" as the basis for squelching criticism of their words or actions.

The truth is that verse is a warning to us pastors.

We should allow the temple of God (the church) to often and freely criticize us.

If it was good enough for Jesus to do, it should be good enough for us. 

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Logical in theory, but haven't met a pastor yet that fully accepts criticism. There is always some sort of retaliation, even if subtle.

Rex Ray said...

Anonymous,

Examples of retaliation NOT subtle.

I visited this church only once where I was escorted past a policeman to my car where I was told if my car was ever seen again it would be impounded.

I’d given the pastor a paper that read:

1.Leadership Board dissolved the xxxxxxxxxx Senior Adult Bible Explorer Class 11-6-05.
2.The teacher was fired because he would not promise to always support the Senior Pastor.
3.However, about 50 long time members have continued to meet with their fired teacher.
4.Consequently, they have been denied Sunday School literature and their Christmas party.
5.If the Board rules their disobedience is “disruption”, they may be ejected from the church.
6.Is it sad the new bylaws prevent anyone standing for them? Outsider, Rex Ray 11-27-05.

The story ended with the teacher and three others being ejected from the church, and a year later they were allowed back since the pastor was fired.

Once a pastor said at a deacon’s meeting: “At our next church business meeting, I’m making a motion that I be removed from the church. My wife and I will leave for the discussion and if fails, I will make a motion that xxxxxxxx be removed from the church.”

The story ended with him being told the church wouldn’t remove anyone and his motions would be a ‘can of worms’.

Christiane said...

sure a pastor would feel more 'comfortable' never having anyone talk to him in a personally-challenging way,
but sometimes that 'way' might be the only way a congregational member CAN talk to the pastor, and maybe there is something 'not on the surface' that the member needs to discuss . . . .

salient points don't always tend to come out directly, no . . . . and the pastor that shuts the conversation off before a person has a chance to be heard will not be able to serve many of the people whose concerns are not 'on the surface' or easily spoken, especially to a pastor

IF the Church values such a thing as a 'listening ministry', then the pastor WILL not be averse to giving anyone an audience . . . . it may the only time a really troubled person has the gumption to speak of serious problems that need to come out in the presence of someone trained to guide the person towards professional help

Pastor Chan? I wonder why he is afraid or what has happened that he fears the truth from people? There must be a reason. The 'listening ministry' is a healing ministry, and a 'serving' ministry . . . . but it is sometimes an uncomfortable session to go through whether or not you are the 'listener' or the one who needs, sometimes desperately, to be heard . . .

Aussie John said...

Wade,

The church in Australia is riddled with this egocentric attitude!

"Nor are you to be called ‘Teachers,’ for you have only one teacher, the Christ! The person who is greatest among you must be your servant.Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted".(Matt.23:10-12).

Those hearing Jesus words were, under the Old Covenant, used to titles of “Rabbi” and “Father” applied to leaders as those in a highly elevated position. They are are not used in the New Covenant church which Jesus is building.

Matthew 23:10 (ISV): “Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one teacher, the Christ.”

No matter which version we use here,(The NET Bible has “teacher;” the NIV “teachers;” the NASB “leaders;” the CSB “masters;” the ESV “instructors.”)Jesus words is that no man should take (or accept) a title which belongs only to the Lord Jesus.

Paul certainly accepted that when he told the church at Philippi to follow Christ's example: Phil.2:3-11

Tom Ross said...

The following verses tell us a story: -

Matthew 23:1-7: - Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore, whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, 'Rabbi, Rabbi.'

Or this: -

Matthew 23:23-24: - "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
-----
Now not diminishing the importance of tithing “mint and anise and cumin,” these herbs were also used in the following manner in Christ’s time and are still practiced/used even today: -

Mint -a great appetizer or palate cleanser. It also promotes digestion and soothes the stomach in case of indigestion or inflammation.

Mint is used to flavour lamb meat to disguise the quality/age of the meat and to reduce the effects of the meat served.

Anise is well known as a carminative and an expectorant. Its ability to decrease bloating and settle the digestive tract still is used today, especially in pediatrics.

adjective: carminative - (chiefly of a drug) relieving flatulence.
noun: carminative; plural noun: carminatives : - a drug that relieves flatulence.

Often because of the poor quality of the food given to consume.

Cumin, as well as adding flavour to food, is associated with many health benefits including antimicrobial, antibacterial and antioxidant properties. It has powerful antimicrobial effects, as well as having an anti-inflammatory effect on the body.
Cumin seeds contain several active compounds including one called thymol that is known to stimulate our salivary glands, enzymes and bile, all of which are involved in the digestion of food. Cumin also has a carminative effect.

I have a sense that Jesus was having a laugh at the Pharisees in listing these herbs as they are used to 1. disguise the quality of the food, i.e. their teaching, 2. reduces the side effect of consuming suspect food, i.e. bloating and the resulting flatulence, and 3. is used as a mouth freshener to overcome the bad taste/ smell in their/our mouths after consuming poor quality food.

How true is this of “preachers/teachers” today, they feed us disguised unpalatable meat to chew on which requires additional “medicine” to reduce the bloating and resulting flatulence which is frowned upon in polite company as well as a mouth freshener so that they/we can remain close and personal with each other without offending because of bad breath.

I wonder how many understand that what they teach may be, to some extent, unpalatable to God.

Bob Cleveland said...

I have to be the most blessed churchgoer ... in this respect ... in the USA. Our pastor is more amenable to views that differ with him, than many laymen I know.

Not long ago, I asked him what I should do if I differed with something he said in a sermon ... keep it to myself, or mention it to him. He said by all means to mention it to him. He said emphatically "Please DO tell me."

It's a pleasure to sit under the teaching of someone with such an attitude.

Rex Ray said...

Bob,

Thank you for bringing out Scriptures that should remind pastors they are talking to ‘priest’ and not ‘dumb sheep’.

“They love to receive respectful greetings …to be called ‘Rabbi’.” (Matthew 23:7)
I believe if they had the term ‘Dr.’, it would be up there with “Rabbi”.

That brings the question, ‘Should pastors be called “Dr.” or have their names on church bulletins as ‘Dr. xxxxxxx’?

Rex Ray said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/23/us/23military.html
“Obama removed a 17-year-old law that banned openly gay men, lesbians and bisexuals from military service.”

This is an example of questioning leaders: Today’s newspaper: “Air Force Colonel’s suspension overturned for refusal to support same-sex marriage”

It’s a wonder America was not hurt more under a Muslim President.

Rex Ray said...

Wade,

Is this ‘questioning leaders’: yesterday, I mailed this letter that begins:

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. Trump,
How about draining the swamp on the assignation files of JFK that President Johnson said was not to be opened for 75 years? I hope you will pardon Sirhan. WHO did Robert’s death benefit the most? I believe it was the same person that benefited most by his brother’s death.

Christiane said...

Hey there REX RAY,

as to your question, this:
" ‘Should pastors be called “Dr.” or have their names on church bulletins as ‘Dr. xxxxxxx’?"

only IF it fits them, the best they can hope for to be called would be as
" A Servant of The Word"

unless, of course, a pastor helps other pastors . . . in which case, he might be called a 'Servant of the Servants of God'


you can't do any better than being called a 'servant' in the Church :)

Rex Ray said...

HEY THERE, CHRISTIANE,

Thanks for the reply.

The question is should pastors be called “Dr.” or have Dr. xxxx on church bulletins?

You wrote only IF it fits them.

So, when does it fit them? Must they have a MD degree?

If not, what is the difference between “Dr.” and “Rabbi”?

Christiane said...

Hey there, REX RAY

I messed up. I confused you by my wording.
Let me try again (and this time NOT be confusing, I hope) :)

Concerning what pastors should be called that is the 'highest' title in the faith, this:

The best a pastor can hope for to be called, (and ONLY if it fits them), would be " A Servant of The Word"

REX, thanks for giving me a chance to clarify that.

Apparently, there are a lot of pastors using the term 'Dr.' as it does convey a certain status in our culture, yes . . . .
but the truth is that in the faith, the highest and most honorable title is 'servant' referring to someone who bends the knee to Christ the Lord . . . . there is no higher honor for a 'shepherd' than to be seen as a 'servant', especially one who lives in imitation of His Lord by being self-giving to 'the flock'

My question is this:
what is it with those pastors who need all the frills? In my Church, we've had several called to account for nonsense . . . that silly 'cappa magna' act of Cardinal Burke was ludicrous . . . he shamed himself by it;
and that German bishop that was called to Rome because of his extravagance . . . that bishop was called the'bling bishop'

Someone who 'needs' frills to 'impress' others with their 'importance' has a longer journey to peace than those who are humble before the Lord. It's the humble ones who draw more people to Christ because the humble ones are bearers of 'grace' and they radiate the peace of Christ to others.

I think 'shepherd' and 'servant' are beautiful 'titles' for any who answers the call to serve the Church. How do you feel about this?

I remember how you wept when you stood up to speak at your Church as they argued over the color of a new carpet for the sanctuary when you have just returned from serving a poor community in the third world by helping build them a 'cathedral with a tin roof and a dirt floor'. . . . Rex, you know what 'humble' is and you understand the power of the Holy Spirit when people realize within themselves what is REALLY important in the Church. You know this already, my friend.

Christiane said...

Rex, I forgot to address your question, this:
" what is the difference between “Dr.” and “Rabbi”?

well, my thinking about the term 'rabbi' is that the person is a 'teacher', someone who is knowledgeable enough and wise enough to serve as a counselor to those who need spiritual guidance . . .

the kind of 'doctor' that most pastors use is likely in reference to an honorable 'academic' accomplishment which requires formal recognition from an institution of higher learning (some form of degree or diploma type of certification); and possession of a professional code of ethics may be assumed.

I don't know if some of these 'doctors' who get their doctorates through the mail from a non-reputable organization should be pastors . . . first of all, they seem to be willing to display a title that is not meaningful and legitimate, which is a moral failing on their part;
and they seem to be needy of recognition that they are 'important' because they have a title that conveys a certain status.

I'm sure that there are many legitimate 'doctors' in the pastorate . . . men who have studied and accomplished what is needed to be able to use that title honorably, but I have heard that many of them do NOT choose to use their titles and I find that even more admirable than I can explain.

And yes, there ARE some real 'physicians' who become pastors/priests/or rabbis and they make tremendous contributions in areas of guidance with people who suffer emotional and mental difficulties . . .

we remember St. Luke was a 'doctor', and Our Lord is honored as 'The Great Physician' and there are formally 'Doctors of the Church' who are each honored for having made some specific contribution to the understanding of the faith, though some of them were not pastors. It's complicated. :)

Rex Ray said...

CHRISTIANE,

MY, my, you really have a good memory. I’d forgotten about my story of our church debating to replace our red carpet with blue being on Wade’s blog.

I was upset about it and when the pastor called on me (a deacon) to pray before the collection plate was passed, I became emotional because I said I felt like a hypocrite in passing the plate because I hadn’t given a nickel in a long time. I told about the church in Mexico. The pastor never called on me to pray again.

I believe some people become policemen to protect the innocent; while some want the authority that goes with it. (A story about my brother in Alaska was in a newspaper 500 miles away that titled “Mace in the churchyard!”)

Likewise I believe some preachers want a PhD to gain more knowledge while some want only the ‘honor’ that goes with it.

A joke why a guy became a policeman: “I want a job where the customer is always wrong.”