Blaming the Church

by Frank Jones


Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:17)

There is a danger within the heart of every minister of the gospel (equally applicable in a different but real sense to every believer) to blame the flock of God for its troubles. The troubles of the flock become seasons of directive preaching, teaching, and prayer; warning and admonishing every man that they may be presented perfect in Christ. The rule for the pastor should be to take the burden of the flock's sins and trials upon himself. Their carnality becomes his carnality. Their sin becomes his to confess before the Throne of Christ. Their spiritual growth becomes his joy to report to the Head of the Church, Christ Jesus. To present those burdens in the closet of prayer before the Great Shepherd for His gentle admonition and correction is a privilege and grave responsibility of every man of God. To this end the Scripture agrees … for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Every preacher must daily and consistently give account of the flock to the Shepherd, who bought them with His own blood. In performing this accountability pastors are providing the opportunity of transformation, correction, and protection of the flock. Therefore above all things (both preacher and believer) foster and nurture godliness, for it is profitable unto all things. As the preacher leads in this aspect then the admonition from Thomas Murphy becomes living.

Hence, in the quiet seclusion of his closet, when the pastor's heart is warming through communion with God, there is the best possible preparation going on for the conversion of souls.

Then the piety of the church will generally rise about as high as that of its minister. A cold, worldly-minded pastor is sure to have a cold church. A living pastor will have a church in which life and joy and prayer will abound. How can it be otherwise, since his ministrations permeate the whole life of the body? He is the appointed agent for edifying the people of God in their most holy faith, and their spirituality cannot be expected to rise higher than his. There is doubtless exceptions, but the general rule is, that the measure of devotedness in any particular church may be gauged by that of the pastor's heart. Should he rest satisfied while there is any coldness there?[1]

[1] Thomas Murphy, Pastoral Theology. The Pastor in the Various Duties of His Office (Philadelphia,: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1877), 48.