Counting the Costs
By Gary Amirault
Few of us realize how difficult it is to be a pastor in today's Christian world. I don't know of any pastors who have studied the hundreds of different belief systems in Christianity, compared them with Scripture, and then decided upon the denomination they wanted to be affiliated with. Most pastors enter into the denomination they were raised in, or one with similar beliefs. Others may have received the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" in some Pentecostal or Charismatic church which caused them to attend a "Spirit-filled" Bible college. A pastor's exposure of the teachings of other denominations would generally consists of very basic histories and perhaps enough knowledge of their teachings to refute them should any of their future congregation ask questions. The studies would be from a negative point of view, not from a view to see if there is possibly teaching there which is correct which may not be in the pastor's denomination. In other words, there is little room for really studying other denomination's teachings with an open mind.
After graduation, the pastor will be placed in a church which holds to the basic views he was taught in Bible college or seminary. His or her exposure to the beliefs of other sects of Christianity would be at a minimal.
At this point, the pastor has a job, friends, and associates who all have similar beliefs. He has signed a contract which states he will teach the tenants of the organization. Should he at any time change his beliefs in such a way as to no longer represent the consensus of the denomination's or movement's teachings, he must step down from his position. In many denominations, even if the majority of the congregation agrees with the pastor in his new-found beliefs, the church building will stay with the denomination. The church membership will have to find a new building and name.
This kind of arrangement makes it extremely difficult for a sincere pastor to really study other denomination's teachings objectively. The odds are pretty good (as I have found out) that no denomination has a monopoly on the truth. To truly study, which I believe is one of a pastor's primary responsibilities, will probably cost him his job, his congregation, his title, and often his reputation.
In discussing with church leaders the modern church concept of "hell," I am amazed how quickly the discussion ends if I disagree with their concept. If I am incorrect in my views and need to be corrected in love, as the scriptures say, then the pastor should spend much time with me to lovingly correct me. But that is rarely the case. If my error will ultimately lead me to hell-if my sharing with others will lead them there also, surely a pastor with the love of God in his heart would use his years of study to correct my error. This rarely happens. After one or two discussions, he quickly becomes aware that I have come to my conclusions because of extensive study, study which went far beyond any denomination's boundaries. He begins to sense that if he listens to me with an open mind, his own beliefs might be affected. Due to his sworn allegiance to his sect's teachings, he cannot allow himself to really hear me. It might change his views. Therefore, when the discussion enters into the realm of really allowing for interchange, the pastor has to stop. He will justify his actions by telling himself there was no hope to "save this poor soul, anyway. He was too far gone." But underneath the self-justification was the fact that if he engaged in the conversation with an open mind, there was a good chance it might cost him his livelihood. My soul was not worth his income and position.
And there is the problem. Should they decide to cross that line, they know what they discover may cost them their job, their reputation, friends, and associates.
One would be amazed how little the average Bible college or seminary student really learns apart from their particular doctrines and history.
I long for the day when those called to leadership can study unrestrained by sectarian boundaries. When the qualification for entering a place of learning is centered around the individual's calling and desire to serve our Father rather than whether he or she will serve the established hierarchy.
To those of you reading this article who are in church leadership, you know what I am saying is true. You also know the cost of changing. Should you decide to break the boundaries, it will probably cost you a great deal. That is why you have hesitated, isn't it?
You see, what you are wrestling with is your very life. You are discovering, you have not laid down your life after all. Oh, we all so quickly boast of the things we have given up to be servants of Christ. Something deep inside knows they are vain boasts. Isn't that true?
Only when one truly rejects the glory of man-made positions of honor and seeks only the praise which comes from above, can we truly be set free from the chains of denominations. Then and only then will we be free indeed.
The title, the salary and pension, the honor from the community, all these things actually keep one from truly being free. These very things which we are afraid to let go of, are the very instruments of imprisonment. These very things keep a leader from exploring beyond denominational boundaries and thus actually become a prison of darkness, a place which lacks the fullness which the Bible speaks of. These crumbs could be replaced with a banquet table if only one could truly see the worthlessness of the false security of a salary and the honor of men.
The average church leader is a mere slave, and not a slave to Christ. I suppose nothing short of our Father revealing the worthlessness of that which these leaders so adamantly cling to, will get them onto that road of faith which we must all walk if we are ever to come to the knowledge of the Truth.
Those who have come to understand the fatherhood of Abraham and long for the city he saw from afar whose builder is the Creator of All Himself, will have to leave behind a great deal. From man's point of view, the cost is too high. But looking from the throne of grace, the cost in nothing. Rise up and be seated in the throne of your Elder Brother, and it will be easy to unshackle yourself from the traditions of Babylon, or in modern terminology, from the prison house of denominationalism.
Each step out of the darkness created by the church in the "dark ages," has cost that generation a great deal. Very often they lost their homes, family members, their country, and even their very lives. Each previous move always persecuted the next move.
One of the greatest treasures I have received walking on the road to the city above is the deliverance from the fears which sectarianism uses to keep its prisoners. One really cannot truly appreciate this gift until set free from the traditions of men.
There is a cost to freedom: the cost is the rags of religion we so proudly display, the ignorance we parade as truth, our badges of honor from men, the false security of a paycheck, our false concepts of family, and our prejudices and hatred we disguise under the title of sound doctrine and being separated from the "unclean." We must acknowledge our shortcomings before we can see His fullness. We must acknowledge our nakedness before we can be properly clothed. We must become honest with ourselves, our neighbors, and with our Father.
Whether a church leader, or follower, I encourage you to count the cost, and then make the only decision which will bring fullness ...go follow Abraham and learn of the one sided covenant which gives us the city from above. The church is still preaching and teaching a form of the Mosaic Covenant. Moses is dead! This is My Beloved Son, hear Him! Moses will bring you death. Abraham's covenant will bring you to the True Promised Land.