Have you ever been witness to a group of people who are making a decision that you know to be a bad one? You know that their choice will not end well? In fact, it seems that everyone knows that they are making a grave mistake BUT them?
The Bible reads, “Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, ‘Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.’ But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to judge us.’ And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them'” (1 Samuel 8:4-9, ESV).
The Israelites were not requesting a king as much as rejecting a King. They were giving up their unique call as a Chosen People. God was to guide, provide, and protect. But that was not enough. The Israelites wished to be like everyone else. They wanted position over mission. There might even be more to the story here . . . they made a decision that day to give far more authority to an individual than was originally God-ordained. Sure, there were differences of roles and responsibilities – the priests were to carry out the Law, the prophets (which would not really come into their own until after the corruption of the kingship) was to be the check of the Lord, and the judges acted as decision-makers and military commanders. But even so, there was this sense that Israel – AS A WHOLE – was to know God, be known by God, and make God known to others. Not just a king. A people. But they settled for second-best.
I wonder if the same could be said for the church. Let me first admit, I am a pastor. I love being a pastor. And I see great value in the role of a pastor (I do not care for the term ‘office’) . . . an overseer. Some have the gift of shepherding, leadership, teaching, preaching. But they are all to entrust the ministry . . . mobilizing disciples on the mission. But often this is not the case. Whether it comes from a congregation, like Israel, who willingly request for one person to do EVERYTHING . . . as if they are a hired-hand or a representative. As if they can point to one person who is engaged on the mission and say, “See what WE are doing?” Foolishness. Or worse yet, some pastors take it upon themselves. Either they have become frustrated with people OR they mistakenly view themselves as an expert in the field. Regardless, they have directly come into conflict with Paul’s teaching that there are no longer male nor female, Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free.”
Leaders reproduce themselves. They send people out to do that which they might not be able to do themselves. Don’t allow for people to become bystanders. And don’t allow for pastors to become icons. Share the common mission. Be the people of God.