Review by John G. Panagiotou of The Unnecessary Pastor – Part IV1 March 2017
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The problems that the Church faces today are seemingly self-imposed. Often times, the Church has allowed its narrative to be controlled by the prevailing culture which represents direct opposition to the Gospel message; this has effected how the institutional Church regards and treats Her clergy. Individuals who do not have a Christ-centered mindset populate our congregations and their leadership; this has affected how the local church regards and treats its clergy. Worst of all, the clergy themselves have allowed their own understanding of pastoral ministry be shaped by the false understanding culture and the congregations. In spite of the fact that the Pauline model of church life teaches something entirely different than what is being practiced today in contemporary Christianity. All of this takes us down the spiritually destructive path of pride, arrogance, vanity, and hubris.
The book’s authors give the reader the following warnings about what can happen to pastors when this perfect storm strikes, “The constant danger for those of us who enter the ranks of the ordained is that we take on a role, a professional religious role, that gradually obliterates the life of the soul.…Humility recedes as leadership advances…Instead of continuing as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we become bosses on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
I think that in the final analysis, the question is begged. Why do we keep doing these wrong things by maintaining these false paradigms? This is especially pointed when we read the writings of the Apostle Paul who admonishes us to do otherwise. We need to start listening to Paul again. It has been much too long that we have been doing our own thing. We need individual and communal repentance on this matter. We need to become a truly believing and praying Church. For many in the Church, this will be revolutionary and radical change. Well, they are right. Yet, this is our true paradosis (Tradition = deposit of faith) which has been handed down. Only then will we see the change that we so desparately need and yearn for whether we realize it or not. My hope is that the Church gets it act together and follows a Pauline model once again. I would greatly like to see pastors become the teachers and examples that they were meant to be and not the wishy-washy, superficial and vapid community organizers and fundraisers that they have become. In many cases, they don’t even do those things well. As The Unnecessary Pastor reminds us, “teaching is at the center of leadership work in the Christian community. Every piece of the gospel is to be lived, so we must keep on teaching…teaching people how to live, not teaching people how to pass exams.”
In conclusion, I would highly recommend this book to all pastors, denominational leaders, and to local church members. It gives a Biblically-based New Testament perspective of Christian ministry. It clearly defines the problems in the modern Church for the last several decades. It gives practical solutions to the previously mentioned problems.
John G. Panagiotou is a Greek Orthodox theologian, scholar and writer. He is a graduate of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary and Wheeling Jesuit University. Panagiotou is Lecturer of New Testament Greek at Cummins Theological Seminary.