Previously, I have written on control and how Pastors can exercise authority over believers; to the extent that God’s word permits. Although I covered many questions people may want to ask, I want to go a bit further.
The word control is broad and when we talk about the control that Pastors have over their members, it shouldn’t be understood in a broad sense, it must be narrowed down to ministry.
In a broad sense, we can categorize control into three parts and each of them does not mean the same thing. So when we talk about Pastors having control over members, we are not talking about all types of control.
Let’s consider these three things
All of the above is control.
• Guidance is control.
• Manipulation is unfair/selfish control.
• Dictatorship is absolute control.
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.” – John 16:13 NLT
The Holy Spirit was given to guide us into all truth. He doesn’t guide us in all things, he only guides us into all truth. The area of the guidance of the Holy Spirit is specific; into all truth. But this doesn’t happen outside the ministry of God’s word and this is why Jesus said: “He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard”.
In John 14:26, Jesus had revealed how the Holy Spirit would tell only what he has heard. Let’s read:
“But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” – John 14:26 NLT
Now, when you are studying the word of God, you are accessing channels through which you receive guidance from the Holy Spirit. The same thing happens when you submit yourself to the ministry of a Pastor who is also a teacher. The Bible tells us the duty of a Pastor, they feed God’s children (also referred allegorically as sheep or lambs)
“And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” – Jeremiah 3:15 KJV
“A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.” – John 21:17 NLT
“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” – Ephesians 4:11-12 NLT
You may say “since the Holy Spirit teaches us and guides us into all truth, there is no point listening to any man.” You will be deceiving yourself if you think so. The ministry of a Pastor is also how the Holy Spirit trains us and equip us for ministry.
Our relationship with the Holy Spirit and submission to God’s word also gives us the ability to discern and know the truth. When we are not hearing the voice of Jesus in the words of our Pastors, we will not accept it. Jesus said
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” – John 10:27 NLT
Guidance is control, many don’t choose to call it control because it sounds a bit hard but it is control. If you don’t want to be controlled by a Pastor, you don’t need one. The control of a Pastor over members is guidance and they are placed in that office by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Some men abuse the privilege they have over others using subtle means. This is often done using the arts of mind control and unfair means to serve selfish purposes.
They take advantage of their influence to sexually abuse women, to scam followers off their money and do all manner of things. Those who do such do not have the fear of God, they are all out for their selfish reasons.
“Show your fear of God by not taking advantage of each other. I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 25:17 NLT
The devil is a manipulator and anyone who does such is exhibiting the attributes of the devil.
“But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” – 2 Corinthians 11:14 NLT
A manipulator uses things that look like the truth. Some so-called Pastors divide families with false prophecy, destroy marriages and bring about sorrow in people’s lives. They are only able to manipulate these people because of blind followership which gives them the ability to manipulate them. Paul says this about such people:
“Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people.” – Romans 16:18 NLT
Manipulation is mind control, some are subtle, some are very direct. People who are being manipulated may never even notice that they are being manipulated. Some people would use Bible verses and Church words to manipulate others.
Pastors who manipulate members do this because of selfish reasons, because of insecurity and because they lack basic knowledge of how spiritual authority is applied to members.
How not to be a victim of manipulation is to study the word, stay on the word and follow people only where God’s word permits. For example, if your values are strongly defined by God’s word and a supposed Pastor begins to lead you astray, you have every right not to allow it. God’s word tells us how to prevent ourselves from being manipulated
“In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” – Ephesians 6:16-17 NLT
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” – 2 Timothy 3:16 NLT
A blind man cannot lead a blind man, but also, a blind man can be easily led astray. As you follow people, don’t be blind, don’t follow blindly. Your followership must be centred around God’s word and purpose for your life.
“Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.” – Hebrews 5:14 NLT
How to avoid manipulators is not by avoiding commitments, it is not by ignoring the duties of Pastors, it is not by making light of accountability, it is not by avoiding the gathering of brethren, it is by committing ourselves to the word and ministry. It is in so doing that we are trained to be able to discern between right and wrong.
By renewing your mind consistently, your mind cannot be subject to manipulation.
A dictator is one who has absolute power and control, he has all the say and cannot be questioned. The authority of a Pastor is not dictatorship, even God isn’t a dictator. He loves diversity and allows us to follow our own life choices while recommending his own choice.
The gospel is received by choice, we make ourselves available for ministry by choice and we are equipped and trained by choice. Right from the creation of the world, man has always had the right to make choices.
So, when we say a Pastor has control or should have control over his members, we do not mean that a Pastor can freely be a manipulator or a dictator, he is a teacher and one whom God uses to guide those who submit to him. Like we discussed in our previous article, the authority of a Pastor is delegated by God only to the extent that God allows.