(A good friend of mine, Andrew Lindsey, has allowed me to post a recent article he wrote in response to Andy Stanley on Tad Thompson’s blog. I felt this topic is very pertinent to the church today, especially in the SBC, given the prevalent ‘CEO’ mentality and the undermining of the sufficiency of scripture that is all too common. -NW)
By Andrew Lindsey
[This blogpost is an expansion of recent comments made in a discussion on the Total Leadership blog.]
In a recent article entitled “The God Who Names Himself“, Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary begins with these thoughts:
Calls for theological innovation and the employment of “theological imagination” are now routine among mainline Protestants and others prone to theological revisionism. Dismissive of doctrinal orthodoxy and biblical language as out of date, oppressive, patriarchal, and worse, the proponents of theological reformulation intend to restructure Christianity around an entirely new system of beliefs, playing with language even as they reinvent the faith.
The “theological innovation” Dr. Mohler decries is painfully obvious in situations such as the recent declaration by the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. that different names– such as “Compassionate Mother, Beloved Child and Life-Giving Womb”– must be given to the members of the Trinity (this is the situation that sets the context for Mohler’s article), but extreme examples such as the actions of the PCUSA only come about after a long series of small moves away from a full confidence that God has clearly and sufficiently communicated the truth that He means for us to have.
One such “small move” is illustrated by the Spring 2006 Leadership Journal interview of Andy Stanley, the leader of North Point Ministries in the Atlanta area. [This excerpt from the interview is taken from the Ah! Bright Wings blog.]
page 28 – L: Should we stop talking about pastors as ‘shepherds’?
AS: Absolutely. That word needs to go away. Jesus talked about shepherds because there was one over there in a pasture he could point to. But to bring in that imagery today and say, “Pastor, you’re the shepherd of the flock,” no. I never seen a flock. I’ve never spent five minutes with a shepherd. It was culturally relevant in the time of Jesus, but it’s not culturally relevant any more. Nothing works in our culture with that model except this sense of the gentle, pastoral care. Obviously that is a facet of church ministry, but that’s not leadership.
L: Isn’t shepherd the biblical word for pastor?
AS: It’s the first century word. If Jesus were here today, would he talk about shepherds? No. He would point to something that we all know, and we’d say, “Oh yeah, I know what that is.” Jesus told Peter, the fisherman, to “feed my sheep,” but he didn’t say to the rest of them, “Go ye therefore into all the world and be shepherds and feed my sheep.” By the time of the book of Acts, the shepherd model is gone. It’s about establishing elders and deacons and their qualifications. Shepherding doesn’t seem to be the emphasis. Even when it was, it was cultural, an illustration of something. What we have to do is identify the principle, which is that the leader is responsible for the care of the people he’s been given. That I am to care for and equip the people in the organization to follow Jesus. But when we take the literal illustration and bring it into our culture, then people can make it anything they want because nobody knows much about it.
There are many points that could be made about Andy Stanley’s words in this interview, but I will focus upon two: