Chinese Church Voices

The Pastor’s Identity

Chinese Church Voices is an occasional column of the ChinaSource Blog providing translations of original writing by Christians in China. The views represented are entirely those of the original author; inclusion in Chinese Church Voices does not imply or equal an endorsement by ChinaSource.

In this article, Three-self pastor Chen Shengfeng reflects on the pastor’s identity. What expectations and hopes for the pastor do church members have? How do pastors remain humble servants while many are tempted to grasp at a “glorious identity”?

Today’s Pastors Need a Clear Definition—Pastors’ “Glorious Identity”

All along—from the time when I was young until today—there have inevitably been criticisms of the pastor in the church. Especially in an extremely utilitarian, pragmatic city, the preacher’s actual performance never quite matches up to expectations, and so causes many negative opinions. For someone who grew up in a preaching family since an early age, I have heard too much, too much.

Now that I think about it, “the greater one’s hopes, the greater one’s disappointment” seems to make a certain sense. All along, that is, in the history of the church, the pastor has been given the honorable title of “God’s servant.” Their words and actions are relevant to their position, so generally normal Christians, or even preachers themselves, think that pastors “should” be more “spiritual,” that it “should” be a glorious office. Some people even use “heaven’s ambassador” to describe the office of preacher. We can probably summarize the role as a “noble, glorious servant of God.” I believe that it would be more appropriate to understand such seemingly “glorious” halos as “expectations” or “hopes” for a pastor. But whether or not that is the case is for another discussion.

Then the question is, does the Bible give a clear definition of pastors—including priests and Levites who served in the temple in the Old Testament, the prophets of various ages, the apostles of the early church in the New Testament, the offices mentioned in Paul’s letters, and especially the shepherd mentioned by Jesus? Is it truly the same image that our current church boasts—that noble, glorious image of the servant of God?

Of course, we must confirm that “servant of God” is a general term that can refer to anyone who serves God. But does it have the nobility and gloriousness that we expect?

When reading the Bible carefully, we can be certain that the servant of God serves humbly, serves with trembling, serves laboriously, serves sacrificially. Even if there are occasional “noble and glorious” times, they still should not grasp God’s glory. We can see this from the lives of Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Jesus Christ, Paul, Peter, and even the archangel and cherubim.

Whoever call themselves “servants of God” and expect to receive “glory” from man, or to be seen as having a “noble” identity—they are fallen in their service, just like the fallen angles. Today’s church needs to be especially watchful. Pastors are God’s servants, but do not have an identity that is sought after or raised up. Pastors are servants of the most-high God, but are servants who serve humbly and sacrificially. Pastors do not need to, and should not, seek glory on earth. Because through being called, they have already surrendered this. They seek only to be called a “good and faithful servant” before God.

Original Article: 今日牧者需要有清楚的定位——牧者的“荣耀身份”by 丰盛“书”房.

Image credit: Photo by David Dibert on Unsplash.
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