The Church Needs Shepherds Not Prison Guards

Carnally minded people are always asking the wrong questions. What church do you go to? How often do you go to church? What do you do in the church?

There is a big problem with that kind of thinking. It is not about going to church. What did you say?

Going to church and encountering God are two completely different things. It is possible to encounter God in church, but it is also possible to attend church without ever encountering God. Yet the big focus for carnally minded people is always about going to church because it is something they can see in the natural realm, which seems to be the only realm they can see. People take hours to get ready for church, drive to church, sit through the church service, and drive home from church. However, during any of that time did they encounter God?

The problem is we can attend church every time the church doors are open and still go straight to hell when we die. We can even be the pastor of the church and go straight to hell when we die. It is not about going to church. It is about having a personal relationship that begins with a personal encounter with God and continues with daily encounters after that. If our church does not usher us into the presence of God where we can have an encounter with God, then we should stop going to that church and find a place where we can encounter God.

This is the main reason why over 95% of kids who grow up in church leave the church as soon as they are old enough to decide for themselves. They sat through hundreds of church services but never encountered God for themselves. They know religion and tradition very well but they do not know the Lord because they were never shown how to enter into his presence. They heard all about the Lord, but they never met Him or encountered Him personally. So after years of doing church, they leave with nothing because they don’t have the Lord in their lives.

Pastors are often in too big of a hurry to get through their services to slow down long enough to allow God to come in. So they waste years of people’s lives because they don’t have time to let God do what he wants to do. The sad thing is many of those people will never return to church because they have concluded church is dry and boring. Many of them will never find out how they can personally encounter the Lord until after they die, when it will be too late for them. For many of these people, the opportunities for reaching them were wasted and now it is too late because they will not listen anymore.

And this is what we call ‘doing church’? Why do we put up with this? Well, we don’t have to. In fact, those who are hungry and thirsty for more of the Lord in their lives cannot get by on the morsels they get in churches like the one I attended. When you get hungry, the hunger drives you to the place where you are not satisfied with morsels because it is not enough to make the hunger go away. It takes full course meals to satisfy real hunger. Which means it takes getting out of churches that hinder the flow of the Holy Spirit. It means escape, break out, bust out, do whatever you have to do to get out of there before you starve to death.

In the natural realm, if you fast for more than 3 days you will pass the point of hunger. Even though your body has gone without any food, your hunger pangs will stop and you will no longer feel hungry. This is a dangerous place to be. If you go too long without eating, you will die. So hunger is a good thing because it tells your body what it needs. When our body tells us we are hungry, we should listen and get some food. Spiritual hunger works the same way. So when you are hungry for more of the Holy Spirit, but find no spiritual food where you are, don’t just look around and do what you see everyone else doing. Most of them are already spiritually dead or dying. They passed beyond their hunger pangs years ago. They are now the living dead. Don’t look to them for guidance. You must act on your spiritual hunger pangs even if it means desperate actions like going somewhere else to find spiritual food. Your spiritual life is at stake.

Sad to say we cannot look to our spiritual leaders to look out for our spiritual lives. Many times the leaders are leading their people into dry places rather than green pastures. So you have to be careful not to put your trust in anyone else besides the Lord. Get alone with the Lord to seek his guidance. Dig into his word to hear from Him. He is the good shepherd who always leads his flock to the green pastures.

Pastors have become prison guards rather than shepherds. They are more concerned with keeping the prisoners confined and under control than with leading them into the presence of God. The prisoners go along with it because it is all they have ever known so it is well within their comfort zone. Plus they get the warm fuzzy feeling that they did the right thing by going to church. However, they do not get to encounter God or to even find out they could be having daily encounters with him that would change their lives forever.

When the prisoners find out the awesome power of God’s presence is available to them every day, the gig is up. They will never again be satisfied with stale, boring tradition as a substitute. They will no longer believe the lie that they have to come under the guilt and condemnation hurled at them from the pulpit to keep them confined to the church and contributing their time and money to the church.

One common way pastors bind their people with guilt is by telling them they will be rewarded for all eternity for the time and service they give to their church while also telling them their efforts outside the church will get zero eternal rewards. I have heard that one repeatedly. They say what you do at your job will be worth zero. What you do in your home will count for nothing. Only what you do in their ministry will earn eternal rewards.

I contend that any instructions given by God are always important, not based on what he tells you to do, but based on who it is who told you to do it. According to some pastors, if God tells you to do something outside the church, he is telling you to waste your time because it will count for zero in eternity. If you want big eternal rewards, give your time and money to the church. If God tells you to do something outside of what is normally considered to be ministry, don’t listen to him. Say what?

What scripture are they getting that from? So if God tells you to go into the marketplace and gives you ideas and directions for what to do there, is he telling you to go waste your time doing things that will count for zero in eternity? What if God tells you to go into the political arena? Isn’t it important to do what God tells you to do, just because he told you to do it? Are his instructions less important when he tells you to do something outside the realm of the five-fold ministry?

Beware of pastors who tell you doing anything outside of the five-fold ministry areas is a waste of your time and God’s time too. What a bunch of nonsense! I have heard this message preached repeatedly from different pastors.

The irony is these same pastors will share how God told them to come to this city and start this church. They heard God and obeyed what he told them to do. However, when God tells us what to do we should obey only if it helps support their ministry. What the heck? What hypocrisy!

It is very common for pastors to mock their people for being led by the spirit. They say being led by the spirit is only an excuse that people use to avoid working in the church. I have seen more than one pastor show the people a piece of lead to let them know when they need to feel “led” by the Spirit, they can just feel this piece of lead instead. They are openly mocking and ridiculing anyone who says they are striving to be led by the Lord. But when it comes to serving in the church, they claim we don’t need to hear the Spirit of God telling us anything. Just do it!

According to Romans 8:14, as many as are led by the spirit, these are the sons of God. The flip side of that is those who are not led by the spirit are not the sons of God. So would it be important for us to be led by the spirit?

After hearing that message from our pastor, how likely would we be to tell him we are seeking the leading of the Lord about where we should be spending our time? We already know what our pastor thinks about that because we just heard him tell the whole congregation anyone who talks that way is just lazy and making excuses. So don’t even think about going there with him. Just sign up, show up, and do the work. We get a gold star by our name and might even get to lead a group of other prisoners, I mean volunteers, next time.

Is it only the pastor who can be led by the spirit of God? Is it only pastors who can hear the voice of God’s Holy Spirit? John 10:27 says “My sheep hear My voice and they follow Me”. So scripture indicates all of God’s sheep can hear God for themselves and follow the leading of the Lord for themselves. I wonder why it does not say the sheep hear the voice of their pastor and find out from him what God wants them to do.

Woe to these self-seeking hypocrites who call themselves men of God. God will hold them accountable for mocking his word and heaping guilt and condemnation on his people, manipulating them into doing what the church needs. They act like devils but hide behind the name of the Lord. They are the true definition of wolves in sheep’s clothing.

I worked in the altar ministry at one church, praying for people who were coming forward to receive prayer. I felt so bad for these people because they were coming forward totally out of guilt and condemnation to find out where they were supposed to start volunteering their time working for the church. There was never a word spoken about seeking God’s direction. It was never about that. It was always about serving the church or shame on you. Literally, those were the very words used repeatedly. “Shame on you!”

Is that how a good shepherd leads his flock beside the still waters? That sounds like a tyrant manipulating his people for his own benefit. What scripture verse tells us to be led by guilt and condemnation or shame on you?

Pastors have become no better than government bureaucrats who forgot why they are serving in government. They have forgotten it is not about building their own empire but about laying down their lives to serve their people.

We need pastors who will lead the flock into the presence of God and leave it there, with no other agenda in mind. We need pastors who will allow God to be God over his people instead of barring God from participating in the services. We need pastors who will throw out the time clock and the man made programs to do whatever it takes to show their people how to encounter God. We need pastors who are true shepherds, not prison guards.

In the meantime, the hungry will not be deterred. Those who ache for the presence of God will find a way to move beyond one of the biggest obstacles in their path, which might not be the devil. It might be the pastor.

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