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Thank you for writing.
Obviously, I am not at your church, so I don't know all of the circumstances surrounding your letter. If everything is as you say, then I believe that your pastor probably has some pride issues that he needs to deal with. However, you need to make sure that you are not simply making assumptions about what is going on. Often, disgruntled church members will call pastoral leadership "pastoral dictatorship", when the reality is that they simply don't want to follow the Scriptural leadership that they have been given. Only you know your own spiritual condition, but for the remainder of this letter I will assume that you have a proper perspective on what is happening at your church.
The first 5 things you listed were:
- Members joining without a church vote
- Assignment of church officers without a church vote
- Deciding where money goes without a church vote
- Leadership assigned without a church vote
- Missionaries taken on, removed, or sent out without a church vote
Different churches can handle these issues in different ways. Clearly in the New Testament the church chose the deacons and the pastor. I don't know if they voted in new members, voted on how to spend the money, or voted on missionaries. Our church does those things, and I think a wise pastor would do those things, but I don't know that the Scriptures demand it. However, I assume that your church has a constitution and by-laws. Those legal documents should address some of these issues. If the pastor is violating his own church's guiding documents, he is asking for trouble, regardless of whether or not he is violating the Bible.
All the other issues seem to come from an over-sized sense of his own importance. Pastors can not do whatever they want - they are bound spiritually by the Bible and legally by the church constitution. Leadership in the Bible is based upon the concept of servant leadership. John 13:1-15 teaches this, as does Mark 10:43-45, I Timothy 4:12 and I Peter 5:1-3. Yes, the pastor is to lead the flock, but he leads by example. He is ultimately responsible before God, but this does not make him a "lord over God's heritage".
Some of your other statements ring home as well. I have met pastors who won't let their people go to serve God because they want them to stay at that church and build that pastor's empire. Sometimes they use the excuse that "he just isn't ready", but he is certainly ready enough to work in that man's church! Funny, isn't it.
We decry the Catholics for their priesthood, yet some of our pastors behave in the same fashion. It is as if they think that they hold the power of Heaven and Hell over their congregations. What ever happened to the Baptist distinctive of "soul liberty", and the ability of a man to be led by the Holy Spirit in accordance with the Word of God? I don't find any place in the New Testament where believers are told to go to see their pastor in order to find out what God's will is for their own lives. All those verses about seeking counsel are found in the Old Testament, which was written before men had the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the completed canon of Scripture. It is the Holy Spirit who guides us into all truth. Pastors don't have a special pipeline to God that the rest of the church doesn't have. They are God's gift to the church (Ephesians 4:11-12), but their purpose is not to bring glory to themselves, but rather to bring the church members to perfection.
These would be my suggestions:
- Spend much time in prayer and in the Word of God, and beg God to show you if the problem lies with the pastor, or if perhaps there is something wrong in your own life. According to Galatians 6:1, a man should be spiritual before he attempts to restore and erring brother.
- Once you are sure that you are right, make an appointment with your pastor and go see him with a spirit of meekness in an attempt to help him. Don't spread your thoughts around to the rest of the congregation - you wouldn't want him to do that to you. Share with him your concerns, and do it not as accusatory, but in an effort to restore him.
- If he refuses to respond, I guess you have two options. You could continue this as a church discipline issue and take a couple others with you to see him (Matthew 18). Again, I would not make this public, I would just get a couple men who love the Lord to go with me. Deacons would be a good choice. Be careful though. I Timothy 5:19 says, "Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses." Make sure you have witnesses. However, it also says in verse 20 (speaking about pastors) "Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear". If the pastor is in sin, he should confess it. That would be the goal. The other option is that you simply quietly leave the church and find an independent, fundamental Baptist church where the pastor has a Biblical philosophy of ministry. If no one in your current church will stand with you, this may be your only option.
Again, all of this is given with no knowledge of your church or pastor, so I am not giving specific advice. Here are things I know you should do:
- Examine yourself first
- Examine your motivations
- Be right with God
- Ask God for leadership in this decision, and then follow it.
- Talk to your pastor, assuming that the Lord shows you that there truly is a problem
- Have a meek spirit, and desire to see him become a better pastor
- Handle whatever ultimate decision you make Scripturally, graciously, and lovingly.
- If you have to leave, don't split the church on your way out.
- If you leave, don't get bitter, but find another New Testament assembly to attend.
In conclusion, I am enclosing a page from David Cloud's website. It links to several articles that he has written on the subjects of pastoral authority and abusive pastors. Bro. Cloud is an independent, fundamental Baptist, and he gives a pretty strong Biblical basis for his positions. The website is:
Not all the articles on that page are relevant, but two or three are.
I hope this helps. May the Lord bless you as you seek to do His will