The 1945 Rogers and Hammerstein anthem assures us we’ll never walk alone. Indeed, no one should ever have to walk alone. But many do. That was never God’s intention. He made us for spiritual connection, socially-rooted in family and community and spiritually-connected to himself and others in Christian fellowship. This is almost the very definition of the Bible word, ‘church’.
Centuries-old traditions built around the practice of ‘church’ work against these fundamental principles. Church efforts to correct the individualism and isolation people experience in contemporary society have had limited success. It seems Jesus’ word to the religious observers of his day, is equally relevant today: you make void the word of God by your tradition (Mark 7:13). Church practice is in need of sweeping reformation.
Nowhere is this need more apparent than in what we have come to expect of our pastors, those gifted men and women among us, called and set apart to help gather, guide, grow and care for the flock of God. They are the super glue of the church.
Featured in the 1945 musical Carousel, the song was devised as a comfort for the musical’s character, Julie Jordon during her personal tragedy. Made famous in 1963 by the band Gerry and the Pacemakers, the song became an anthem of solidarity at football matches as well as support for front-line medical staff and those isolated by the recent Covid-19 pandemic.
However, too many pastors do walk alone. This practice is counterproductive and destructive to our souls and the spiritual well being of both our pastors and members. What’s the root of this problem? For many years I worked hard to overcome a harmful practice in the denomination to which I belong. This was associated with the official designation of lead pastors in our churches. They were formally recognised as being in those “in sole charge” of a church.
That way of thinking is just plain wrong, on so many levels. Jesus Christ is in charge of his Church, not us. Pastors are called into a biblical plurality of leadership not as isolated individuals. The pastoral ministry is but one of five major ministry-groupings, belonging to the whole body of Christ, and not to an elite group of people deemed to have special powers.
As under-shepherds of the Chief Shepherd of our souls, pastors are powerless on their own and must be in vital connection with God’s empowering presence, both personally and corporately. They are called to operate from within Christ’s body, the Church, and in partnership with the rest of its members who are also spiritually-gifted (Ephesians 4:11-16).
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