Are We Blindly Following Leaders

It is often easy to blindly follow authority figures, especially when it comes to religious leaders. Psalm 105:15 is quoted in defense of preachers who ask their followers to blindly follow them. Anyone who asks questions or who disagrees with those in authority, even when their concerns are expressed in love and respect, is branded as being rebellious. What is this verse REALLY saying?” Blindly blindly blindly
Being a minister and pastor, I too have wondered about this verse. I think it’s time to put it into a proper context, and then to confront any misapplications. The psalmist writes, “Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm” (NIV).

Do we blindly follow leaders? While I appreciate those around me who pray for, love and support me, I’m always mindful of the fact that I, too, need accountability. Nobody is right all the time. Preachers are not infallible; however, the Scriptures require that those who labor in the gospel be treated with respect.

Admittedly, God uses imperfect vessels to deliver His perfect message! To be sure, the Bible tells us in 1 Timothy 5:17 that “the elders (pastors) who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” The writer to the Hebrews tells us to “obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you” (13:17).

Do we blindly follow leaders? With this being said, I personally find it difficult to receive correction, criticism and/or rebuke from those who do not support my calling and ministry with their prayers, friendship, and respectful attitudes. It is equally difficult to submit to leaders who seldom come around, or who never invest themselves in my life. However, these verses need to be put into balance.

Pastors, are we blindly leading our follower? I don’t believe anyone should be manipulated, maligned, or mistreated in the house of God. It should be a safe haven. Pastors should not lord over their people and the “sheep” should honor the position of pastor, each submitting to one another in the fear of the Lord. The Apostle Peter makes this clear: “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who will also share in the glory to be revealed. Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away” (1 Peter 5:1-4). It’s both wonderful and sobering to know that true pastors one day are going to receive a crown of glory!

I do think that some misguided pastors and church leaders who maintain unreasonable control and who micro-manage their people sometimes quote Psalm 105:15 to support their delinquency. This is tragic. Yes, there are “Alexander the coppersmiths” (2 Timothy 4:14) in every church at some point. I know, because I’ve pastored some of them! You may recall that Alexander the coppersmith was the “metalworker [who] did the Apostle Paul much harm.” He was an evil man who followed Paul and continually undermined his ministry. However, such people are very rare. Thank God! Surely you would agree that blatantly evil people should be dealt with decisively and harshly. Souls are at stake!

I keep diverting… Psalm 105:15 is nestled in a brief account of Israel’s wanderings. God had promised the children of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, the land of Canaan “as the portion they would inherit” (verse 11). When kings and nations tried to oppress God’s people, He intervened. His people never suffered destruction, even when famine destroyed the land. God always raised up a leader, a protector, a guardian of His covenant. In this case, He raised up Joseph (verses 17-19).

The “anointed ones” in verse 15 refer to the people of Israel–God’s covenant people. The “prophets” refer to God’s spokesmen who revealed God’s Word and ways to each successive generation. Psalm 105:15 balances God’s loving concern for those who lead with those who are led. By the way, this same passage is found in 1 Chronicles 16:19-22. In today’s economy of grace, we who are indwelled by the Spirit are all “anointed.”

As far as I can tell, the psalmist understood the priesthood of all believers–those who are indwelled by the Holy Spirit–and reminds them that God is their covenant maker and covenant protector. None of us–preachers included–should use this verse to justify wrong attitudes and actions in the house of God. The Christian life is best lived out in mutual love and respect for others. None of us should try to control, manipulate, judge, or wrongly use our influence, and when challenged use this verse to justify our actions.

You see, we do the Word, God, others and ourselves a gross injustice when we pull Bible verses out of context to support our misguided attitudes. Pulling rabbits out of a hat may be alright at the circus, but pulling Bible verses out of context can get us into trouble.

Yes, honor the men and women of God who teach and preach. And pray that they “live a life worthy of the calling [they] have received” (Ephesians 4:1). Remember, however, that verse 2 balances out the whole thing: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

The Bible was given not to be used as a club when we need support and justification; rather, it is a double-edged sword that exposes the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

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