When the news hit that one man named Eddie Long had sexually abused some male members of the church that he pastors, the world sat up, listened, and talked about it. We talked about it because we all have notions about what pastor's do, or should do. What we do not talk about is did he do God's will for God's people before he fell back on the old human habit of doing his own will of the flesh?
Most of us fell into the trap of talking about Eddie Long without giving credit to the work that he and the members have done. It is my understanding that the New Birth Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia is home to schools, health clinics, a book store, and a number of businesses that employ the members of the church and serve the community. As we ponder the story of Eddie Long, we should not forget that it is important foremost to save the institution. Whether the man Eddie Long will be saved is between him and his God.
In the words of the street, "it really 'ain't' all about him." Or as my mother used to remind me, "One monkey don't stop no show." In a theological sense, a pastor is just a man put in charge of preaching and acting as an overseer of God's people. The church is the people and the ministry, but the members often get it twisted around and give a pastor too much power.
If a pastor is not serving as a good steward and is acting as a dictator rather than a servant of God and the people, then there is a problem. My understanding of a good steward is one who uses the resources that God has placed at his disposal to carry out the mission of the ministry. When a church such as New Birth has used the economic resources of the church to build a school for the benefit of the members, I would say it is doing God's work. When a church sees a need for its member's is unmet such as health care and builds a health clinic for the members, it would seem to be doing the work of God.
The Bible is clear about a pastor's role as a pastor and as a steward. There is nothing complicated about it. The books of Titus and Timothy make the role of pastors and overseers plain. For example at Titus 1:7 it says. "The overseer must be above reproach and not self willed." The self willed part describes a person who always has to have things go their way. For that person it is his/her way, or the highway. The problem is that under these circumstances an overseer is doing his own will and not God's will, and the consequences will come sooner or later.
For whatever Eddie Long did wrong as an individual, he obviously did some things right as an overseer. That is evidenced by the fact that the ministries of New Birth church stretched beyond the walls of the church. It's not the Eddie Long church. It is the New Birth church with God at the head. For those looking for more lessons about what the role of a pastor or even a church is, the Bible gives us lesson after lesson. The lesson of the talents tells us how to use the resources that we are given. Don't put it all in one place, or to use my father's example, don't put all your eggs in one basket.
In a sense the lessons of Titus and Timothy about the role of a pastor or overseer is the same as that of a father and husband. I am the Bishop/pastor/overseer of my household and I know that my needs come last after I have provided for my flock/family. I vowed years ago that I would own enough property for each of my sons and wife to have a home if I should die first and I have done that. When there was only enough money for one car I sacrificed and rode the bicycle to work and school. Sacrifice is part of the price paid for leadership. After all is said and done, isn't that what Jesus did when he went to the cross? He sacrificed for us all? A self willed leader is not acting in God's will.
The lesson from Eddie Long that we should not forget is that we all have our weaknesses but, in the end, the people will be blessed if we as leaders do God's will. The question for members of man's church is do we support a church where the leader is self willed?