All eyes around the world have been directed towards the selection and inauguration of a new Pope. The media have all made their trips to the Vatican and are celebrating the returned equilibrium of cosmic forces after the transition. There has been a great tome of writing regarding the misdirected hope placed in a sinful man we refer to as Pope. As I have read bits and pieces of the commentary floating around the internet I’ve been struck by a slightly different observation.
As biblical Jesus-followers we should feel our discernment meter peaking as we notice the divine hope that has been misdirected away from the Savior and towards a sinful man. I believe there has been much said about this and little I could add to words already available. What I find fascinating is the tendency of protestant evangelicals to adamantly criticize the hope placed in a Pope while we are swimming in a culture of pastoral celebrity worship.
A frightening amount of our world has falsely placed hope in a Pope who is merely a sinful man. There is only one man throughout the pages of history who is the hope of our lives and that is the only man who was also God. Jesus Christ is the only man who has the ability to rescue our lives from the depths of despair. Further, we are blessed with the opportunity and invitation to come into his presence directly. We have a Savior whose arms are open for us specifically without the requirement of any type of mediator. Jesus is the only Mediator.
Fellow protestant evangelical, before you get too caught up in the ‘amens’ of the previous truths, I’d like to ask you if you have placed a mediator between your own spiritual life and Jesus Christ? I’m afraid we have inaugurated our own popes and called them ‘senior pastors.’ If our spiritual lives are dependent upon the words from our pastor’s pulpit then we have taken some significant steps towards inaugurating functional popes in our own lives. Our christian culture of the celebrity pastor is much closer to a pope mentality than we would like to admit.
As we read about the establishment and the leadership of the church in our New Testament, we have some clear instruction and examples of pastoral leadership. Most simply stated, pastoral leadership (specifically in preaching) is a tool used by God to direct attention/glory towards himself. Pastoral leadership is a gift from God to help equip us to glorify God. This idea is completely incompatible with any glory being directed toward a man. The Bible calls this idolatry.
Again, Jesus Christ is the only man who has ever lived with the ability to transform our lives. Let’s place our hope in Christ alone. Let’s find churches led by those whose goal is to direct our attention towards the only One who has the power to rescue, redeem, and transform – Jesus Christ.
Yes, placing the hope of our lives in a Pope will find us completely empty. However, placing the hope of our lives in an protestant evangelical pastor will find us completely empty as well. May I suggest that we slow down our finger pointing long enough to work through the confession and repentance of our own issues?
I think I have a somewhat unique view as someone who is submerged in the church leadership culture and circles. I’d love to hear your thoughts… have you seen this functional pope mentality in the protestant church? If so, why do you think we view that as any different than the pope mentality that exists within the Catholic Church?