Is The Church Popeless?


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2017 marks the 500th year since the protestant reformation. Even though I grew up in church and in a Christian family, I was never really aware of the protestant reformation, so I’ve only come to appreciate it over the past couple of years from studying church history.

Among the many changes Luther, Calvin, and the reformers wished to make, one of them was the papacy (the church leadership in the Catholic Church). Not only did they see how corrupt and immoral it was, but they considered scripture to be clear that Christ, the Son of God, was the head of the church, and not sinful men.

This was a massive change to make. It would threaten their lives because they were jeopardising the role, security, authority, and well-being of the pope. Yet, they saw the elevation of Christ to be worth it. They were willing to risk their lives, be labeled as heretics, and even bear the possibility of death for the sake of establishing Christ as the head of His church.

To paint a better picture of what they were wanting to change, this was the climax of how corrupt the papacy was at the time of the reformation:

  • All tithes and special offerings were being funnelled to the papacy
  • Priests were having immoral relationships with women in the church
  • The Pope could dictate anything he wished to happen, as he had the complete authority over the church
  • The church as a result of the papacy was forgetting who truly was the head of the church

500 years later we, the protestants, have benefited greatly from this reform. But as I thought more and more about the role of the pope, and how they desired to be paid and payed attention to, I questioned if we still have “popes” in our protestant churches today.

I wonder if there are pastors who desire riches more than they desire to give. I wonder if there are pastors who wish to be seen rather than to serve. I wonder if there are pastors who crave to be viewed on screens rather than to pray for saints in the hospital.

If this is the case, we still may have a pope problem.

I’m not suggesting that every pastor should be perfect–this is definitely not possible. But holiness should be pursued, especially in the role of the pastorate. Furthermore, the digital age that we live in presents great dangers for the pastor to be liked, followed, shared, commented, and reposted.

The title of “pope” may not be among the protestant churches, but similar sinful tendencies could still be lingering in leadership.

So what’s the solution?

As it was for the protestant reformation, so it should be for us. The Bible should lead and direct how a pastor should live, love, lead, preach, and teach. The qualifications are clear. God’s commands are not confusing.

In addition, the laymen could also be in danger of making their pastor the pope. There are several Christians who only attend church when their favourite speaker is speaking, and they also hold every word he or she says to be the final word, rather than going back to the Bible.

Paul pens it perfectly in Ephesians 5:23 that “Christ is the head of the church.” This is true for Pope Francis, for any protestant evangelical pastor, and for all Christians. The moment we forget our Leader, the more corrupt we will become.

There is much reward in learning from history, rather than repeating its mistakes. Let’s keep the church popeless, and submit to the only head who has ever been, Jesus Christ.