By Femi Aribisala
Pastors cannot shepherd men into the kingdom of God.
The door to the pastor’s office swung open with a loud bang. Out came the praise worship leader running for dear life. Running after him, with shoe in hand ready to strike him down, was our dear pastor, shouting: “I will kill you. I will kill you.”
We could not believe our eyes. We seemed to be watching a strange but disturbingly familiar movie. Quickly, some of us ran after the pastor and overtook him. We restrained him and pleaded with him. He soon calmed down, coming back to his senses. After all, he was a “man of God;” the “spirit-filled pastor” of a church with a membership of over one thousand souls.
Are pastors mad? The prophets of God beg to differ. As usual, they proffer instead their own peculiar diagnosis. Pastors are not mad but they are drunk. Isaiah says: “They also have erred through wine, and through intoxicating drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through intoxicating drink, they are swallowed up by wine, they are out of the way through intoxicating drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment” (Isaiah 28:7).
Chances are you have seen a drunken man before. Even now, you can see him in your mind’s eye. He is staggering down the road; ungainly in his feet. His speech is slurred. He talks nonsense. He sees men as trees. Sometimes, he vomits and even lies down in his own vomit.
Look who’s talking. I was a teenage student in the south of France. Some of our German colleagues introduced us to the shindig of the “Oktober-fest.” This entailed sitting all around a long table, drinking alcohol lavishly and singing bawdy songs at the top of our lungs.
I was sitting next to a German girl called Eva Heim. She was as mischievous as her name might suggest. She was mixing different alcoholic drinks together and I was gulping them down. Everything went wonderfully well until it was time to go home. When I got up, I suddenly discovered the floor was up above my head.
Wine of confusion
Let me ask you a rhetorical question. If you were going somewhere but missed your way and got lost, would you seek directions from a drunkard you see waltzing down the road? I don’t think so. And yet in the scriptures, the prophets of God insist that pastors are drunkards. That should tell us that pastors cannot shepherd men into the kingdom of God.
Curiously enough, Isaiah maintains that pastors are not drunk from alcohol. He says again: “Pause and wonder! Blind yourselves and be blind! They are drunk, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with intoxicating drink” (Isaiah 29:9). What then have our pastors been drinking?
They are drunk on the values of the world. They live by the rivers of Babylon and one of the main exports of Babylon is “wine.” Without realising it, they drink Babylonian wine when they do such mundane things as watch television, go to the cinema, read newspapers, read books and magazines, listen to the radio, and surf the internet.
As a result, they are thoroughly intoxicated by the ways of the world. Every day, they hold up their cups for more Babylonian wine and get drunk anew. Then they mount the pulpits in their churches and give the members of their congregation the same “wine of confusion” to drink. (Psalm 60:3).
Jesus started his ministry by turning water into wine. On the eve of his departure from this world back to the Father in heaven, he maintains that Babylonian wine must give way to new wine: “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:29).
This prophecy was fulfilled after his resurrection at the Pentecost, when his disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. Mockers who observed them did not realise they were making a prophetic statement when they said: “These men are full of new wine.” (Acts 2:13). The Holy Spirit is the new wine of the gospel. Thus, Paul cautions: “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18).
Where does this leave the Pastors of today? They are caught in a time-warp. They are still drinking the old Babylonian wine while rejecting the new wine of the gospel. They insist on putting new wine into old wineskins, with the result that the wineskins burst and the wine pours away. (Matthew 9:17).
Jesus speaks of this eventuality with characteristic foresight: “No one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.'” (Luke 5:39).
Jesus asked the Jews concerning John the Baptist: “What did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces.” (Matthew 11:7-8).
But today, those who wear fancy clothes are now the pastors of our churches. If their hairs are not jerry-curled, they are designer-cut. They are resplendent in white suits and overflowing agbada. They speak in clipped tongues like foreigners pretending to be Americans. They are hell-bent on squeezing the last penny out of you.
The prophet says: “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” (Matthew 21:5).
But today pastors are masters of pomp and circumstance. The crème-de-la-crème among them don’t go commercial but fly about in their very own jet-planes. When their feet finally touch the ground, they drive around in a cortege of cars with escort riders, zooming around the streets in spanking Land Cruisers and Pathfinders.
Jesus is no longer their saviour, but fearsome body-guards paid to protect them from the contagion of the masses.
There is a story I like to tell of an altercation between the American Ambassador to Nigeria and a Lagos taxi-driver. The taxi hits the Ambassador’s diplomatic car and an argument ensues. Soon the Ambassador jumps out of his car to challenge the taxi-driver and, within the twinkling of an eye, the two come to blows. By the time bystanders could intervene, the Ambassador has managed to kung-fu the taxi-driver to the ground.
I tell this story again and again but to no effect. Nobody believes me. They just refuse to believe that the American Ambassador would so lower himself as to come to blows with a taxi-driver on the streets of Lagos. I don’t blame them because the story is an entire fabrication. I made it up to prove a point.
But the earlier story about the pastor chasing a member of his congregation with his shoe is not made up. It actually happened. When I tell people about it, they are amused but not entirely surprised. Nobody challenges me about its veracity.
The is because while such demeaning behaviour might be far-fetched with regard to the American Ambassador, it is eminently within the realms of probability with the self-styled Christ’s Ambassadors of today; the highfalutin pastors of our churches.