“The Cowboy Pastor” or better yet “The Bull-Riding Pastor”. No, this was not a typo. Yes, you read correctly. Lawrence Bishop II, pastor of Solid Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio, rides bulls in a built in rodeo arena in his church to attract people.
On May 19, 2015, ABC News Nightline aired a program about this phenomenon. When asked during the interview if this was a gimmick, Bishop said it was not because the Bible says to compel them to come in but it doesn’t say how to compel them. So I guess the theological deduction is use any means to compel them to come in, as in this case, bull riding in the church. So much for the pastor-theologian.
And to think they taught me the Bible in seminary and not how to ride a bull.
At The Shepherd’s Conference last month, Phil Johnson began by highlighting a similar kind of gimmickry performed by pastors. There are pastors who now zip line from the back of the church and land by the pulpit in a grand entrance.
In a 2-part series of the Master’s Seminary blog Preachers and Preaching on the Legacy of Long-term Ministry, posted March 10 & 11, 2015, John MacArthur gives 10 practical suggestions for sustaining a long-term ministry. His sixth point was: “Don’t lose sight of the priority.”
“You are a pastor. You are not primarily an event coordinator, a financial analyst, a vision-caster, or even a leader. Your ultimate responsibility is not to innovate or administrate but to disseminate divine truth. Only in that way will you be training up people within your congregation to live and serve effectively and obediently for the honor of God and the impact of the gospel.”
So I will call these bull-riding people and zip-lining people disguised as pastors what the Bible calls them, namely peddlers of God’s Word.
“For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.”
2 Corinthians 2:17
The Greek term for peddlers, καπηλεύοντες, means to…
…be a retailer, to peddle
…make money by selling anything
…get sordid gain by dealing in anything
…try to get base gain by teaching divine truth
…to corrupt and adulterate.
Bottomline: Peddlers were in the habit of adulterating their commodities for the sake of gain. And in our case they are adulterating the very Word of God, sacred Scripture, for personal gain. These peddlers trade in the Word of God as it were. They are marketing the Gospel, using human means to accomplish that which can only be done by divine means. To these peddlers, the Gospel, the Word of God, the Church, is a commodity to be sold, not a truth divinely revealed.
You see, your theology determines your methodology. If you believe you can humanly sell the Bible, the Gospel, Jesus and His Church, then you will ride a bull in church and zip line into the pulpit. But if you believe that salvation is solely a sovereign work of God(Luke 18:26-27) and that only the Gospel is the power of God for salvation(Romans 1:16), then you will preach the Word, in season and out of season(2 Timothy 4:1-2).
Note in the text quoted above(2 Corinthians 2:17) that Paul emphasises that many, not just a few, are peddlers of God’s Word. Also Paul contrasts peddlers of God’s Word with those men of sincerity who are commissioned by God and therefore speak in Christ. This was Paul’s attitude about the ministry and it should be the attitude of everyone who is a pastor/shepherd of God’s people and preacher of the Word.
“But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.”
2 Corinthians 4:2-3
Peddlers of God’s Word are characterised by…
- disgraceful, underhanded ways
- tampering with God’s Word
But true biblical pastors and preachers have renounced these worldly ways and therefore refuse to practice them.
“For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ.”
2 Thessalonians 2:3-6
Note some further characteristics by which peddlers of God’s Word can be spotted.
- seek glory from people
If you are following so called pastors who are peddlers of God’s Word like these bull-riders and zip-liners, repent, turn to Jesus Christ and go to a church where these things have been renounced. If you you are one of these peddlers of God’s Word, repent because you have no authority to tamper with God’s Word. The commission of God for His ministry is a serious, sacred and solemn thing.
“I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,”
1 Timothy 6:13-14