While at the time I did not really appreciate the gifts that I was unwrapping, I now look back at all the fun that I had as a result of having those gifts. I have many fond memories riding on Poco. Had I not received those gifts, I would not have been able to enjoy Poco for her intended purposes such as horse back riding.
I find this to be a good analogy for the situation today with those who claim to be Christians who do not need the local church. You see in Ephesians 4 Paul tells us about the gifts that Jesus Christ has given us in order to be able to grow into mature Christians.
"And he (Jesus) gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes." - Ephesians 4:11-14You see our goal as Christians is to grow into maturity. What does maturity look like? Well it looks like Jesus. He is our standard that we are striving to emulate with our lives. Anyone who has been striving for this for very long, knows how hard this standard is to meet. The great news is that Jesus didn't just leave us alone to try to figure it out, he gave us help. He gave us the apostles and the prophets who we still have in the form of the Scriptures they produced, and he continues to raise up evangelists to lead us to him. Once we know him as our Lord and Savior, he gives us shepherds and teachers to help us grow into maturity. This is his gift to us. The problem is many times when we first encounter this gift, it does not really seem like the gift that we wanted. One of the jobs of the pastor/ teacher is to take us to the word of God and show us the ways that we are not yet mature in Christ. And honestly, this is not fun. It is not fun to have your lingering sin revealed to you, and so at times it is tempting to say, "Can I get a gift receipt for this gift and take it back?"
While at times the local church and its pastor seem the same as a mineral block does to a seven year old, we need to recognize in the end that pastors are a gift from Jesus to us. Christ has given us shepherds over our souls, ultimately for our good. Instead of complaining and being downcast about the gift we have been given, let's see it for its intended purposes and be grateful. Just like all the horse supplies that I received, pastors are of no benefit to you unless you use them. If you do not sit under their teaching, engage their counsel, follow their leadership, and participate in their churches, you will never experience the blessings of this gift. I leave you with the thoughts of a pastor from years ago during the protestant reformation.
"By the ministers to whom he has committed this office, and given grace to discharge it, he dispenses and distributes his gifts to the church, and thus exhibits himself as in a manner actually present by exerting the energy of his Spirit in this his institution, so as to prevent it from being vain or fruitless. In this way, the renewal of the saints is accomplished, and the body of Christ is edified; in this way we grow up in all things unto him who is the Head, and unite with one another in this way we are all brought into the unity of Christ..." -John Calvin