Confucianism is the backdrop of a lot of Asian churches and the interractions that take place within them.One of the ways this hierarchical and (my father might say) aristocratic system plays out is pastors and leaders are deferred to almost out of hand.
And why not? There is plenty of scriptural texts to back that up — where “one” leads “the many” –Moses, Joshua, David, so on and so forth.
A great deal of value is placed on the leader and the position carries more weight than on the average layperson. It is hard to see a pastor/reverend consider himself a mere teaching elder and it is even harder for a layperson to limit the pastor/reverend to that role. The pastor/reverend is not merely a teacher, or a theologian, he or she is authoritative, well-networked, and dare-I-say-it, a shaman of sorts.
Is it any wonder then, that this centralized way of looking at leadership could be harmful to the body? Is it possible that by professionalizing our clergy, we have done the church a great disservice?
I wonder if out of self-interest and self-preservation, many pastors take on greater roles in order to validate their work and refuse to give away their power and authority. Or perhaps they draw the line even more distinctly between themselves and laity in order to protect the commonly held notions of power and that Confucian sense of order. Perhaps, they like being trusted, needed, looked up to. And alternatively, they find it very hard to believe that you may not need them…even harder to believe that you could do ministry without them.
Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying this with a bitter or mean spirit. I’m just bringing up the worst case scenario between the laity idolizing our pastors and the clergy pressing down upon the laity. There can be a great deal of mistrust on both sides. And while I appreciate Confucius, I think it might be high time, for Asians especially, to deconstruct him.
Because while I trust my pastor, there is another I trust more.