T.C. has an excellent post up which briefly examines this question.
To Viola and Barna the modern day pastor is an easy target—a punching bag, if you will:
THE PASTOR. He is the fundamental figure of the Protestant faith. So prevailing is the pastor in the minds of most Christians that he is often better known, more highly praised, and more heavily relied upon than Jesus Christ Himself!
Remove the pastor and most Protestant churches would be thrown into a panic. (pp. 105-6, Pagan Christianity, emphasis mine)
For many fundamentalists, this statement in bold is absolutely true.
As a Community Organizer, I spent about three years visiting hundreds of congregations from across the theological and denominational perspectives. One of the new ideas I encountered was the idea that the podium/pulpit/stand which the pastor stands behind didn’t have to be in the middle.
In some of these sanctuaries, the platform area (the area up front, where everyone looks) had two podiums (generally, some had one) for the pastor/preacher and another speaker. In the middle was the communion table which represented Christ, as the Communion itself does.
For me, this is the idea ‘set-up.’ He acknowledges the ministry, but they are no longer front and center – Jesus Christ is. What do you think? Does it matter to whom we see front and center (yes, a loaded question)?
Let me state with Jim – Pastors are needed. This is the comment which I left at Jim’s post:
For the matter, I do not believe we should dispense with Pastors whatsoever, just the idolization and the full reliance upon them to do everything for us that so many have. Pastors are needed, strong pastors.
Oh, and I am in total disagreement with the fundamentalist pastor who reports and is responsible to no one. It is unbiblical.
Kevin has a response to T.C.’s post as well.