Am I a Liar to My People? Pastors and Being Vulnerable

I am so grateful for the ministry of The Gospel Coalition, if for no other reason than for articles such as this.  Some backstory.

  1. As many of you know, one of my brothers in the Lord and in ministry Tommy Rucker ended his life last week.  He found himself in a very dark place, but no one was aware of this until it was too late. 
  2. I preached from Romans 13:8-14 and 15:1-7 on how we are to love one another, encouraging one another in the Scriptures, especially in our weakness.  We have to take care of one another.
  3. I’m reading through Alexander Strauch’s Love or Die: Christ’s Wake-Up Call to the Church, a study of Revelation 2:1-7 on how we must not lose our first love.  A lack of love inside the church is more devastating to that church than a lack of truth from outside the church.  God is using this book mightily in my own heart.
  4. Art Azurdia, one of my favorite preachers (who has lost a lot of weight—good for him), spoke to The Master’s Seminary about “Loving God First” from the text – you guessed it – Revelation 2:1-7. 

And now, this article from TGC of “Pastor, Stop Lying.”  Here’s an excerpt regarding how one reacted to a fellow pastor for a reason you might not expect:

When asked how he was doing, he always replied, “Great!” When asked what he needed prayer for, he always offered some generic request.

He kept things guarded, impersonal, and close to the vest, even when others around him shared the depths of their heart. I don’t think I ever heard him apologize to anyone for anything, ever.

Yet he smiled a lot. He laughed heartily and kept things as “positive” as possible. But I saw how the people closest to him were positively crushed by his lack of vulnerability. I was one of them.

I shared with a deacon of mine who asked me how things were going, and I was able to share with him some issues that were arising personally (with my friend Tommy’s suicide), and otherwise.  I then shared with him that, as a pastor, I am more comfortable providing comfort to those who are hurting, than I am sharing my hurt in order to receive comfort. 

I need to get over that and fight that. 

I am a Christian on a journey to the Celestial City as every other pilgrim.  I also get mired in the Slough of Despond.  I am tempted to listen to and dine with Worldly Wiseman.  As are we all.  And we need each other.  And by me loving my Lord, loving His Word, loving my family, and loving His church, I have a significant incentive to keep my relationship with Christ primary.  And I have incentive to bring others into my life to make sure I’m not just giving help, but receiving it when necessary.

Am I lying to my church?  I’m sure I have.

May God continue to give me the desire not to do so anymore.

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What Would You Like to Know About Pastor’s Kids? Here’s Seven

Thanks to Thom Rainer for putting this article out back in June.  I have four pastor’s kids at my house and who come with me to worship at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church.  Rainer felt the rage we all do when someone comes up to us and says, “You need to tell your kid to get up. Pastors’ children aren’t supposed to act that way.”  When Rainer conducted a Twitter poll of pastors and their spouses, some of the responses were heartbreaking. 

I know I got a letter from one of my boys asking me why, as a pastor, I had to work so much around Jesus’ birthday.  They observe more than we realize. 

But church, you can help your pastors, as many in our church have helped me stay grounded and them feel loved. 

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How to Make Your Pastor’s Visits More Spiritually Profitable

Joseph Pipa, Jr., writes an excellent article at Reformation 21on pastoral visits from the perspective of the one whom your pastor visits. This served as such a breath of fresh air, because I so much want the visits to be more than social calls where we catch up on family, last night’s game, the weather, and so forth.

Now, please understand: this is my church family, and I do want to talk to them about mutual interests, and especially their interests. But as you see from the excerpt below, I have a responsibility to the flock as their undershepherd to help them grow in the grace and knowledge of the Good Shepherd (2 Peter 3:18; John 10:10; 1 Peter 5:1-4).

God has given to the elders of His Church the responsibility to shepherd His flock. Paul says in Acts 20:28, “Pay attention to yourselves and to all of the flock among which the Holy Spirit has set you to be overseers to shepherd God’s church, that He acquired with His own blood.” Similarly, Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:1-3, “Therefore, I urge the elders among you, as a fellow elder and witness of Christ’s sufferings and as a sharer of the glory that is going to be revealed, to shepherd God’s flock among you, exercising shepherdly care over it, not out of obligation but willingly, as God would have you do it; not out of eagerness to make a personal profit, but out of eagerness to serve; not lording it over those allotted to your charge, but by becoming models for the flock.”

This is no small task. Church officers will give an answer to God for the discharge of their office. In fact, Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them. They are keeping watch over your lives as men who will have to give an account.” One of the principle ways this oversight is exercised is in pastoral visitation.

Yet, sad to say, pastoral visits are not always used in a manner that allows the parties involved to reap the greatest spiritual benefits. One thing you may do to increase the profit of a pastoral visit is to prepare for it. If families prepared for pastoral visits, then the time spent would be extremely more profitable. How then does one prepare?

Read the rest here.

What other ways do you believe you can make visits with your pastors and elders more fruitful?

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The Pastor’s Heavy Happy Heart – Pure Church by Thabiti Anyabwile

After a very emotional week on a number of fronts, this piece captures the heart of a pastor who longs to care for His sheep.  A great excerpt:

“The most difficult part of pastoral ministry is keeping a caring heart. The caring heart makes the pastor, and the caring heart nearly kills the pastor. He wouldn’t have it any other way, like Paul. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a thousand deaths, weeping nights, deprivations, and afflictions.”

via The Pastor’s Heavy Happy Heart – Pure Church by Thabiti Anyabwile.

Pray for your pastors!  The enemy is often only the culture, but even more so.

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Preach the Why, Not Just the What

Simon Sinek has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership all starting with a golden circle and the question “Why?” My friend Mark Hallock, pastor at Calvary Church in Englewood, Colorado passed this gem along to be that will prove to help out not just preachers of the Word, but anyone who makes any sort of presentation.

What think ye?

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Three Keys to a Good Hospital Visit

In seminary, Don Cox served as our evangelism professor. He not only taught the biblical principles of this, but he modeled it for us as well. I am grateful on how he kept us accountable in sharing our faith.

At the time I took his class, I had just started pastoring a small rural church in Breckinridge County, Kentucky. I needed pointers in a hurry, so my ears perked up when he said he would give us some priceless advice on how to make a hospital visit.

These visits are difficult for a number of reasons. No one comes to a hospital for the sheer pleasure of it, so approaching these visits with sensitivity and care is of the utmost importance.

So, in this class I grabbed my pencil ready to do some serious writing on the matter. Here is what Dr. Cox said:

Be bright, be brief, and be gone! (Not much lead spent on that one.)

You know what? He is right.

Be bright. Patients in a hospital do not need help feeling bad–they are already there, both physically and emotionally. Come in, being bright–but not over the top. Let them know you love them, that you will listen to them, and then pray for them, encouraging them that others at your church are praying hard as well.

Be brief. While we must beware of staying too short a time, staying too long is far worse. Many struggle with pain, nausea, and other physical issues–not to mention fatigue. Staying longer than 10-15 unless asked will wear them out and not endear them to you later on.

Be gone. Hospital visits are not home visits. You are there to show you care, have prayer, then get out of there. I hope I am not coming across as callous. Some of the most wonderful visits I’ve had have been in hospitals visiting with families of patients in the waiting room. That’s different than in the room speaking with a patient struggling with various issues. Be sensitive to the quality and quantity of your stay. Better to be there too short than too long, in my opinion.

What think ye?

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ARBC Core Value #2: Preach and Teach, Study and Learn

If any of you have read Pilgrim’s Progress, you know what an incredible allegory this is. This allegory was written by John Bunyan during his 10+ sentence in a Bedford jail in England. As Pilgrim (now Christian) was on his way from his old life in the City of Destruction on his way to heaven in the Celestial City, he comes upon the house of Mr. Interpreter. The first thing that Interpreter shows him is a picture:

Come in; I will show thee that which will be profitable to thee. So he commanded his man to light the candle, and bid Christian follow him. So he had him into a private room, and bid his man open a door; the which, when he had done, Christian saw the picture a very grave person hang up against the wall; and this was the fashion of it; it had eyes lifted up to heaven, the best of books in its hand, the law of truth was written upon its lips, the world was behind its back; it stood as if it pleaded with men, and a crown of gold did hang over its head.

This is a picture of the preacher! Eyes to heaven, “the best of books in its hand.” The world is behind him, and he pleads to men to turn to the truth of Christ, the point of the “best of books.” What is this best book? The Bible!

The Scriptures (a.k.a, the Bible, the Word, the Word of God) are a dividing line! Outside the church (and even inside), some question its authority over their lives. Some inside the church see the Bible as a set of moral instructions to guide their lives (basic instructions before leaving earth). Some take portions of Scripture they like and run with it, while ignoring others.

Someone once said, “Men do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself, but because it contradicts them.” The Bible is a book about God’s rescue mission to save His people from their sins, doing so through the person of Jesus.

1. We preach the Bible because it is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16).

I remember a time in 1996 when I bought a CD that was a great day for me as a musician. I had always loved jazz and I loved listening to great jazz pianists like Bill Evans, Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson and others like them. But I remember going through the stacks at a local bookstore and came across a man by the name of Dave Brubeck. He’s most well-known for his work Time Out which had the hit Take Five that you would know if you heard it.

But this was a different CD. This was a CD put out in 1953 called “Jazz at Oberlin.” Brubeck had just started touring to the various colleges across the country, so he landed in 1953 at Oberlin College in Ohio. The interplay between Brubeck on piano and Paul Desmond on alto saxophone was something to behold. The interaction between the quartet and the audience was amazing as well. They were actively engaged in what was happening. I remember sitting at my computer in my seminary dorm room thinking, “Wow—Brubeck was inspired that day.”

Now when I say the word ‘inspired,’ what does that mean? A burst of creativity is the usual understanding. Is that what God did? Did God just have a burst of creativity? We must consider that the revelation of Scripture was given to 40 men over a period of 1500 years, so it wasn’t a burst. It was a progressive type of revelation in time and space.

Peter believed this:

20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21).

The KJV uses the word ‘inspired,’ but other versions as you noticed with mine, used the word ‘God-breathed.’ The word comes from the Greek theospneutos which means ‘God-breathed.’ God breathed out every word. Yes, there are tons of translations—and every one of those translations are translated from the original languages of the Hebrew (OT) and Greek (NT). In our Christian bookstores, there are many translations, but none of them deny any foundational doctrine Christians hold to. While they hold to differing translation philosophies (some do a word-for-word, others do a thought-for-thought), most of them uphold the foundational doctrines of the Scriptures.

Before I move on, I need to mention this. Someone may say, “Well, they are not inspired to me!” This is reflective of our culture—we become the ones who determine what is authoritative over us. We determine what has meaning! Be careful! In every book you read, you must look at what the author of that book intends first. It’s only then that you can understand what it means for you personally.

2. We preach the Bible because it makes you wise unto salvation (2 Timothy 3:14-15).

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

The entire Bible is a rescue manual—not simply how we can learn to be rescued, but about how from the very beginning, from the very time that sin entered into the world and into the heart of man, God made clear to us that from the foundation of the world He would rescue his people.

Jesus told the Jewish leaders, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39). So the Scriptures that were taught to Timothy that spoke about Jesus—what Scriptures were they? The OT! At that time, the NT had not been given yet. So the conviction of this pastor and the conviction of this church must be that the entirety of the Bible is a Christian book.

The apostle Paul writes this to young pastor Timothy as his last words of sorts—in fact, this epistle is the last recorded words we have in Scripture. He warned Timothy that in the last days,

…there will be times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people (1 Timothy 3:1-5).

Why? “they oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind, qualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all” (3:8b-9a).

He tells Timothy to “continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you have learned it.” A word here: the Christian life is a learning life! And we must ready ourselves to “continue in what we have learned and firmly believed.”

Martin Luther once said:

I study my Bible like I gather apples. First, I shake the whole tree that the ripest may fall. Then I shake each limb, and when I have shaken each limb, I shake each branch and every twig. Then I look under every leaf. I search the Bible as a whole like shaking the whole tree. Then I shake every limb–study book after book. Then I shake every branch, giving attention to the chapters. Then I shake every twig, or a careful study of the paragraphs and sentences and words and their meanings.

Who taught Timothy?

We see from 2 Timothy 3:10 that Paul himself taught him as was his custom with everyone. In Acts 17:2-3, we see that “Paul went in, as was his custom, and . . . he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer to rise from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”

But in verse 15, we see how he also learned “from childhood.” At the beginning of the letter, it was his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice who acquainted him with the sacred writings! Does this not show how important it is for families to be guided by Christ and His Scriptures? In fact, Ginger LeBlanc and I have discussed ever so briefly about how we can work to make our ARBC k!dz ministry a family-integrated ministry, where we work to minister to the families of our children as well. Why?

God calls parents to train up their children in the ways of God. Ephesians 6:4 tells us “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” This is nothing new. In Deuteronomy, we are called to “teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7). Even in Exodus 12, when the Passover is established, and soon the others OT feasts—they are established as lessons to remember how God worked to rescue His people, with all of these things mentioned in the OT being used to point to the ultimate of that One who would come to rescue, Jesus Christ.

Pastors, Sunday School teachers, musicians, deacons, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, Christians—all work in concert to ultimately teach from the “sacred writings.”

3. We preach the Bible because it makes us equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-4:2).

Read with me 2 Timothy 3:16-4:2:

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
4:1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

There is a use to Scripture, given out by God for a purpose. When we hear some people talk, we some people say too much, using far too many extraneous words to communicate their point. Others do not use enough. But every word found in this book is inspired, breathed out by God, for a purpose.

The ‘teaching and reproof’ deal with the teachings of Scripture—that is, for doctrine! The teaching is the aspect of teaching from all of Scripture since God gave it all! John Calvin once noted, “We must not pick and cull the Scriptures to please our own fancy, but must receive the whole without exception.”

“Correcting and training in righteousness” is about conduct—how we put our beliefs into practice. To ‘correct’ comes from the word which means to straighten out. By submitting to the Word, we are put back on the path laid out by Christ. The Word is there to train and equip! To be ready for every good work.

Given the nature of the Scriptures, no wonder Paul turns to Timothy as a father turns to his son, solemnly charging him before God to “preach the Word.” Why? God gave it to show Jesus, who makes us wise to His salvation and equips us perfectly and completely for His work! But there is something more significant: Christ is coming to judge the living and the dead. We are equipped to help equip others for His coming!

4. We preach the Bible because it helps us discern truth from error (2 Timothy 4:3-5).

Join me in reading 2 Timothy 4:3-5:

3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Regardless of whatever field you may find yourself, you will find some who follow the rules, and some who do not. There are some who will listen to what they are supposed to do, and some who will do not.

Verse 4 brings about a great question for us: how intent are we in coming and listening to the truth? Keep in mind, for the apostle Paul (inspired by the Holy Spirit), the truth is found in the Scriptures. Do we come only ready to hear what we want to hear?

I spent time at my Christian college sitting under professors who were looking to take the clear teaching of Scripture and take the ‘myth’ out of it. Moses didn’t really write the first five books of the Bible (even though Jesus said so), Jonah could have been a parable (even thought Jesus said he was an actual person). Now, we see magazine articles questioning the historical Adam, saying that Adam wasn’t real—at least not the way the Scriptures say.

Even now, a pastor of a large church will be in Denver on June 1st. It’s called a “night of hope.” But as this man teaches and preaches, you see a pattern. He tells us that our destiny is already inside us, and just needs to be unlocked. Be positive, speak positive, and the Lord will bless. The only sin he preaches about is the sin of not realizing the destiny God gave you.

But any minister who speaks from the Bible, and yet does not get to the point of the Bible—which is that God sent His Son to a bloody cross to atone for our sins and that we must surrender self to Christ (not exalt self, as many say)—then those people must be avoided.

So what do we as preachers do? How do we react? “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” Kent Hughes noted that as a pilot keeps his head during an emergency, so too must we keep our heads and not lose it.

Alistair Begg onces told a group of pastors how verse 5 is such an anchor.

So if things at ARBC start going well and people are coming into the church, coming to Christ and being strengthened in the faith, the anchor is: “Be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist.”

If things start going rough and Satan begins to move and persecution hits: “Be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist.”

May that be our anchor as well.

Back in 2005, I wrote a hymn (no music yet) for preachers of the Word:

This is the charge we have to keep!
To tell it strong before His sheep
And rouse the lost out of their sleep!
O preach, dear men, the Word of God!

Be ready, shepherds, to reprove
Exhort the church so it may move
To spread the truth, embraced with love!
O preach, dear men, the Word of God.

The world moves out with itching ears
That long to hear what they hold dear
And mute the Word that’s all too clear!
O preach, dear men, the Word of God!

With sober minds and patient hearts
We persevere as from the start
“Fulfill your calling — do your part!”
O preach, dear men, the Word of God!.

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What Can a Pastor-Bashing Church Change?

Edward Hammett and James Pierce have written a very interesting book entitled Reaching People Under 40 While Keeping People Over 60: A Church for All Generations.  In one of their early chapters, they write about “pastor-bashing.” Yesterday, I blogged about “What is Pastor Bashing?”  Today, Hammett and Pierce share how to change this mindset from both the pastor’s and church’s perspective.  Some interesting thoughts here.

As a Pastor

  • Acknowledge that implementing and managing change in a congregation calls forth a unique set of skills that most pastors need help in refining.
  • Enlist a certified coach to walk with you through the trials of change and learning curves you are face with to move forward your congregation and leadership style.
  • Read, reflect, and pray before you embark on introducing change to a congregation.
  • Join a peer learning community of pastors in similar situations for support, encouragement, and guidance.
  • Clarify what you need during times of negotiating with the church before you come.
  • Commit to ongoing self-care and continuing education.
  • Be faithful in taking your time off and vacation.  You and your family deserve it.
  • Negotiate and make plans that ensure an uninterrupted time away.
  • Build a partnership with area pastors who can help in times of crisis.

As a Congregation

  • First acknowledge, as church and pastor, that these are rapidly changing times and that introducing and managing change in inevitable if churches are to remain relevant, faithful, and fruitful in the twenty-first century.
  • Require and resource continuing education and coaching for all pastoral staff and key church leaders.  Budget for it, schedule it, and build it into the culture of your leadership circle.  Such will help the leader and congregation to face and walk through the learning curves that come with change and challenge.
  • Plan regular pastor/staff appreciation days/months.  Resources online and in print are available to help with the special time when the church blesses, encourages, and supports pastor/staff and their families.  Surprise them and be authentic.  Enlist persons to tell stories of how God used them in ministry efforts.
  • Encourage pastor and staff to take their days off and all their vacation time.  Then make plans so you do not have to interrupt their time away.  So often pastors can’t relax because they live in the reality that they might be expected to return for funerals, etc.  A local pastor can help with this.  Give your pastor uninterrupted rest time.
  • Be faithful in scheduling, planning, and resourcing sabbatical times for your pastoral staff.
  • Provide the needed support staff that will allow the professional staff to maximize their time and focus their ministry.
  • Stand up for your pastor/staff when they are accused, ridiculed, or judged by others.  They need friends, support, and people who are willing to stand up to the few who are against them.
  • Be a trustworthy friend for your pastor/staff.  Many pastors and staff persons and their families are lonely and stressed people.  They are often afraid of ridicule and judgment if they make friends of a few in the congregation, so they live lonely lives.  Be their friends, allow them to have other friends, and take the initiative and reach out to them regularly.

What think ye?

Categories: church, church attendees, Church Life, church membership, pastoring | 2 Comments

Three Types of Pastoral Authority in the Church

 authority2 Some bristle at the notion that elders/overseers/pastors have authority in the church. Yet, this authority has not been bestowed by his own personal ambition, by the desire of a pastor search committee or a church body. This authority has been bestowed by Christ. As preachers preach from the Scriptures, led by the Spirit of God, they become the voicebox of God. To reject the preaching of the minister is to reject the preaching of God’s Word. Therefore, pray that your pastor and all pastors of all churches will be so surrendered to the word of the Lord as well as the Lord of the Word so they may rightly lead the people of God in the way he has ordained.

How so? First, God has called pastors to oversee the gospel-direction of the church. While every person who is a member of God’s church has a part in the church, it is the elder/overseer/pastor who has been given to this task full-time. The church is the heartbeat of every pastor—and seeing the church follow in the path of Christ who redeemed His church through His glorious work on the cross.

Paul reminded Titus that “an overseer [is] God’s steward.” Without saying it, Paul reminded Titus to whom the Cretan churches belonged: the Lord Jesus Christ, who purchased the church with His own blood. Joshua Harris reminded us of this:

Do you love the church? Romans 12:10 tells Christians to "Love one another with brotherly affection." The affection and love we’re to have for fellow-Christians is to be based on the work of Jesus Christ for us. It’s not about elitism, it’s not because Christians are better than anyone else, it certainly isn’t because Christians are necessarily more lovable. We love the church because we love the Savior who redeemed the church.

Acts 20:28 tells us that Jesus obtained the church with his own blood. Is this what your love for the church is based on? If it’s anything less, it won’t last long.

  • Don’t love the church because of what it does for you. Because sooner or later it won’t do enough.
  • Don’t love the church because of a leader. Because human leaders are fallible and will let you down.
  • Don’t love the church because of a program or a building or activities because all those things get old.
  • Don’t love the church because of a certain group of friends because friendships change and people move.

Love the church because of who shed his blood to obtain the church. Love the church because of who the church belongs to. Love the church because of who the church worships. Love the church because you love Jesus Christ and his glory. Love the church because Jesus is worthy and faithful and true. Love the church because Jesus loves the church.[i]

The word steward comes from the Greek (oikonomos) which means being the manager of a household. One considers Joseph in the book of Genesis, whom Potiphar made “overseer in his house and over all that he had the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had, in house and field. 6So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate” (Gen 39:5-6).

Pastors and leaders of our churches need to recognize that we are simply managers of what God has given to them. As Joseph was in charge of what Potiphar entrusted to him, so too are the overseers/elders/pastors of the churches in charge of what God has left them. Pastors are overseers. Of what? The main issue is that we are stewards and overseers both of the gospel and the souls to which the gospel is applied. Look at Hebrews 13:17:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you (Hebrews 13:17).

Pure leaders driven by Christ and His Word are praying for and preaching toward your souls. They are to exhibit a spiritual wisdom and maturity in this oversight, with a great understanding that they will have to give an account for every soul under their care. Calvin observes:

The heavier the burden [pastors] bear, the more honor they deserve; for the more labor anyone undertakes for our sake, and the more difficulty and danger he incurs for us, the greater are our obligations to him. And such is the office of bishops, that it involves the greatest labor and the greatest danger; if, then, we wish to be grateful, we can hardly render to them that which is due; and especially, as they are to give an account of us to God, it would be disgraceful for us to make no account of them.[ii]

Another type of leadership is that of how God has called pastors to shepherd the church. Peter charged the elders to whom he was writing:

2Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Pet 5:2-4)

Notice that pastors (a derivative of the word ‘shepherd’) are not to rule with an iron fist, but a shepherd’s stick. You see the rod of the shepherd served a number of uses. One use was to guide the sheep along the path that the shepherd knows oh so well. Another was to use in warding off those who would seek to devour the sheep. The third use served to actually count the number of sheep as they would pass “under the rod” (Ezek 20:37). They are to clear the way that they know so well, because they know their shepherd’s way so well.

This understanding must be clear, especially when one broaches the subject of elders. Do we have one, or do we have a number? There are various examples of having a plurality of elders who have different ministries in the church (Acts 14:23; 1 Tim 5:17; Eph 20:17, and yes Titus 1:5-6). But even with those who have the single elder (a main pastoral minister), there is still that bucking of authority (as we have already covered) because of a fear of all the ‘power’ in a church being consolidated to just the “ministry staff.”

Churches need leaders to pave the way, and shepherds to guide them in that direction. Even if churches did have a plurality of elders, Scripture clearly states that the final say in major decisions in the church comes before the congregation. When they chose those Christ-loving, Spirit-led men who are considered to be the first deacons, where did the apostles take the concern from which this arose? The congregation. When someone is brought up to be disciplined in the church, where does this go? Just to the two or three witnesses? No, Matthew 18:17 says, “It should be taken to the church—the assembly.”

Lastly, God has called pastors to having teaching authority in the church. Look at Titus 1:9: “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Elders and deacons have similar qualifications, but what distinguishes elders from deacons is that elders must have an ability to teach. Elders take care of the spiritual aspect of the congregation, the deacons deal with the physical issues of the members and even the building.

There is a two-fold rationale: instruct the faithful in sound doctrine, and to rebuke those who contradict that same sound doctrine. 

Richard Baxter was a pastor in the 1600s. What makes Baxter so special is his desire not simply to preach in the house of God, but to teach in the homes. 

[There] have been my hearers eight or ten years, who know not whether Christ be God or man, and wonder when I tell them the history of his birth and life and death as if they have never heard it before . . . I have found that some ignorant persons, who have been so long unprofitable hearers, have got more knowledge and remorse in half and hour’s close discourse, than they did from ten years of public preaching. I know that preaching the gospel publicly is the most excellent means, because we speak to many at once. But it is usually far more effectual to preach it privately to a particular sinner.[iii]

Baxter’s passion did not simply come in delivering a sermon, but shepherding his people by teaching them the Word of God on numerous, more personal occasions! 

Does this information cause you to pray for your pastor all the more? 

In a letter to a friend, who was in the ministry but sought to go abroad to learn the German tongue, Robert Murray McCheyne gave this great advice that all of us would do well to heed, minister or not:

I know you will apply hard to German, but do not forget the culture of the inner man—I mean of the heart. How diligently the cavalry officer keeps his saber clean and sharp; every stain he rubs off with the greatest care. Remember you are God’s sword, his instrument—I trust, a chosen vessel unto him to bear his name. In great measure, according to the purity and perfection of the instrument, will be the success. It is not great talents God blesses so much as likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.[i]

[i]Quoted in C.H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2008), 2.

[i]Joshua Harris, Wrong Reasons to Love the Church. Accessed 23 January 2010, available [on-line]; Internet.

[ii]John Calvin, The Commentary on Hebrews, accessed 23 January 2010; available at [on-line]; Internet.

[iii]Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor, 5th ed. (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1974), 112.

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God is Not a Beggar? Why Your Ministry Must Become More Pathetic Before It Can Be Less Pathetic (Russ Moore)

Just a crucial sermon for preachers and pastors! Click here to watch.

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