A Friendly Challenge to Pastors (Part 1)
The work of a pastor has become much less obvious than was formerly the case. Congregations and pastors alike often have very differing ideas on the matter. In many instances the bottom line is that pastors must keep the people happy while also increasing the attendance (and collections). How to accomplish these tasks can drive a person to distraction!
Perhaps some would find it surprising to know that neither of these objectives is specified in the Bible as the work of the pastor. The primary work of the pastor, according to the Scriptures, is to feed and protect God's people. This is plain beyond dispute from passages such as: Jer. 3:15, 23:4; John 21:17; Acts 20:18-21, 26-28; 2Tim. 4:2; 1Peter 5:1-2. This feeding and protecting is of a spiritual, and not physical, nature. Christ appoints men, gifted by the Holy Spirit, to be over His churches in order that those men might instruct the redeemed in all His holy will and protect their souls from the errors and temptations which threaten them in this world. God prospers His people as they trust Him according to His Word (doctrines, promises, commands, and warnings). When people are deprived of the Scriptures and faithful instruction in them, they become susceptible to erroneous thoughts about God and life and right and wrong and the world to come. They are also more likely to become ensnared in various evils. Thus, the teaching and preaching of pastors comprise crucial means (or channels) through which the grace of God strengthens and fortifies true believers, while also making believers out of unbelievers.
No work is so important for pastors and their churches than their prayerful study of Scripture in preparation for preaching. Actually, the most important thing is preaching; but preaching that is faithful to the Bible does not happen apart from arduous study. No pastor is prepared to declare the mind of God from any particular text without a careful study of that text in its immediate context, in its structure, in the original Biblical language, and in terms of the larger argument of the whole Bible. All this requires labor — hours of close study, study bathed in prayer.
Dear fellow pastors, have you permitted yourselves to be pressured away from your studies? Do you find more and more time being spent in public relations, damage control, and strategy sessions for promoting church growth and less time being spent in your Bibles and in earnest prayer? If so, please reevaluate your time and labor. What has Christ actually called you to do? Is there any integrity in being outwardly successful if people are not genuinely converted and growing in true holiness to the glory of God? These things do not occur apart from clear and accurate proclamation of the Scriptures! Programs, music, and "feel good" talks may attract crowds but they will not result in needy people becoming genuinely united to Christ. Neither will such efforts satisfy the spiritual hunger of genuine sheep.
Thus, if you have allowed yourselves to be seduced away from that to which you are called, I implore you to re-devote yourselves to the Bible. Perhaps repentance is required? Let the people who attend upon your ministry become keenly aware that every time they hear you they are receiving Divine Truth presented with care and passion.