Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Pastor as More than a Preacher

It's an old joke that the preacher only works one day a week. That day being, of course, sunday, when he preaches. So, it is asserted, he must have an easy life and an easy job. To be certain there are some pastors who may only work one day a week. Some men who have no real understanding of the Biblical requirements and standards for pastoral ministry, men who print out sermons off the internet Saturday night, and who do little more than monitor the events going on at the church's building. But these men, however, are not truly demonstrating pastoral ministry.

The Pastor is to be more than simply a preacher, that certainly not less. Preaching is the main responsibility of the pastor, but to preach Biblical messages that encourage, edify, correct, convict, and call out Christians and non-believers takes a great deal of work. The preperation of good sermons is a week long process that requires hours of study and contemplation and great amounts of prayer. That is not to say that one must have formal training to be able to comprehend the Bible, it is merely to say that for any of us to fully understand a passage and to formulate the theme of that passage and its application to life is going to take effort and time. So in that respect alone the preacher works more than simply one day a week. But he does more than just prepare one sermon a week, and indeed more than two or three sermons a week (if his church has preaching services on Sunday and Wednesday nights).

The pastor is more than a preacher. He is, as the Puritans said it, a physician of the soul. It is the pastor's duty to care for and encourage the flock. To minister to souls, to show concern and delicate care for the congregation. The New Testament refers to the pastor as a "shepherd". Shepherds are those who take care of, lead, and defend their sheep, thus it is the responsibility of every good pastor to know how the members of his congregation are doing in their spiritual health, in what ways the need encouragement, and in what ways they need correction. It is the pastor's job to defend the church against heresy and error, which infiltrates every church on many occasions throughout its existence. In single pastorates the senior pastor is the one who receives phone calls at 4 a.m. to meet members of the church at the hospital, to pray for a brother or sister in urgent need, to schedule numerous meetings for counseling, and to take numerous "drop-ins". To say that the pastor works merely one day a week, is to fail to grasp the responsibility of the pastor described in the New Testament and manifested throughout history, particularly in the Puritan pastorate. But such is not suprising, for who has time to read history and examine the Bible for a thorough theology of pastoral ministry, save those who are pastors.

I mean after all non-pastors work all day, clean house, take care of kids and families, change the oil in their car, fix the sink in the kitchen, take out the garbage, prepare a meal, and then go down to the church to serve and worship. There's just not enough time for such things as reading Puritan history and pastoral theology. If such is the case, however, for those who work regularly scheduled jobs and then come home, how can it not be so for someone whose whole life is ministry? A pastorate is more than a 9-5 job, it is more than a profession (hence John Piper, a pastor/theologian, has written a pastor's book titled Brothers, We Are Not Professionals), it is a life of ministry and service. Paul is the best example of this as he devoted all of his life to building churches, writing letters, praying for others, and giving and suffering all things for the sake of God's people. May there be more pastors like him, and may there be more congregations that joyfully come to see this truth and who will make their pastor's ministry a joy (Hebrews 13:17) and not a burden.


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