The Pastor’s Responsibility To The Church
Elder O. B. Mink
Now In Glory
“This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work” (I Timothy 3:1).
I was not in the ministry very long before I realized the word “work” in the above text should be underscored. I have never found the ministry to be easy. But knowing the pastor’s office is ordained of God affords me great joy, and like Paul, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord … for putting me into the ministry” (I Timothy 1:12).
A pastor is not essential to the being of a church, but he is essential to the well-being of the church. The church that has a God fearing pastor needs to realize it was God that joined together the church and the pastor, and woe to the man who endeavors to put asunder what God has joined together. The Bible plainly states the pastor is a gift of God to His church(es), “He gave … pastors …” (Ephesians 4:11).
Every true pastor recognizes that his ministry is a multitudinous one and that his duties are many and varied. He knows the court of heaven has delegated him the awesome responsibility of overseeing every function of the greatest institution on earth. Yet, some churches need to be reminded, while it is the duty of the pastor to oversee all things it is not his duty to perform all things.
In this message I want to mention three things which I consider to be the most profound and demanding responsibilities of the pastor. I will list them in their logical order and endeavor to highlight each in its respective place.
FIRST: The pastor should be an example of godliness.
SECOND: The pastor should properly feed the flock.
THIRD: The pastor should defend the flock.
1. The Pastor Should Be An Example Of Godliness Unto The Church.
Paul writes to pastor Timothy, and says, “… Be thou an example of the believers in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (I Tim. 4:12). Peter writes saying pastors should be “Ensamples to the flock” (I Peter 5:3).
The story is told of a pastor who was more at home on a hunting trip or out in a boat fishing than in the pulpit. The pastor and some friends had planned a hunting trip, but a parishioner died and the pastor had to remain behind to preach the funeral. He was annoyed by the delay. He told his friends to go ahead, that he would catch up with them a little later. As soon as the funeral was over he started out in pursuit of his friends. He knew where they were going, but did not know exactly how to get there. He met an old lady on the road, a member of his church. The pastor sought information of her. She said, “Follow this road to the top of the hill and there you will find a sign-pastor; follow the arrow, soon you will see another sign-pastor; follow its direction and you will soon catch up with your friends.” The pastor said, “I thank you for the information, but tell me, when you say sign-pastor, do you not mean sign-pastor?”
“You see,” said the old lady, “before you became our minister, we called them sign-posters, but since you have been here, we call them sign-pastors, for they point others the direction, but they never go themselves.” If the pastor fails in being a pattern of Christ, his entire ministry is a failure, and irreparable damage will be inflicted on the church, for he is the chief example to the flock in this world. The pastor is not the supreme example; Jesus Christ, and He alone is the absolute perfect example. Yet, every pastor should be able to say, like Paul, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (I Corinthians 11:1). And to the Thessalonians he says, “For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you” (II Thessalonians 3:7).
The pastor, by virtue of his office is a leader, and he is to lead by his walk, as well as by his talk. Many people would much rather see a sermon than hear one, and the pastor’s life should be a graphic epistle of truth, easily read and known of all men.
The pastor’s ministry is but a brief few years, and there is not time for him to be anything but his best. His life must magnify Christ, and he must be willing to live decreasingly so that Christ might be increased. It is not reason that the pastor should leave the word of God and serve tables, but it is his duty to give himself continually to prayer, and the ministry of the word (Acts 6:24). For the pastor to “serve tables” that is, for him to be burdened with the carnal needs of the church is to circumscribe his prayer and study time. Consequently, the pastor’s sermons shall lack the necessary ingredients to properly feed the flock, and the spiritual power of the whole church will be severely diminished. The pastor cannot be an effective leader, nor the correct example, when so burdened.
Most pastors do not mind being the first one at church, and the last one to leave. He does not mind shoveling snow to clear a walkway to the church door. Most are happy to pick up, or provide transportation with his car for some who do not have a ride to church. The pastor does not mind visiting hospitals, and homes of the sick, etc. But these duties do not belong exclusively to the pastoral office. They are a part of membership obligation, and when collectively shared they cease to be a burden for any individual member. Nevertheless, the pastor usually takes the lead in these things, hoping to set an example thereby.
Yet, the fact remains, if the church would accept in greater measure the carnal responsibilities, the pastor would be more spiritual, a better preacher, and a real power for God in his everyday life.
The best pastor merits some criticism. Jesus Christ is the only member Who cannot be justly criticized, but woe to the person who destructively or unjustly condemns his pastor. Moses was maligned by Miriam and Aaron (Numbers 12:1). Moses did not recriminate, but went right on with the business of leading Israel. However, God rebuked Miriam and Aaron for vilifying Moses, and Miriam was struck with leprosy. They confessed their sin of questioning the authority of Moses, Moses prayed for them, and Miriam was healed (Numbers12:11-14).
Some people, it seems, think the spiritual vocation to which they have been called, is that of keeping the pastor straight. I read where one self- appointed critic objected to every proposal the pastor put forth. One mild mannered and God fearing brother voiced an objection to the attitude of the persistent critic. The critic, in angry tone cried out, “These objections are within the realm of my rights!” The meek brother replied, “What if Jesus would have asserted His rights. Where would we be at this time?”
Most people feel a degree of reluctance when it comes to criticizing a doctor or a lawyer, but when it comes to criticizing their pastor many members feel themselves to be competent critics. A lot of preacher criticism is tactical diversion, or a dodge to keep the critics own dilatoriness from being questioned. Generally, the pastor with his God endowed fortitude, and with undiminished resolution, endures the critic’s ranting and goes on his way, more determined than ever to be an example of Christ.
Paul says of himself and his missionary company, “...Unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe” (I Thessalonians 2:10). And he exhorts Titus, “... In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works ” (Titus 2:7). Thus, we conclude, the primary responsibility of the pastor to his church is to preach Christ through the medium of an irreproachable character. In so doing, the pastor will not fear the moral scrutiny of the public, and his adherence to the example of Christ will go a long way in gainsaying the unjust critic.
2. It Is The Pastor’s Responsibility To Feed The Flock.
Paul said to the elders of the church at Ephesus, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28).
One of the prerequisites for the pastoral office, yea, the chief one, is: love for Christ. It was not until Christ received an affirmative answer from Peter to the question, “Lovest thou Me?”, that He said to Peter, “Feed My sheep” (John 21:16). A head full of seminary training is no substitute for a heart filled with love for the Head of the church. Love for Christ begets love for the church, and the pastor’s love for the church is the parent of a proper spiritual diet.
It is not so much a question in New Testament Baptist churches of what to feed the sheep as it is, how to feed them. The “what” is abundantly revealed in the Scriptures. Christ said, “Teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you …” (Matthew 28:20) Let not the indolent pastor excuse his laziness by saying, “But I do not know what the ‘all things’ of the commission consists of.” He will never know unless he gives himself “continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Paul was preeminently a man of prayer and study, and being blessed thereby, said to the Ephesian pastors, “I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).
The pastor should never make eloquence in speech his main objective in preaching, for one of the great things about the Bible is its ability to say for the preacher what he cannot say himself. He should fervently labor to express his ideas accurately, forcibly, and with the minimum of words. He should, above all, speak as a dying man to dying men.
Peter charges the pastor, saying, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof …” (I Peter 5:2). The “flock of God” consists of sheep of various ages and learning. The same flock may have a Ph.D. and a ten year old fourth grader. And once the pastor begins to rationalize, saying, “I will put this in for little Junior, and I will put something else in for Dr. Allwise,” the sermon at that point takes on a total humanistic character and can only serve to feed the intellect. The pastor needs to keep in mind, it is the Holy Spirit Who takes the message to the heart, and plants the spiritual manna in the soul, feeding both the wise and unwise. If the pastor prepares his sermons with a purpose to glorify God, he need not worry, for all the sheep will be fed. It is true, “New born babes desire the sincere milk of the word” AND, “Strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age” (I Peter 2:2, Hebrews 5:14). Yet, the aging process is the work of the Holy Spirit. Accumulated years and keenness of intellect do not, per se, contribute to spiritual growth. It was not David’s skill with a slingshot that killed Goliath. David let the stone loose, but it was the Holy Spirit Who directed the stone to its mark. It is the pastor’s responsibility to preach the word of God in season and out of season. If he is faithful in this the sheep will be fed, for the Holy Spirit will open their hearts that they may attend unto the things spoken, and they will grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (Isaiah 55:11; II Peter 3:18).
“Only He Who made the world can make a preacher.” It is through the local New Testament church the Holy Spirit calls out God’s elect from sin’s condemnation, and it is through the local New Testament church that God makes His preachers. Arminian seminaries have produced legions of preachers with tremendous powers of expression, but what worth is a man with great power of expression, if he has nothing beneficial to express? There is no right way to feed a sheep wood, hay, and stubble. Preaching is the greatest work on earth, and when a pastor enters the pulpit, his study and preparation should be of such nature that it enables him to feed the sheep. A pastor who enters the pulpit with less than his best is guilty, in degree, of despising the church of God.
There never was a church that did not demand more time than the pastor had to give it. So it is, every pastor needs many hours every day of uninterrupted study and prayer time, and the church that does not allow the pastor this time shortchanges itself. The church with a God called pastor needs to realize that their pastor has spent many hours in sermon preparation so as the church may worship a few minutes. One pastor said to another, “I wonder why you spend so much time on your sermons, with your ability and ready speech. Many are the times I’ve written a sermon and caught a salmon before breakfast.” The studious pastor replied, “Well sir, I would rather have eaten your salmon than listened to your sermon.”
The pastor is an aqueduct through which the water of life flows, not that God does not use all believers as conduits of truth, but the ministry of feeding the sheep is primarily the pastor’s, and if his life is clogged up with the cares of the world, the inevitable will be a spiritually starved and dwarfed church. The pastor who is morally honest and fruitful in study and prayer, need not fret himself about the results of his preaching, for God has promised to use him “for the perfecting of the saints” (Ephesians4:12).
3. The Pastor Is Responsible To Defend The Church.
“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give an account, that they may do it with joy and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).
What an awesome responsibility is charged to the pastor! He “MUST” give an account of his watchmanship over the flock unto God. On the other hand, the responsibility of the church is to “obey them (pastors) that have the rule over you, and submit themselves.” The God called pastor will not lord it over God’s heritage, neither will he let God’s heritage usurp the authority divinely vested in his pastoral office.
A soldier may not see any sense in the training and discipline required by the military, but many a soldier has learned that submission to those in authority over him and their training enhances their safety in time of battle.
Satan hates the New Testament Baptist pastor more than he hates any other Christian, for he holds the highest rank in the army of the living God. In ancient warfare there were men especially and purposefully trained to kill the captain or leader of the opposing forces. They knew if they could kill the chief officer, it would have a demoralizing effect on the enemy, usually resulting in a rout and sure victory. The devil employs the same strategy in his war against the Lord’s churches.
Satan has his spiritual sharpshooters, and they have adjusted their scopes, and focused them on the Lord’s undershepherds. Our adversary, the devil, walks about like a roaring lion, and he knows if he can devour the shepherd, the sheep will become easy prey. The chief reason Satan singles out the pastor and makes him the primary object of his hatred is not because the pastor is necessarily a better Christian, but it is because the pastor has been charged with the care of the church (I Timothy 3:5); and the wise pastor knows that the church’s security is the devil’s opportunity.
The devil is too wise to use Arminianism or eccumenism in a frontal attack against the Lord’s churches. He knows such an attack would be quickly and emphatically repulsed. So, what he does is: dress up one of his angels in sheep’s clothing and infiltrate the flock. Paul said to the church at Ephesus, “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29). And Christ warned against this satanic method, saying, “Beware of false prophets, which come unto you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15). The wolf cannot long restrain his vicious nature, and there will soon be in motion a plan to tear the church apart. The command to the pastor is, “…rebuke them sharply” (Titus 1:13), and the command to the church is, “… note that man and have no company with him” (II Thessalonians 3:14). Satan has an army of highly trained church saboteurs, and the pastor is ever to be on the watch for them to expose them before they can light the fuse which leads to the destruction of the church. More ships are lost at sea from internal problems than from external elements, and we are living in an era when more churches are destroyed from internal strife than by external persecution.
“But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” (Galatians 5:15). It is the pastor’s responsibility to stand uncompromisingly against every person and thing that would in any measure injure the church. One pastor said he wrote his sermons out in manuscript form, read them over, and if he found anything in the sermon which would offend any of his parishioners, he struck it out. The true pastor derives no genuine pleasure from offending any of his flock, but he should leave in his sermons everything that glorifies God and edifies the church, no matter how offensive it may be to some member(s). “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe” (Proverbs 29:25). A ministry designed to please men excludes the favor of God (Galatians 1:10).
The story is told of a pastor who had in his congregation a member who was very wealthy, and the pastor compromised some of his convictions in order to court and keep the favor of the wealthy member. The member came down with a terminal illness and he began to reflect upon his past life. He thought of the large sums of money which he had spent on his family, and the little time and money he had given the church. The pastor came to his bedside to comfort him. The pastor said, “You have given as much to the church as any other member, and after all, we everyone are unprofitable servants.”
But the dying member found no peace in his pastor’s words, and as his end drew near he took the pastor by the hand, and said, “I am going to the Righteous Judge, and I am unprepared to meet Him. You have been unfaithful to me. For years I have lived and taught my family to live mostly for the world. We have denied ourselves nothing, but spent great sums on personal comfort, luxuries, and pleasure. When I gave those tens and twenties to the church, they should have at least been fifties and hundreds. My energy, time, and money have been devoted to self- pleasing, and now I must give an account of my ill stewardship to the Eternal and Infallible Judge. Pastor, I am beyond recovery. Do what you can to help my family, and warn other professors who are in the same current of self gratification, which is carrying them to the lake of utter destruction.”
God says to His pastors, “I have set thee a watchman … therefore thou shalt hear the word at My mouth, and warn them for Me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou has delivered thy soul” (Ezekiel 33:7-9).
So, if the pastor will live godly, preach the truth without fear or favor, and defend the church at the peril of his own life, he will hear his heavenly Shepherd say unto him at the end of the journey, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).
(Sovereign Grace Advocate - January, 1978)
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