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THE ELDER’S (and Pastor’s) RESPONSIBILITIES AND DUTIES

Keep watch over yourselves,

Keep watch over the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians;

To feed the Church of the Lord which he won for himself by his own blood.

Savage wolves will come in among you, therefore be alert.

                                                                                 Acts 20:28-31

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There are three primary divisions of the elder’s (ruling and teaching elder)

responsibilities and duties. Listed in order of priority, they first to God, secondly

to himself, and finally toward others. All too often members in a church reverse

the order, only to the detriment of their personal and corporate well-being in Christ.

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A. The elder is responsible to serve the Lord first

  1. The elder must exercise a saving faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord

(1 Thess. 1:9; Heb. 9:11-14).

2.   The elder’s first priority is to serve the Lord first and foremost, before he

serves people. (Acts 20:19; Gal. 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:4; Eph. 6:6-7;

Col. 3:22-24). He serves God’s people by serving and answering to

the Lord first and doing so for the glory of God (Deut. 10:12; Josh.

24:14, 15; 1 Cor. 10:31; 15:58; Eph. 6:7; Heb. 12:28; 1 Pet. 4:10-11).

a. This was clearly the pattern of God’s true prophets, priests and kings

(1 Chron. 28:9; 2 Chron. 12:8; 34:33).

b.  This was also the pattern of Jesus Christ who always did His

Father’s will  (Matt. 4:10; Luke 4:8; John 8:26-28).

c.  This was the pattern of the Apostles

(Acts 4:5-21; 27:23; 1 Cor. 15:58; Col. 3:23; 1 Thess. 1:9; 2 Tim.

1:3; Heb. 12:28).

3.   He is to live for Christ

a. Never to be ashamed of Jesus Christ (2 Tim 1:8-11; 2:11-13)

b. His focus is to always be upon Christ (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 1:21;

2 Tim 2:8-13)

c.  He will suffer for Christ (Lk. 21:19; 2 Tim. 2:3-7; 3:10-12).

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B. The elder is responsible to keep his life right in relationship to the Lord

1.  All believers are called upon to keep their lives right before God

(Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 4:16;   Gal. 5:17-25; Eph. 4:23-24; Col. 3:10;

Phil. 2:12-13; 1 Thess. 4:1-12; 2 Tim. 2:19-21; 2 Pet. 3:1-11).

They are to be faithful stewards of Christ and are accountable to Him

through a biblically balanced life (1 Cor. 4:1-2; 9:17; Col. 1:25f).

2.   This is all the more true for pastors, elders, and deacons too.  The

admonition to Timothy is applicable to those who take on the yoke

of ministry, that the elder must guard and maintain his life, piety and

gifts (Acts 20:28; 1 Tim. 4:14-16; 2 Tim. 2:19-21) so that he might

have the proper capacity to serve others through Christ

(2 Tim. 2:1, 6, 15; 3:16-17). And he should practice and devote himself

to godliness in Christ so that others will see progress in his walk

(1 Tim. 4:15). This is what Thomas Murphy means when he says that

“The conversion of souls and the prosperity of the Church depend on

the degree of the pastor’s piety” (Murphy, 1877/1996, p. 47).

The purpose of taking care of his life in Christ is not for self-

actualization or other self-serving goals but rather so that he may

be of greater service to others. While this might seem odd, a

properly oriented life that is saturated with God through Christ

is a far better blessing to others. This is because the greater, more

expansive capacity one has for God the greater his capacity for a

fruitful ministry.

Jesus is a model of one who, though sinless, maintained and

nurtured his relationship with the Father, to understand God’s will

and to be strengthened from on high in order to accomplish all that

God set for him to do. He always made it a priority to spend time

with the Father before serving others.

3.  The elder is called to train and discipline himself for godliness (1 Tim.

4:7-11) so as to become more and more like Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3:18;

1 Tim. 4:14-16; 6:11; Ti. 2:12; 2 Pet. 1:4). After all, the elder is to

“incarnate” and model the life of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 12:18; 1 Thess.

2:10-12; 1 Tim. 4:12; 1 Pet. 5:3); and this is very profitable (1 Tim. 6:6).

At minimum this would include the nurture and improvement of the

godly character required of him according to 1 Timothy 3:1-9 and

Titus 1:5-9;  but he should also cultivate and strengthen other qualities

God desires of him as Christ’s under-shepherd such as, but not limited to:

a. Humility (Acts 20:19; 1 Cor. 10:12).

b. Being free of or fleeing the love of money (1 Tim. 3:3; 6:7-11).

c. Being a vessel of honor that is set apart from sin (2 Tim. 2:20-21)

(1) Actively pursuing biblical righteousness, godliness, faith, love,

perseverance, and gentleness (1 Tim. 6:11).

(2) Fleeing youthful lusts, pursuing righteousness, faith, love

(2 Tim 2:22).

d. Fearing no one or nothing except God (Deut. 10:12; Eccles. 12:13;

Psa. 118:6; Isa. 12:2; 2 Tim. 1:7; 1 Pet. 1:17; 2:17).

e.  Being sober-minded about everything (2 Tim. 4:5).

f.  Maintaining a clear conscience before the Lord  (2 Cor 11:31).

4.   He is to put to use the good gift(s) God has placed upon him.  In fact,

he is called upon to fan the flame or rekindle the gift(s) of God in his life

(1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6).

5.  The elder is to saturate his life with and properly handle God’s Word

(1 Tim. 5:17; 2 Tim. 3:14-16).

a.   Always growing in grace and truth (2 Pet. 3:18).

b.   Holding fast to and be nourished on the Word of God

(1 Tim 4:6; 2 Tim. 1:13; 3:14-17; Ti. 1:9).

c.  Rightly handling God’s Word so as to be approved (2 Tim. 2:15).

d.  Contending for the truth of God’s Word (1 Tim. 1:18-19).

e.  Guarding the truth (1 Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 1:12-14).

6.  He should bear fruit (Jn. 15:8; Gal. 5:22-23; Eph. 2:8-10; Col. 1:10;

Ti. 2:7; 3:8, 14)

7.  He is to take care of his physical life (1 Tim 5:23).

8.  He should not be concerned about the judgments of others (1 Cor. 4:1-5),

neither should he compare himself with others (1 Cor. 3; 2 Cor.

10:12-16). At the same time he should defend a biblical and righteous

ministry in the cause of Christ against false accusations

(1 Cor. 1:6-23; 2:4, 17; 3:6, 12; 4:1-8; 5:14, 21; 1 Tim. 4:12)

9.  He must keep his family life in order (1 Tim. 3:4-5; Ti. 1:6)

10. Finally, he and others must understand that his life and ministry is

a living sacrifice to God (Phil. 2:17; 2 Tim. 4:6; 2 Sam. 24:24;

Acts 20:24; 21:13; Phil. 3:7-8).

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C. After serving God and attending to his life in Christ

the pastor or elder then serves others, particularly

God’s people

1.  The pastor or elder serves through self-sacrifice (Jn. 10:11, 15; cp.

Lk 10:34,35) as a faithful steward of God’s ministry (1 Cor. 4:1-2;

Ti. 1:7), in a manner like Jesus Christ (Matt. 20:25-28; 23:11-12;

Mark 10:43,44; Luke 22:26-27; John 13:1-20).

2.  He prays for others (Acts 6:4; Col. 1:9)

a.  His priority is to pray, especially for God’s people (Acts 6:4; Col. 1:9)

b. He prays for those who are not believers in Christ (1 Tim. 2:1-8)

3.  As an undershepherd to the Great Shepherd he pastors through God’s

Word (Jn. 21:15ff; 1 Pet. 5:1ff); ministering the Word of God (Mk. 6:34b;

Rev. 7:17; 1 Tim. 5:17; 1 Thess. 5:12; Col. 1:28; Jas. 3:1) in a variety of

ways. In fact, the bulk and thrust of his labors is in the power of God’s

Spirit through the Word of God.

a. Publicly reading, preaching, explaining and applying Scriptures

is what the teaching elder does (1 Cor. 1:17; 1 Tim. 4:13-14)

b.  The teaching elder preaches in season and out of season reproving,

rebuking and exhorting (2 Tim. 4:1-2).

c.  The elder teaches boldly the Word of God (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 6:34;

Acts 20:20; 1 Cor. 12:28, 31; Col. 1:28; 1 Tim. 1:3; 3:2, 16; 4:11-12;

6:2-5; James 3:1 Rev. 7:17) in  these and other areas:

(1) Teaching apostolic truth, particularly to faithful men who

would teach others the same (2 Tim. 2:2)

(2) Teaching godliness in Christ (1 Tim. 5:24-6:6)

(3) Teaching older men to be sober, reverent, self-controlled,

sound in faith, sound in love, and patient (Ti. 2:1-2)

(4) Teaching the rich to be rich in good works and generosity

(1 Tim. 6:17-19)

d. He feeds God’s people in the Truth (1 Pet. 5:2).

e. Edifies or builds believers up in Christ (2 Cor. 13:10-11; Eph 4:12-16).

f.  Convicts the contrary (2 Tim. 2:25; Ti. 1:9).

g. Brings comfort to hearers of the Word (1 Cor. 14:3, 31; 2 Cor. 1:4-6;

1 Thess. 4:18).

h. Confronts Sin (1Tim 5:1-2; Gal. 6:1)

(1) Warning of the consequences of sin (Acts 20:31).

(2) Rebuking sin (2 Tim. 4:1-2; Ti 1:13; 2:15).

i. Admonishes wayward believers to obey God’s Word (2 Thess. 3:15).

j. Exhorts or confronts the opposition with sound doctrine in love

(1 Cor. 13:1; Eph. 4:15; 2 Tim. 2:24-26).

4.   To train them in spiritual warfare, resisting Satan and calling them to

their role as  godly warriors (2 Cor. 11:13-15; Eph. 6:10-18; Jas. 4:7;

1 Pet. 5:8-9).

5.  The teaching elder (even the ruling elder) delegates administrative tasks

of lesser priorities for his vocation to others, such as the deacons, in

order to concentrate on the ministries of prayer and the Word of God

(Act 6:1-7).

6.  The teaching elder’s godly office created by Christ (2 Cor. 3:9; 4:6).  He

is  responsible with other elders in the church to perpetuate the office

with sound, godly and faithful men who are gifted, called, and qualified

(1 Tim. 1:11; 3:1-7; 4:14). The office must be perpetuated through the

laying on of hands by ordained elders of the church (Acts 6:6; 13:3;

14:23; 19:6; 1 Tim. 1:5; 2 Tim. 1:6).

7.   He must always keep before him the goal(s) of his God-ordained

ministry:

a.  To equip the saints to do the work of ministry (Eph. 4:11-12) in

the faithful exercise of their gifts (1 Cor. 12; Rom. 12).

b.  To form Jesus Christ in the community of God’s people through

love (Eph. 1:15-23; 3:14-21; 4:13; Col 1:224-29; 1 Thess. 3:11-13;

1 Tim. 1:5) until that community is a like one mature man who

lives:

(1) In the unity of the Faith (Eph. 4:13)

(2) In an intimate full-knowledge of the Son of God, deeply in

love with Christ and becoming more like him in every way

(Eph. 4:13)

(3) In truth that is spoken and expressed through love (Eph. 4:15).

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D. The pastor’s or elder’s duties are enumerated through

the many roles he has:

 1. As a self-sacrificing servant (Matt. 20:27; John 10:11, 15; Lk. 10:34, 35;

1 Cor. 4:1)

a. Of God (2 Cor. 6:4; Ti. 1:1, 7) and of Christ (Phil. 1:1; 2 Tim. 2:24)

b. Of God’s people (2 Cor. 4:5)

c.  Who serves God and his church with diligence (Rom. 12:8; 1 Thess.

5:12; 1 Tim. 5:17; 2 Tim. 2:15).

2.  As a loving shepherd of the flock of God (Jer. 3:15; John 21:15ff;

Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:1-2)

a. Who leads (Mark 6:34) and guides (Matt. 2:6; Acts 7:10, 14;

Heb. 3:7, 17, 24)

b.  Who protects (Acts 20:28-30; Jn. 10:12; Ti. 1:9; 2:1;

Eph. 4:14; 1 Pet. 5:8; 1 Jn. 4:1-3)

(1)  From enemies within (2 Tim. 2:16-18; Jude 12f).

(2)  From enemies without (Mt. 13:24f; 2 Cor. 11:12-15).

3.   As a priest, though a believer-priest like all other believers he

a.  Intercedes and prays for God’s people  (e.g.: 1 Sam. 12:23; Acts

12:5-9, 12;  Rom. 10:1; Eph. 1:18; Col. 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:1, 2; Jas. 5:16)

b. Serves as a leader in worship.

4.   As a peacemaker or reconciler (Matt. 5:9; 2 Cor. 5:18-19).

5.   As a preacher of the gracious Good News of Christ (Rom. 10:14;

2 Pet. 2:5).

6.   As a professor-teacher (see above)

7.   As a parent

a.  Like a father (Matt. 13:52; 1 Cor. 4:12-21; 1 Thess. 2:10-12;

1 Tim. 3:5; Philem. 10).

(1) Who sees to it with fellow elders and the deacons that widows

in need are taken care of (Acts 6:1ff; 1 Tim. 3:5-16;

James 1:27)

(2) Who also oversees with elders and deacons the needs of

orphans (James 1:27).

(3)  Who, with the elders through the service of the deacons, takes

care of the needy in the church (Luke 14:13; Acts 2:45; 4:35;

Rom. 15:26; Gal. 2:10; Eph. 4:28; James 2:2-6)

b.  And like a mother who gives birth (Isa. 66:7; 1 Thess. 5:3) and who

nurses (1 Thess. 2:7)

c. A nurturer and disciplinarian (Matt. 18; 2 Cor. 7:8-13)

8.  As a model of godliness   (Psa. 101:2; 1 Cor. 4:6; 11:1; Phil. 3:17;

1 Thess. 1:6; 2:10-11; 2 Thess. 3:7, 9; 1 Tim. 4:12; Ti. 2:7;

Heb. 12:2; 13:7; 1 Pet. 2:11-25; 5:3; 1 Jn. 2:6; etc.).

9.  As a ruler with fellow elders over Christ’s church (1 Thess. 5:12, 13;

1 Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:17), he is responsible for:

a. Overseeing the church of Christ (1 Tim. 3:4, 5, 12; Rom. 12:8)

b.  Exercising judicial discipline (Matt. 18:15-19; Rom. 16:17; 1 Cor. 5;

1 Thess. 5:14; 2 Thess. 3:6-15; 1 Tim. 5:20; 6:3; Ti. 1:13; 2:15; 3:10;

Rev. 2:2, 14, 15, 20)

c.   Ruling with Christ’s authority, but not lording it over God’s people

(Matt. 20:25-26; Mk. 10:42-43; 1 Pet. 5:3).

10. As an evangelist and disciple “maker” (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 20:21; 21:8;

1 Tim. 5:22; 2 Tim. 4:5; Ti. 1:5)

a. By faithful testimony of Christ in life and lip (Acts 20:21;

1 Thess. 2:2)

b. By giving, declaring, and teaching the Good News of Jesus Christ

 (Rom. 3:21-28; 11:6; Gal. 3:1-9; 1 Pet. 4)

11. The elder is also described in roles as a messenger (2 Cor. 8:23),

a good worker (2 Cor. 6:1; Phil. 2:25), a soldier (Phil. 2:25;

2 Tim. 2:3-4), an athlete (1 Cor. 9:24-25; Phil. 3:14; 2 Tim. 2:5; 4:7-8;

Heb. 12:1) and a farmer (2 Tim. 2:6).

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(Taken from The Perfect Pastor? by D. Thomas Owsley)

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Ten Things Not to Do to Your Pastor

1. Don’t love your pastor more than you love the Lord God.

2. Don’t idolize or worship your pastor. He is neither God nor Messiah.

3. Don’t be a living contradiction to the name and person of Jesus Christ in you. Don’t be a hypocrite, trying to convince your pastor that you are “good” and wonderful believer when you are thinking and behaving like the devil.

4. Don’t overwork your pastor.
Don’t rely too heavily upon him either.

5. Don’t neglect the honor and respect, duty and obedience you owe the pastor in Christ that is concordant with God’s Word.

6. Don’t kill your pastor.
I could write a book, “1001 Easy Ways to Kill Off Your Pastor!” Of course, I don’t mean physically murdering the minister; though that has happened. I mean to say, don’t murder him by mouth through gossip or slander. Don’t beat him into the ground with the innumerable ways people can verbally assault the minister. It is also possible to over work the pastor or place too much stress upon him.

7. Don’t allow your pastor or put your pastor in a situation that could tempt him or provoke him to immoral, unchaste thoughts, words, or deeds.

8. Don’t steal from your pastor.
Don’t rob him of his devotional time, study time, down time, family time, or vacation time. Don’t rob him of the double honor he is due. Pay him well so that he may be free from material concerns. Don’t forbid him to exercise his God-given talents and gifts. Too often ministers are pressured or commanded not to do the things they are talented, equipped or find pleasure in doing.

9. Don’t injure the pastor’s good name, and don’t lie to him.

10. Don’t covet another pastor when you have God’s minister in your midst; and do not compare or contrast him with other pastors, especially high profile, popular ones.

Here is a quick way to discourage or defeat your pastor: compare him with another minister or leader. It doesn’t matter who. It could be a previous pastor, a celebrity, or even a famous dead one. Just don’t compare! It’s demeaning and demoralizing when you communicate that your pastor isn’t like Pastor X in preaching, or Pastor Y in serving, or Pastor Z in personality. If you love that other minister so much that you have little room for the pastor the Lord has provided you and your church, then pack your bags and go where your hero is serving.

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The Call of a Godly Leader

A godly leader must have a proper motivation for leadership. Leadership is a role, as much as it is a quality of character and an endowment of gifts. Biblical leadership is faithful service of a faith-filled servant.

God has given His people a calling. The first, and most important calling is to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  God calls all people through the means of the proclamation of the Good News about Jesus Christ (His sacrificial work of life and death for the sins of His people was accepted by God, so God raised Him from the dead and placed Jesus at the Father’s right hand in the heavenlies). This general calling is a universal one presented all to whom the Gospel is preached,  to receive and believe upon Jesus Christ and His work of salvation. This is an external calling (Matthew 22:14; Matthew 28:19; Luke 14:16-24; Acts 13:46; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 John 5:10). It is a sincere presentation of the Good News in Christ to sinners, exhorting them to turn from their sins and turn to God for the forgiveness of their sins in belief. This is a universal calling in that the Gospel is freely offered to any and all who would only believe. God does not consider one’s gender, nationality, race, or status in life when giving this call (Isaiah 55:1ff; Joel 2:32; Matt. 11:28; 22:14; John 3:16; Acts 18:9,10; 2 Cor. 5:20; Rev. 22:17)

Yet there is also a special calling from God. This calling is internal. The Holy Spirit brings the Gospel message to the very heart of the person, and that person is able to receive and believe the Good News of salvation. This is also called an effectual calling. It is effectual because the external call is made effective by the work of the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:48; Romans 1:6; 8:29,30; 11:29; 1 Corinthians 1:23-26; Hebrews 9:15; 2 Peter 1:10 Revelation 17:14).

What we mean is that a person has the inward call from God, so he is responsive to the gifting and the call of the Holy Spirit in his life (Acts 20:28), and hence he desires the office he has as a believer in Christ (a son of God, a co-heir, etc.).

Every believer has another calling in life. That would be to fulfill the God-given mandate to live life before the face of God by applying his gifts and talents God has given to him to all of life. This calling is a person’s vocation. The vocation is more than a job. It is living out and doing what God has placed within him to be and do in life. It might be as a plumber, or musician, a teacher or an artist. God is honored and glorified by this, as much as He is glorified and pleased by those whom He has called to particular kingdom office (deacon, elder or pastor).

The godly leader also has a more specific call for his role as leader. All Christian men are called to fulfill their leadership responsibilities in the various areas to which they were called (husband, father, son, etc.) This means the man is exercising his “kingship” as vicegerent to the Lord in all areas of his life.

Still others receive a more particular call to church office (1 Tim. 3:1). His motives are to be biblical and Christ-like (1 Peter 5:1ff).  Not only does one have the inward call of God, but also that call must be recognized as a qualified and legitimate call by the community of God’s people (Acts 6). He cannot merely assume that because he may be gifted and has that inner motive that he can assume the office in God’s church. . He must also be properly called of God through the means of God’s church (Jer. 23:32; Rom. 10:15; Heb. 5:4). This is what is called ordination.

 

-DTO

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What is My Pastor’s Job?

(an excerpt from Chapter 8 in The Perfect Pastor?)
Winter was exhausting itself in futile attempts to suppress the emerging spring. This March witnessed a rigorous battle of the seasons, but the brilliant hues of the newborn spring won out like a persistent hatchling.  It was Mona’s favorite time of year.

One Sunday afternoon a month the Lee family hosted a luncheon for the new visitors and members. The night before, Melissa, a naturally talented decorator, charmed the usually plain living room with a full bloom of spring.  Mona was elated, but had to work hard to keep her little brood from spreading spring color and cheer all over the place.  Sunday school could not come soon enough.

Warming temperatures and cheerful buds most likely contributed to an especially pleasurable morning.  It seemed everything went well and overall things at church were upbeat.  Two new members were formally received.  By now the grumpy bunch made it a habit of leaving almost immediately after the service, sometimes before.  A couple of the elderly ladies set their watches to ring right at noon.  “Since good preaching should take no more than fifteen minutes,” they expected Dan to be finished by noon.  If he wasn’t then too bad – they would just stand up, shuffle to the aisle and leave.  Thankfully they sat in the back row.  They missed the after church reception for the new members and a special cake afterward to celebrate the new union.

Because the new members brought their friends, and Matt brought a few of his new college mates, the Lees’ living room was filled.  After prayer everyone circled their way around the dining room buffet.  Mona’s expertise was cooking so she was used to hearing admonitions to open a catering business or restaurant.  With brightly colored plastic plates balanced precariously on laps, people sat on the couch, dining room chairs and even on the floor. In the background one could watch Melissa helping Mona feed the children and ready them for their naps.

The format was simple: enjoy the food, get to know each other, and ask the tough questions.  Dan enjoyed the tough or theological questions, but nine out of ten times questions were of a more mundane nature.  Crystal washed the bite of hoagie down with punch before she spoke up.  “I have a question,” she declared almost apologetically and kept her hand raised until Dan acknowledged her.  The stylish twenty-something was a regular visitor and friend of one of the new members.

“Go ahead, ask away.”

“Like, don’t get upset or anything.  I’m not sure I should even ask this.”

“Don’t apologize; just ask the question,” Dan kindly pressed.

“Uhm, what do you do?  Like, I know you are busy on Sunday but what do you do the rest of the week?”

With a very serious face Dan teased, “Sunday is the day I work.  It’s a great job.”

Most laughed, but Crystal wasn’t sure how to take him.

“He’s just giving you a hard time with his bad humor,” Mona apologized, coming down the stairs.  “Dan, shame on you!”

“That really is a good question and I’m glad you asked.  I get that quite often. Sometimes people actually believe the pastor only works on Sundays.  Maybe there are pastors who only work that day.  After all, one could be extremely lazy or a workaholic and get away with it.  In some ways it is like being self-employed.  You have to be fairly self-motivated and organized to get things done unless you are in a church that dictates what will be done.”

“My old pastor, and I mean he was really old — older than you, Pastor Lee — used to say that his job was to study all morning, eat lunch and then knock on neighborhood doors in the afternoons, teach classes and preach on Sunday,” proclaimed a serious college kid.

“I didn’t know thirty-eight was old, Brian.  Yeah, what you are talking about was one popular school of thought.  A few even hold to that today.  So, what do you think I do?”

“I know for a fact that you disciple people one-on-one,” Matt defended.

“Do you do counseling?” asked another.

“Sometimes I offer counsel. Yes.”

“Obviously you have to prepare for sermons and class lessons,” said Matt.

“He teaches then,” surmised Crystal’s other friend looking at Matt.

“Yep.  Keep going…” Dan encouraged.

Melissa spoke up.  “I know he reads a lot.  You should see that library of his!  And he visits people in the hospital.”

Scott volunteered, “He also visits people in their home for a spiritual checkup.  That’s what my cousin told me.”

“True.  Anything else?”

No one offered anything more than the clatter of forks on plates.  In the pause three of the young men went back to reload their plates.

“All these things would take up at least two days. Now, what else do I do with the rest of my time?” Dan questioned with a leer.

Mona jumped in right away. “Well, whatever it is, it keeps you busy day and night practically the entire week.”  Turning to Crystal she added, “I know he’s consumed by the work twenty-four-seven.  It’s even hard for him to take one day off!”  She was a little defensive since she had on too many occasions been the recipient of people’s complaints that her husband did not do enough.

“I really appreciated that page you had in the membership class that showed your average weekly schedule.  It was revealing. You really do work ten hours a day?” asked one of the new members.

“Thanks.  Yes, ten hours is normal, but sometimes it is eight and sometimes it is sixteen.  Depends on the day’s demands.  Jane Rubietta says that ‘Most pastors work in excess of 70 hours a week.  Seventy percent don’t take a week of vacation during the year, and sixty percent don’t get a full day off during the week’ (2002, p. 90). I’m glad I have vacation time that is somewhat mandated by our denomination’s tradition.  All right, I have a question for you,” Dan proposed, scanning the circle of guests.  “What do you think a pastor should do?   And I want you to be honest.”

Again, for a while the only sound was the symphony of the feast.  Matt broke the silence with a dribble of mustard on his chin, “Weddings!”  Everyone broke out laughing. “What?  What’s so funny about that?”

“Got someone in mind, Matt?” one chided.  He threw a pillow at his challenger.

“Funerals!” spoke another which provoked more laughter as they all looked at Matt’s target.

“I know you run meetings.  What’s that called?” Tom queried.

“Moderating,” Dan taught.

“Do you do the finances too?” Rose asked in her Argentinean accent.

“I suppose some pastors do the finances, but it’s not a practice in our church.  Our churches normally have treasurers.  In some churches the treasurer is a deacon.  The only part I have with finances is when the elders review the budget at the end of the year and prepare a new one for the next year.”

“Are you the janitor for the building?” Maria asked seriously.

“No.  Okay, it’s time to let you in on a secret: pastors do many, many different things and wear many different hats.  Because of the varieties of churches and philosophies of ministry you could not formulate one job description for all churches based upon the wide range of views out there.  People expect the pastor to do everything from being the church’s CEO to working as its maintenance engineer.  Some expect him to be the great communicator, a building architect, the master problem solver, and all around jack of all trades.  Excuse me, I’m going to get something,” he said while whisking off to his home office.

Mona and Melissa were just returning from the kitchen with trays of sliced pies and a large ice cream container.  They took count of who wanted dessert or dessert a la mode. Rose and Maria offered to serve the plates around.  Dan returned with some papers in hand.

“A friend of mine once said that many think the Bible says a pastor must be all things for all people, but the Bible says that Paul worked to be all things to all people.  My friend said that because of the unspoken expectations by a host of self-appointed bosses.  Those of us who are people of God’s Book must look to what God says he wants his pastor to do, and downplay the rest,” Dan intoned.

He added, “I remember the time one unhappy man came up to me after I gave a sermon on the roles of a pastor.  He said, ‘Two things: pastors are supposed to be everything we’re supposed to be but aren’t, and pastors are here to serve us.  That means you serve me!’   Writers London and Wiseman said, ‘Churchgoers expect their pastor to juggle an average of sixteen major tasks’ (1993, p. 62).  On a lighter side, let me read you an email that circulated years ago; the author is unknown:

Results of a computerized survey show that the perfect pastor…

  • Preaches exactly 15 minutes, condemns sin, but never upsets anyone.
  • He works from 8:00 AM until midnight and is also the janitor.
  • He makes $60 per week, wears good clothes, buys good books, drives a good car…and gives about $50 per week to the poor.
  • He is twenty-eight years old and has been preaching for thirty years.
  • He is wonderfully gentle and handsome.
  • He has a burning desire to work with teenagers and spends all his spare time with senior citizens.
  • The perfect pastor smiles all the time with a straight face because he has a sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his work.
  • He makes fifteen calls a day on church families, shut-ins and hospitalized;
  • Spends all his time evangelizing the “unchurched” and is always in his office when needed.

If your pastor does not measure up, simply send this letter to six other churches that are tired of their pastor, too.  Then bundle up your pastor and send him to the church at the top of the list.  In one year, you will receive 1,643 pastors and one of them should be perfect.  WARNING!! Keep this letter going! One church broke the chain and got its old pastor back in less than three months!

The small group roared.  Matt’s laughing knocked over Scott’s coffee.

“You asked a very good question, dear one.  Jane Rubietta wrote that  ‘Expectations

are the reason 33 percent of clergy leave their pastorate.  Pastors are ‘one of the most frustrated occupational groups in our country…the reason may have much to do with their inability to live up to the expectations placed upon them’ (2002,  p. 57).  I would add that it’s not the expectations so much as the wrong expectations people have, and the undue pressure they place on pastors to fulfill those wrong expectations.  Another author wrote:

The pastoral role now includes an unfocused and expanded range of duties.   The congregation expects the pastor to be in charge of nearly everything (except activities that the powerbrokers want to control).  Being ‘in charge’ here means not only seeing that the activities get done, but also that everyone interested in them is happy with them.  From doing the bulletin, to repairing the furnace, to increasing the pledges and enhancing the congregation’s image in the community, the pastor must see that everything is taken care of (Rediger, 1997, p. 23).

This is some heavy stuff, but it is something we cover in the membership classes.

Just what is a good job description for a pastor?” Dan asked rhetorically.  “The pastor’s job description is derived from his priority to serve Jesus Christ as he serves God’s people in the ways God sets forth.  What people often do is set up their own job description of a pastor, usually unspoken, based on one of three models: a slave, a genie or a junior messiah.  That is what London and Wiseman are referring to when they say:

Most ministers have too many bosses and wear too many hats.  In many cases,             congregations expect their pastors to do whatever task anyone dreams up; after all, no      one knows exactly what a pastor’s real job is.  This may be the primary reason many    churches stand still and stagnant – the pastors are overwhelmed with trivia and have no time left for what matters most (1993, p. 63).

A goodly percentage of denominations outline in a general way what pastors are expected to do.  Ours does.  But it is difficult to put down everything a pastor does because it varies according to the God-ordained roles he fulfills and the needs he addresses.”

Dan read another excerpt from The Cross and the Christian Ministry:

Those who follow Christian leaders must recognize that leaders are called to please the Lord Christ – and therefore they must refrain from standing in judgment over them. In other words, if it is important for the leaders to see themselves as servants of Christ entrusted with a magnificent commission, it is also important for the rest of the church to see them as ultimately accountable to the Lord Christ, and therefore to avoid judging them as if the church itself were the ultimate arbiter of ministerial success (Carson, 1993, p. 98).

“What does this church’s denomination have as your job description?” asked one of the college kids.

“I don’t have our Book of Church Order with me, but I can get you a copy later.  Let me see if I can recall: watch over the lives of God’s people in his care with regard to their doctrinal beliefs and morals.  Exercise church discipline, visit people in their homes, especially the sick.  Teach, comfort, nourish and guard the children.  Be a model of Christ.  Evangelize and disciple.  Our book says that these things are done in concert with the other elders.  The pastor also ministers the Word of God through preaching, baptizing, and serving the Lord’s Supper.”

“What roles are you talking about?” Matt asked, still sponging clean his spill.

“What does the word pastor mean?” Dan asked.

“Shepherd?” Scott replied hesitantly.

“Exactly! Think of all the things attached to the role of a pastor. What are they?”

“Feed sheep,” remarked Michael.

“Guide,” added Scott.

“Protect,” said Maria.

“See, you’ve got it.  Now, can we write up an exact job description that details how the pastor shepherds God’s sheep?”

“No,” came a chorus.

“Another very important role, perhaps even more important than the role of the pastor, is that of a servant.  Again, he serves the Lord first and foremost, and then serves people according to God’s directives.  Just like Jesus did.  Like other believers he is a priest who intercedes, and like other believers he is a peacemaker or reconciler.  Paul says he is like a father and a mother, an athlete, soldier and farmer.  He is also a professor or teacher, a preacher, a mentor or disciple maker, a model and an evangelist.”

“Wow!  That’s a huge list,” exclaimed Melissa.  “No wonder you were going all of the time.”

“Still is!” Mona added.

“I’m really glad you asked this question.   It is so important for God’s people to understand and encourage their pastor in the duties and roles God has for him and not to add superfluous extra-biblical requirements.  It is most important that God’s people not expect their pastor to be their personal slave, genie or junior messiah.  It is also very helpful to your pastor to correct false assumptions, views and expectations by fellow members.”

Melissa started clearing away the table.  Others got up to lend a hand. Some of the young men went back to finish off the dessert or refill their mugs.  After thirty minutes, the living and dining rooms were cleaned.  Crystal and Rose washed the serving platters, while Matt took out the garbage.  He was still embarrassed for spilling coffee on the braided rug.

Dan invited people to stay and relax.  He pointed to the cabinet of games.  Jake, awake from his nap, was six steps from the landing when he yelled for Scott to play a game with him.  Some expressed heart-felt gratitude for the time and left, but a few people took up the offer to stay while Dan excused himself to take his short Sunday nap.

 

Later that evening Dan and Mona related to each other how encouraging the day had been.  “Wish the Dumpletons and some of the others were here this afternoon,” begrudged Mona.

“Wouldn’t have changed a thing.  Might have angered them.  They want what they want and they want control.  John Maxwell is right when he says that people with big problems often cause problems.  In some ways they are to be pitied.”

Hearing the baby crying, Mona hiked the stairs to check on her.  Meanwhile, Dan went into his office to journal the day’s events and reflect on the matter of his duties.  He had a file folder on the subject of a pastor’s job description.  In his heart of hearts he knew he was fulfilling the vocation to which he had been called.  He identified with London and Wiseman’s comment as pastors that “Our legitimate discontent centers around playing church, coddling emotional infants, worrying about personal security, preaching arid doctrinal scholasticism, baby-sitting trivia, being controlled by spiritual pygmies and living by savage schedules that leave no time for prayer, study or outreach” (1994, p. 201).

It was a hard challenge for one who hated conflict and hated confronting others even more.  Dan kept a plaque by his desk that read,

“Five Reasons to Glory:

1.            God has entrusted you with the pastorate.

2.            You have the high privilege of being identified as an undershepherd of

the Chief Shepherd.

3.            Sheep respond to a shepherd.

4.            You are privileged to watch God’s sheep be born, grow, and mature.

5.            You experience unspeakable joy unknown to anyone else” (Wagner, 1999, pp. 176-183).

In his more sour moments he would add, “and experience unspeakable pain and discouragement unknown to most.”  “Whether real or assumed, expectations choke the vitality out of a pastor’s spirit.  Then what others think or what they want tortures him with worst-case scenarios of what might happen.  As a result, disquieting fears nag every expression of ministry, and pastors become so spooked that they can’t see the difference between a pesky mosquito and a ferocious lion” (London and Wiseman, 1993, p. 72).  For Dan those fears came true in his previous pastorate.  Those were pesky lions buzzing around after all!  The question Dan could not get a handle on now was, “What do I do with people like Irma and Mr. Strenk, and especially with Bernie and the elders?”

Dan knew he often feared and treated the antagonists like idols in his life.  He was constantly repenting of that.  He also recognized that he tended toward an over-inflated sense of his importance, caught up from time to time in the self-expectant role of junior messiah, much like what Leighton Ford wrote: “Sometimes we think that God’s work depends so much on us that we become feverish, compulsive and overly involved – workaholics of the kingdom rather than disciples of the King.  This kind of hyperactivism does not come from the obedience of faith but from the anxiety of unbelief,” (1991, p. 92).

London and Wiseman again nailed it with their diagnosis:

Pastors are facing a juggling act as they deal with mushrooming expectations the congregation, denomination, community, spouse, children or even self. In the Church, for example, members sometimes say straightforwardly, ‘Pastor, you are paid to do the church work, so you unravel the problems and care for the details.’  Even emotionally robust pastors find it takes energy and patience to cope with whining traditionalists, demanding visionaries and lethargic church members all at the same time.

To confuse the issues even more, the expectations often conflict with each  other at church, at home and in the greater community.  As a result, dehumanizing fatigue becomes a way of life for pastors, so even the strongest  feel their stamina wearing thin…As a solution, he suggests, ‘Expectations, like cataracts, must be removed because there is no way around them,’ (1993, p. 44).

The authors also provided a prescription:

        A miraculous cure for unrealistic expectations is to provide distinguished  ministry especially in highly visible areas such as preaching, worship or pastoral   care.  Word then gets around that you do your work as well as or better than any  previous pastor.  Excellence means doing the work God has given His Church well and in an exciting, interesting manner.

Such an excellent expression of ministry can give you a line of credibility that you might need to weather tougher times.  Many congregations overlook a pastor’s faults when they know he serves competently in other important phases of ministry (p. 78).

            Dan’s lust for approbation tended to ooze a self-destructive poison in his soul.  He learned he too easily catered to others’ wants and wishes.  Jesus never did that because he was always about his Father’s business (Luke 22:29; John 5:17-47; 9:4; 10:35-38).  Neither his father, mother (Luke 2:48-49) nor brothers could dictate the agenda God set for him (John 2; John 7:1-10).  The pressure of the great crowds always calling him to do what they wanted was not enough for him to cater to their desires.  Even in their excitement when Christ miraculously supplied a meal of bread and fish for thousands and they wanted to make him a king, he did not give in (John 6:1-15).  His disciples pressured him to rescue his dying friend Lazarus, but he only went when the time was right (John 11).  They were constantly trying to persuade him to do their bidding.  Then there is the time when Peter was harshly rebuked as being Satan when he tried to pressure Jesus to circumvent God’s redemptive plan through the cross (Matt. 16:20-28).  And of course the Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees were persistently trying to impose their Spirit-less, legalistic program on Jesus.  His rebuffs and righteous rebukes contributed to their growing hostility toward Him.  The man who would never bend or conform to their image of a good teacher paid for it with his life.  Dan knew he had not suffered like that.

He was just as London and Wiseman described.

One pastor opens windows of grace for others while criticizing himself: ‘To a great

extent, I’m a victim of expectations, my own and others.  Many of us who preach

grace as a way of life do not practice it in a relationship to our ministerial tasks.

We’re more eager to please the people than we are to rest in the fact that God wants

to use us the way we are.  We preach grace, but we practice a theology of works (pp. 73-74).

            Pastor Dan’s conundrum was placed before his pastor-friends, as well as his mentor, Kent.  He emailed with a very explicit question: How do I handle the pressure of unrealistic or unbiblical expectations from people in this church, especially the elders?

 

Dan deliberately avoided his email on Monday, so he was not aware that some solutions were waiting for him.  He spent the morning on honey-do chores, including cleaning up winter’s mess in their backyard.  When Jake got home from school, Dan decided to take the boys to a matinee while Mona and Hannah attended a baby shower.  After the movie the boys played freeze tag in the park across from the theatre.  The playground equipment got a good workout too.  The park was located in a large roundabout.  The theatre anchored the north side, an old fashioned drugstore complete with a soda fountain was posted on the eastern entrance, the Dumpleton hardware store secured the south, and a row of small shops, including Ben’s favorite reptile store, gated the western side of the street.

It was while swinging the boys on the swing set that Dan noticed Irma glaring at him through her sign littered window.  Dan’s first reaction was to feel a knot in his stomach, but then he stopped and asked God’s forgiveness for fearing man (Prov. 29:25; Matt. 10:22ff), well, in this case a woman.  What can she do to me? he applied Hebrews 13:6.  After much study and meditation, Dan came to believe that fearing others was due to a lack of a proper fear-revere of God, and such a wrongful fear caused him to abdicate his responsibilities as an authentic, loving pastor.  It contributed to his discouragement, defeats, depression and unwillingness to take calculated, Scripture-inspired risks.  He had to think long and hard on what John wrote in 1 John 4:18 that perfect love casts away fear. Doing the righteous thing before a fearsome God out of love for others is the power and antidote to fearing others.

Now, Dan wondered, how am I going to do the righteous and loving thing for this miserable woman?  His first proactive step was to stop, face her and wave with a smile. Even though she quickly turned away, he showed an undeserved kindness.  The second thing he did after the boys were clearly tired of the park, was to walk over to the store and track down the woman.  Directed to her office upstairs, holding his boys hands, he walked into the open office.  “Good afternoon, Ms. Dumpleton.  Business going well for you today?”  She was obviously startled and tried to brush off her unexpected guests.

“Who’s dat?” Ben asked of the woman smartly dressed in a grey suit.

“That is Ms. Dumpleton and she owns this place.  She’s made this business very successful, you know.  Practically every contractor in this county comes to her for supplies and tools.” Dan could literally see the winter thawing from her.  “Do you have time to give the boys a tour of your place?” Dan asked.

“I’m too busy.  I can have Max help you.”

Not to be put off, Dan decided to press his good fortune, as it were, and insist she show the trio around.  She tried to protest.  “Aren’t you supposed to be at your office, Mr. Lee?”

“This is my singular day to recharge so I can go hard at it the rest of the week.  I like to spend it with my family.  Surely you know that, don’t you?”

She scowled.  A hard, self-driven perfectionist herself, she rivaled Mr. Scrooge’s work ethic.  Surprisingly she relented.  “Oh, all right.  I only have a couple minutes, but I can show you what we have here.”

The tour lasted twenty-five minutes as she provided the history of the store, especially from the moment she inherited it.  She explained the various departments, ways she made her clients happy, and the challenge of keeping just the right inventory.  When she began to digress on the minutia of invoicing the big contractors, Dan had to excuse himself and his boys.  They were getting pretty restless, and Dan’s warning that the little one was having a hard time keeping his hands to himself was enough for Irma to grant them leave.  She had Max show them to the door, and dismissed them with no more than a proper “Good day.”

Dan pitied her all the more and determined to pray daily for her, especially as an enemy (Luke 6:28).  He also determined to find ways to bless her and thereby “heap hot fiery coals on her head” (Rom. 12:19-20).  It was a commitment to do the loving thing, a very difficult commitment.

At home, the boys told their mother about their afternoon venture.  Mona was very surprised to hear about the escapade at the Dumpleton store.  Dan had to explain his change of heart and tact.  He told her that he wasn’t going to hold his breath for change, but still prayed for change to come.  Instead he was going to do what God called him to do.  That was in his job description.

 

Dan had already outlined a pastor’s job description in the class materials for new members (see Appendix J).  However, what would he do to communicate that description to long term members with personal and preconceived notions about what he should do?  They were not about to go through another membership class.  And what of the elders who should know better but also had their own ideas?  It was time to seek the wisdom of his mentor and other pastoral friends.  But Dan would force himself to wait until Tuesday.  That night he and Mona decided to go out for a movie.  Dan was in the mood for a comedy.   Melissa volunteered to baby-sit.

 

Early the next morning, he switched on morning pot of coffee, and then checked his email.  Dan had twenty-three messages.  First, he deleted the spam and junk, quickly checked the five humorous ones his cousin sent, read through emails by the elders about church issues, and finally got to the posts he sought.  He went back to the kitchen for his first cup of coffee.  Back in front of the computer he opened and read the relatively short emails.  None of them offered anything surprisingly insightful or gave advice he had not already considered.  Still, it was good for Dan to receive confirmations that he was on the right track.

 

The energized father coached his boys to finish the oatmeal and toast Mona had prepared.  Ben wouldn’t eat it without lots of syrup.  Hannah had no trouble with the porridge at all; in fact she had lifted the pink plastic bowl and buried her face in it, licking as much of the sweet cereal as she could.  It was an uproarious scene of grunts and slurps followed by the display of an oatmeal-framed head.  This was one of those Kodak moments, so Dan snapped a picture.  Mona was not as amused since it meant a morning bath and shampoo.  Perhaps Hannah conspired for the bath, an event she relished?

Jake left for school, Ben played in his room, and Hannah headed for the bath tub.  Dan took his time getting ready, but was in his office by 9:00 A.M.  Usually, Tuesdays were a little more difficult because he had to assume the secretarial duties Melissa once did.  That meant sixteen additional hours a week of clerical work that robbed him of essential tasks.  Dan’s protests and pleadings to the elders went unheeded since they argued that for more than forty years the church went without a secretary and previous pastors did all the clerical work.  It wasn’t an issue of finances, for the little church was now in a position to hire a full time office worker.  Dan argued that while tradition might explain why some things are done, tradition alone does not mean some things should be done.  Dan also pointed out that he would have to cut back on other things or just let the administrative things suffer.  “Giving me more non-essential things to do robs me of the time I need for studying, counseling, and discipling.”  They countered with a charge that he would be derelict in his duties and that he had more than enough time to fulfill their demands.  Dan seriously wondered if this was a ploy to pressure him into leaving or if they were that ignorant of his tasks.

Because Dan was unable to put together the monthly newsletter, that only provoked Bernie and another of the elders.  Here was the occasion Dan was looking for to discuss his job description.  This would be one part in his overall strategy to broadcast the job description he had formulated from Scripture and from a mound of books and articles.  Along with presenting the study on the responsibilities and duties of a pastor to the elders, he would teach the subject at both the leadership class and the officers’ training.  When the time was right he would also interject a topical sermon series on the various Scriptural roles for a pastor, which incidentally applied to elders too.  At that time, sermon notes or supplemental materials could be inserted into the bulletins as he worked through each of the main themes, and the outline would be posted on the church bulletin board.  Time or not, Dan determined to work hard to have a series of newsletters speak to the subject.  At least now the newsletter would have a more focused purpose than merely fulfilling tradition.

“This paper is well and good, but you are not limited to doing only these things,” announced elder Frank at the elders’ session.  Dan usually placed a study or hot topic for discussion at the bottom of the agenda in order to accomplish normal business items first.  Often times the discussions were unfinished because Dan believed 10:00 P.M. was a bewitching hour, a time when tired minds and bodies were ill-suited for a wise discussion and ripe for irritability.  Therefore, he would stop the meetings at 10:00 P.M. and put the unfinished discussion as old business on the next agenda.

Quite surprisingly, Bernie agreed with Dan’s job description.  “I have no problem with this paper.  But, these are the basic things a pastor does.”

“I might underscore again that these are also biblical responsibilities and duties for all elders, not merely for the one dubbed pastor,” Dan challenged.  “Obviously the Bible doesn’t spell out in specific detail how we are supposed to accomplish these things, but it gives us God’s mandate and priorities for service.”

“I don’t agree.  This is your opinion.  These are things you are being paid to do,” Bernie fired back.

“So you are going to argue with the clear teaching of the Bible on this subject?  And argue with dozens of pastors, biblical theologians and scholars too?”

“You can make the Bible say anything you want it to!” Bernie snapped back.

“Then you also disagree with our Confession of Faith and our denomination’s Book of Church Order?”

“No.  I think all they do is give a skeleton for what a pastor’s duties are.  There is nothing that says the elders can’t formulate their own job description for a pastor, and nothing that says we can’t add to other lists.  Besides, so much of that is outdated and doesn’t even touch on things the pastor should do in this day.” Bernie pronounced.  This was a surprising contradiction to Bernie’s previously stated position.

“Bernie, are you arguing against the Bible, our Confession, and Book of Church Order on the grounds that they are out of date?  But you are the one who advocates for the traditions established in our church.  What – a tradition that dates back only forty years?  Come on!”

“What is your point in all of this?” Joe interjected.

“To bring clarity and some objective standard to my work as elder-pastor in this church,” Dan replied.

“Are you confused about what you should be doing?  Because if you are, we can draft a job description for you,” commented another elder.

“That’s a good idea!” declared Bernie.

“I agree,” added Frank.

“No.  The point is that the very priorities for ministry found in Scripture should determine what I do and what all the elders should do.  Other things such as planning youth activities or doing clerical work or mowing the lawn are secondary, even tertiary, to the very essential ministries I am called to do.  My recommendation is that you adopt this outline as this church’s job description.  In fact, I so move,” Dan said.  Though nobody seconded the motion, Dan explained that it was very problematic for any pastor to try to fulfill all of the spoken and unspoken demands and expectations of members, including the elders.  “On many occasions, you men have made it clear that what I do around here is either not enough or not good enough!  What is also clear is that I am not doing much of what God says I should do because our priorities are wrong.”

“Whose fault is that?” Bernie snapped.

After a ten-minute debate, the vote was cast against adopting Dan’s outline.  It supposedly limited elders from asking or requiring other tasks of the pastor.  Dan told them that he planned on teaching this material and preaching on the Biblical roles of pastors and elders.  The elders told him he could not preach on the subject, but if he wanted to he could teach it in classes, and warned him that if he did preach on the subject he would be charged with insubordination, refusing to submit to the will of the elder board.

They also decided to put together a committee of three elders to draft a job description for the pastor.  Obviously the meeting did not go as well as Dan had hoped.

 

“So what do I do now?” he asked Kent the next morning.

“Look, here’s the thing: you are not what they want in a pastor.  No matter what you do, unless you conform to their paradigm for a preacher and pastor, they will never accept you.”

“But Pastor Rick said that I should put up a good fight; take the men to the presbytery.”

“That’s one way to approach it, but let me ask you a few questions:  Do you believe you are ever going to change their minds?”

“Doesn’t look like it. They haven’t changed so far.”

“Do you believe you can push this issue and gain support from the vast majority of the church?  Or would it cause a split?”

“There would definitely be some sort of a split.”

“So what are your options?”

“Stay and deal with it or leave.”

“If you stay, you should know that it would likely take a long time to see the kind of changes necessary to bring your church into a greater conformity to Scripture.  The other option is to conform to their paradigm for ministry.  To see change you will not only have to outlast the antagonists, but you will also need to build up a new and strong base of people who agree with a biblical vision and mission for the church.  It could happen, but you’ll need to commit yourself for the long haul, ten to fifteen years perhaps,” Kent advised.  “Two books that might be helpful to you…”

“Okay, I’m always ready to read more.”

“The first is Red Light Green Light by John Cionca (1994).  It’s basically a book to help you decide with some objectivity whether to stay where you are or to leave.  The other is Craig Larson’s Staying Power (1998), which argues for staying and making a difference.  If you can get them in time you could read them during your trip to Oregon.”

 

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Filed under Pastor & Church Relationship, Pastoring, The Perfect Pastor? (book excerpts)

Honor Your Pastor

Tucked somewhere in the deep and tight recesses of my files are a couple of articles about how the general population views pastors. Twenty different occupations was on one survey list, and a random sample of people were asked to rate each occupation according to things like respectability, trustworthiness, likeability, etc. Sadly, the occupation of pastor was rated eighteenth in most of the areas. Used car salesmen, or as we say now, pre-owned automobile representatives, were listed at the very bottom.

One of those surveys was taken some time in the 1980s and the other in the 1990s. I wonder if things have changed much since then? As a pastor I’ve noticed the same kind of response from the majority of unchurched people. I try to avoid telling people who I work as a pastor. It’s a turnoff, at least where we live. If they ask and I tell, then this invisible barrier pops up. Usually it means the end of the conversation and sometimes even the end of the relationship. So I often hope they won’t ask so I don’t have to tell. Guess that makes me a closet pastor? At least I’m not a closet Christian.

I’ve never found a similar survey of attitudes about pastors in the church at large. My crazy guess is that Christians (and I use that term very broadly) probably give pastors a rating of fifteen, maybe even thirteen out of twenty (1 being the best). Unless they are scoring their own pastor; there you might find very high ratings on the one hand or very low ratings on the other. I suspect that most church people view their own pastors more favorably than they view pastors in general.
It used to be in those “good ol’ days” that pastors were highly respected. In the “good older ol’ days” they were so respected that they were quite revered. Hence the title “reverend.” However, those “good ol’ days” have never impressed me. Not because I’m against history, but because I don’t believe such days really existed, except in our selective memories or selective historical accounts.

No doubt pastors were highly respected and honored in days gone by; at least in Western societies. Such high regard is still found today in other cultures (mostly non-Western). For example, we have dear friends from India who recently returned to their home country. It is very much a cultural thing to show a high honor for people in positions they value. Teachers there are highly respected. Pastors are too, within the Christian sub-culture. When our friends were here, they were always so respectful and seemingly always surprised at the things I would do that appeared to them to be inappropriate. Like doing manual labor or serving others food or drink. I in turn, was always surprised at their amazement and at this unusual respect. As a crude “we’re all on the same level” American, their behavior could be quite unnerving. But then I began to understand the culture of biblical times, and what Scripture says about honoring your pastor (elder) and your brother (and sister) in Christ. My friends’ culture is not too far removed from the Biblical one.

There are several places in the New Testament where Christians are called to honor their church elders, just as believers are to honor civil authorities, bosses, parents and one another. No question that believers in Christ show some level of honor to fellow brothers and sisters. We’re called to honor our pastors (elders) as well as fellow believers in Christ. However, this is something that’s hard for us to do. We tend to honor pastors conditionally – if we like them or if they do what we like then we honor them. If not, well then we don’t.

What does God say? First, there are different ways to honor someone. To honor someone is to give them glory deserving respect, attention and obedience. One aspect of honor is a reverent fear (this is true of God). Another aspect is submission, which involves humility and obedience (such as with God and parents). A third aspect of showing honor is providing time and/or financial support (such as with parents and pastors).

Honor is a major theme in 1 Timothy. Some have described 1 Timothy as a manual on the life and practice of a local church and its government. Believers in Jesus Christ are to honor one another in Christ because of the honor we have for Jesus Christ. Other verses touch upon it, such as Romans 2:10; 12:10 and 1 Peter 2:17. More so is the honor we are to have for our Christian elders and pastors.

Elders/pastors are deserving of honor (except under certain conditions). Godly, Christian elders/pastors should be treated with honor (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1:5-7) because of their God-ordained position and character in Christ. We show them honor because they serve in Christ (e.g.: Acts 20:17,18). Godly elders who serve in Christ by directing, managing and leading the affairs of the local church deserve honor; especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching (1 Tim. 5:17, 18). This passage (1 Tim. 5:17,18) assumes that the godly elder/pastor is busy laboring in the good news of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:10; 16:16; 1 Thess. 5:12).

His is an honorable service that comes from and flows through the Word of God (Eph. 4:11ff).
Since God’s people are called to honor their godly elders, then just what does that mean? How so and in what way? Again, the New Testament plainly tells us. First, we honor our elder(s) or pastor by having a high estimation of their role and work (Phil. 2:29). We also honor them by imitating their faith in Christ (Heb. 13:7). Like a child mimics her or his parent, so too are we to actively mimic pastors who model the life of Jesus Christ. A third way we honor them is by obeying them in Christ (Heb. 13:17). This does not mean that we are to obey anything or everything the elder or pastor tells us. Rather we obey anything and everything the elder or pastor tells us to do that is a clear directive from Scripture. For example, if the pastor tells us not to steal, then we obey because God’s Word is more than clear that stealing is sinful. On the other hand, if the pastor commands someone to do something merely based on his personal preferences, then we don’t have to obey.

A fourth way is to show a two-fold honor. This is what Paul is talking about in 1 Timothy 5:17. Those who exercise pastoral oversight in God’s church and minister the Word of God should be financially supported by the local Christian community (1 Cor. 9:7-14; 1 Thess. 2:7; 2 Cor. 11:8-9). We are to count them worthy of such financial or material honor when they work well and as unto the Lord (Deut. 25:4; Luke 10:7). This is not saying the elder or pastor is to be well-endowed with money and material possessions. That would violate what God tells us in other places, such as in James. Instead, it means that the elder/pastor who dedicates his time, talents, gifts, etc., in serving God by serving God’s church is worthy of enough remuneration to support his (and his family’s) basic needs.

Honoring the pastor isn’t conditioned upon whether we like who he is or what he does. It isn’t based upon his personality, his vision for the church, his charisma, his charm, his philosophy of ministry, and so forth. Rather it is based upon his life in Christ, his godly character, and his work and position as one who is called and ordained to the office. Now, at this point I must say that not all who are called elders or pastors are indeed so, or are even worthy of honor. But I’ll save that for another time.

Don’t just honor your pastor when you feel like it or during a special season. Honor your pastor all the time. Honor him in the clear ways God says to honor him. This is God’s will for your life. Honor him so that he might do his work with joy, which will be to your benefit (Heb. 13:17). Honor him so that you honor God.

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Filed under Pastor & Church Relationship, Pastoring

(Old) Statistics on Pastors

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
(original article is at
http://www.intothyword.org/apps/articles/default.asp?articleid=36562)

What is Going on with the Pastors in America?

Here are some startling statistics on pastors; FASICLD (Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development). This quest started in 1989 as a Fuller Institute project that was picked up by FASICLD in 1998.

After over 18 years of researching pastoral trends and many of us being a pastor, we have found (this data is backed up by other studies) that pastors are in a dangerous occupation! We are perhaps the single most stressful and frustrating working profession, more than medical doctors, lawyers, politicians or cat groomers (hey they have claws). We found that over 70% of pastors are so stressed out and burned out that they regularly consider leaving the ministry (I only feel that way on Mondays). Thirty-five to forty percent of pastors actually do leave the ministry, most after only five years. On a personal note, out of the 12 senior pastors that I have served under directly, two have passed away, and four have left the ministry totally—that is, not only are they no longer in the pulpit, but they no longer even attend a church. And, I run into ex-pastors on a regular basis at conferences and speaking engagements; makes me wonder “what’s up with that,” as my kids would say.

From our recent research we did to retest our data, 1050 pastors were surveyed from two pastor’s conferences held in Orange County and Pasadena, Ca—416 in 2005, and 634 in 2006 (I conducted a similar study for the Fuller Institute in the late 80s with a much greater sampling).

Of the one thousand fifty (1,050 or 100%) pastors we surveyed, every one of them had a close associate or seminary buddy who had left the ministry because of burnout, conflict in their church, or from a moral failure.

Nine hundred forty-eight (948 or 90%) of pastors stated they are frequently fatigued, and worn out on a weekly and even daily basis (did not say burned out).

Nine hundred thirty-five, (935 or 89%) of the pastors we surveyed also considered leaving the ministry at one time. Five hundred ninety, (590 or 57%) said they would leave if they had a better place to go—including secular work.

Eighty- one percent (81%) of the pastors said there was no regular discipleship program or effective effort of mentoring their people or teaching them to deepen their Christian formation at their church (remember these are the Reformed and Evangelical—not the mainline pastors!). (This is Key)

Eight hundred eight (808 or 77%) of the pastors we surveyed felt they did not have a good marriage!

Seven hundred ninety (790 or 75%) of the pastors we surveyed felt they were unqualified and/or poorly trained by their seminaries to lead and manage the church or to counsel others. This left them disheartened in their ability to pastor.

Seven hundred fifty-six (756 or 72%) of the pastors we surveyed stated that they only studied the Bible when they were preparing for sermons or lessons. This left only 38% who read the Bible for devotions and personal study.

Eight hundred two (802 or 71%) of pastors stated they were burned out, and they battle depression beyond fatigue on a weekly and even a daily basis.

Three hundred ninety-nine (399 or 38%) of pastors said they were divorced or currently in a divorce process.

Three hundred fifteen (315 or 30%) said they had either been in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual encounter with a parishioner.

Two hundred seventy (270 or 26%) of pastors said they regularly had personal devotions and felt they were adequately fed spirituality. (This is Key).

Two hundred forty-one (241 or 23%) of the pastors we surveyed said they felt happy and content on a regular basis with who they are in Christ, in their church, and in their home!

Of the pastors surveyed, they stated that a mean (average) of only 25% of their church’s membership attended a Bible Study or small group at least twice a month. The range was 11% to a max of 40%, a median (the center figure of the table) of 18% and a mode (most frequent number) of 20%. This means over 75% of the people who are at a “good” evangelical church do not go to a Bible Study or small group (that is not just a book or curriculum study, but where the Bible is opened and read, as well as studied), (This is Key). (I suspect these numbers are actually lower in most evangelical and Reformed churches because the pastors that come to conferences tend to be more interested in the teaching and care of their flock than those who usually do not attend.)

Here is research that we distilled from Barna, Focus on the Family, and Fuller Seminary, all of which backed up our findings, and additional information from reviewing others’ research:

Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.

Fifty percent of pastors’ marriages will end in divorce.

Eighty percent of pastors feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastor.

Fifty percent of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.

Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.

Seventy percent of pastors constantly fight depression.

Almost forty percent polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.

Seventy percent said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing their sermons (This is Key).

Most statistics say that 60% to 80% of those who enter the ministry will not still be in it 10 years later, and only a fraction will stay in it as a lifetime career. Many pastors—I believe over 90 percent—start off right with a true call and the enthusiasm and the endurance of faith to make it, but something happens to derail their train of passion and love for the call.

Focus on the Family has reported (http://www.parsonage.org/) that we in the United States lose a pastor a day because he seeks an immoral path instead of God’s, seeking intimacy where it must not be found. F.O.F. statistics state that 70% of pastors do not have close personal friends, and no one in whom to confide. They also said about 35% of pastors personally deal with sexual sin. In addition, that 25% of pastors are divorced. The statistics I had with church growth resources is even higher. Pastors who tend to be very educated seem to have the ability to embark in sin on Saturday and preach the Word on Sunday without thinking anything is wrong.

Remember, Pride and Arrogance will be the diving board that will spring the pastor into the pool of sin and cause a church to fight amongst themselves!

Out of the 1050 pastors we surveyed during two pastors conferences held in Pasadena, California, 825, or 78% (326 in 2005 and 499 in 2006) said they were forced to resign from a church at least once. Sixty-three percent (63%) said they had been fired from their pastoral position at least twice. In the survey, we asked why they were fired—from the reasons given by the church board versus what they felt the reason was. We laid out 15 categories with a blank space to fill out what we may have missed: poor leadership, conflict with key staff or lay leadership, gossip, lack of funding, doctrinal divide, hardship on family, not connecting with membership, power plays, church council refusing to resolve conflict, resistance to their teaching, resistance to their leadership style or vision, failure to teach biblically, poor people skills, failure to follow job description, inappropriate relationship, or other sin. They gave us a top five main explanations on a scale of one to five, with few (8%) reporting on any of the other categories. These stats are based on number one response; at the same time, over 70% of pastors stated three of these five reasons. Here is the order (these findings have been retested and back up in internet polls done since 1998, and church survey studies done since 1980:

Four hundred twelve (412 or 52%) stated that the number one reason was organizational and control issues. A conflict arose that forced them out based on who was going to lead and manage the church—pastor, elder, key lay person, faction, …
One hundred ninety (190 or 24%) stated that the number one reason was their church was already in such a significant degree of conflict, the pastor’s approach could not resolve it (over 80% of pastors stated this as number 2 if not already stated as number one, and for the rest, it was number 3!).
One hundred nineteen (119 or 14%) stated the number one reason to be that the church was resistance to their leadership, vision, teaching, or to change, or that their leadership was too strong or too fast.
Sixty four (64 or 8%) stated the number one reason to be that the church was not connecting with them on a personal level or they could not connect with them, or the church over-admired the previous pastor and would not accept them.
Forty (40 or 5%) stated that the number one reason was not having the appropriate relational or connecting skills as a pastor. (It is interesting that no one mentioned lack of teaching ability—only that their teaching was not accepted. Could this be pride?)

The other significant study of pastors that held similar results as ours was conducted by psychologist Richard Blackmon (with ties to Fuller Seminary and Dr. Archibald Heart), also reported by the Los Angeles Times newspaper. In 1985 as well as more recently too, Blackmon surveyed one thousand pastors from four major denominations in California, USA. His research, which was ongoing up to 2004, revealed that over 75% of ministers are extremely or highly stressed. He even found that 31.75% of the clergy surveyed had sexual intercourse with a church member—who was not their spouse! In addition, he found that 30% to 40% of ministers ultimately drop out of the ministry. His research goes on to say the average insurance costs to churches for dealing with mental breakdowns with clergy is four percent higher than any secular industry. Blackmon states that the significance of the stress is mainly based in the areas of personal finances, church finances, building issues, recruitment of volunteers, counseling issues, and visitation. Sermon preparation and teaching seem to be last on his list!

The stress, according to Blackmon, is a primary result of the continual, intense, care responsibility of pastors compared to a medical doctor who will see a terminally ill patient for an hour or so, then see them again in a few weeks. He suggests that the pastor must set personal limits for himself to maintain balance, develop relationships outside of the church, and to be in a support group with other pastors. Very good advice!

The problem, as we have found (and I agree with Blackmon, but as a symptom and not the prime issue), is that people lose focus on what the mission and central theme of the Church is. Both pastor and churchgoer miss the main theme of what a church is about, which is to know and worship Christ as Lord. So, when there is no growth from the pastor’s personal life, no discipleship, few people in Bible Study, then there is no mission or appropriate purpose for that church, and there are no goals; therefore, there’s nothing really to do effectively. The result is the “shearing of the sheep.” Instead of being fed, they will feed upon one another, as well as the pastor, in a feast of conflict and strife. Since the church has nothing to do, then all the energies are turned inward to attack one another. I guess it beats being bored.

When I was with another church growth consulting firm, we did a major study of pastors and came up with some astounding statistics. We found that 90% of pastors work more than 50 hours a week. One out of three pastors state that being in the ministry is clearly hazardous for their families. One out of three pastors felt totally burned out within the first five years of ministry. Over 70% of pastors do not have anyone they would consider to be a friend, and hardly any pastors had any close friends. Ninety percent (90%) of pastors feel they were not adequately trained to cope with ministry coordination and the demands of the congregation. Seventy-five percent (75%) of pastors experience a significant crisis that they faced due to stress in the ministry (Fuller Institute, 1989-1992). We at the FASICLD retested that data by various means starting in 1998 and also retested the results in an internet survey form several times over the last eight years. We found it has slightly worsened. Most pastors now work up to and more than 60 hours a week. Hence, why the divorce rate among pastors is rising and pastor’s children rarely stay in the church or keep their faith. In both studies, over 40% of the pastors reported serious conflicts with their parishioners every month. This leaves pastors physically tired, spiritually weary, and even distant from God! Thus, they cannot properly minister or connect with their flock.

There was a poll taken by a sociologist named Jeffrey Haddan (“Prayer Net” Newsletter, Nov. 13, 1998) in which he polled over 7,400 Protestant ministers. He found that 13% to 51% of ministers, depending on their denomination, accepted Jesus’ physical resurrection as a fact. His poll states between 19% and 60% of ministers believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. The poll goes on to say between 67% and 95% of ministers believe that the Scriptures are true in faith, history, and practice. These statistics are extremely despairing. What do these ministers think they are doing? What is their purpose? And, what are they trying to accomplish in God’s Holy Church? If you are the church leadership and you do not believe in the tenets of Scripture, you have no business being in leadership and certainly no business being the Shepherd and teacher of the flock. What you are is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, which will be harshly judged by God.

We at FASICLD conducted a simpler internet poll in 2005 of 2,245 pastors and another 1050 in person by our surveys in pastor’s conferences as seen above. Because we are reaching Reformed and conservative Evangelicals, the stats are very different. We found that over 90% of pastors polled believe in the resurrection, virgin birth, and the validity of Scriptures (we did not get into the various aspects of inerrancy). The significant problem we found is the “buzz” or willingness to go beyond belief into trust, and then model that to their congregations. Being beat up in the ministry wears them down and derails their focus.

The result of both studies is this: the pastor must be theologically sound. A pastor who does not have a good theology is like an engineer who does not know math; he or she would totally be unable to do the job of designing. A pastor that is not theologically sound is like a surgeon who does not know anatomy and physiology; would you want him or her to operate on you? Would you want a lawyer representing you who does not know the law or the court system? When we are in the pulpit proclaiming the truth of Christ, it better be just that—the truth of Christ, not our inclinations, new ideas, or the latest trend in theological thinking. All these new waves of theology just confuse and alienate the body of Christ, who are the parishioners we serve and are called to protect from false doctrine, rather leading to God’s truth. Most of these new ideas keep changing and conflicting, and only last a few years until the next latest theological fad comes into play. Why play with the fire of that game when God’s truth remains the same and only our creative thinking keeps changing? It’s good to be creative as long as it does not go against the teachings of Scripture!

The results of the survey are that pastors face more conflict, more anger, and more expectations than ever before. At the same time, they work long hours and have little pay, little reward, and produce their own dysfunctional families because of their absence. And, to top it off, they are not being adequately trained nor fed spiritually. I need to state clearly that this is not true of all pastors; there are many who are excellent in obeying their call, pastoring great churches, and being there for their families who are growing in the Lord. And, as a pastor, I must be aware of this so I do not fall in these traps myself. The statistics tell us that many more pastors have not learned to balance family and ministry or adequately deal with the immense struggles of the job. Thus, many are not able to lead their church where it needs to go because they have not been where they are seeking to lead others in growth or in spiritual formation. I totally sympathize with them, yet I call pastors to wake up to what they are doing, and why they are doing it. At the same time, hey church, take care of and respect your pastor!

The bottom line is this: if you are a pastor your job is to serve Christ first and foremost! Thus, it is imperative that we do not become thoughtless or uncaring concerning the buildup and practice of our personal faith. In so doing, we are also to be aware of and embrace the opportunities Christ has and will still bring for us. Our focus must be on the main thing and Christ is the main thing and at the same intention we are not to negate or neglect our personal faith development or our family. If we do, we personally fail and thus our churches will fail too and our family fails and we create the massive destruction, conflict, chaos and strife that has become so rampant in so many churches. We are called to do the opposite to discord and conflict, we are called to bring cohesion and community and show the character and love of Christ first to ourselves, then our family and then our church. In so doing we bring growth, maturity and love, being in and practicing “true spirituality!”

If we do not have a desire to pursue the call of God, we have to ask ourselves why and what is in the way. Why are we in ministry? We have to ask, what is the role of pride and the desire of sin and how is it blocking us from proclaiming Christ as a pastor? Sometimes, we may not recognize sin and will perhaps rationalize it away. This happens especially when solid biblical theology or teaching is not being rooted in us and not thus being taught from us, then our churches become just social clubs of gossip and contention or entertainment and not the real effectual Chuirch of Christ where He is model and shown as Lord. Remember, our election is proven by our obedience, fruit, and growth in Christ!

As pastors, it is our call and duty to be on guard against the erosion of biblical values and damage to our and our churches beliefs and biblical mindset (Psalm 123:3; Mark 4:19)!
Remember, churches fail because we as pastors fail; we tend to place our needs and desires over the Lord’s. It is His Church and we are His servant. Let our focus be on the right target—that is, His Way and not ours! We are called to a higher purpose. We are not called to ourselves. We are to lead others to Him, not to our self. Ministry is a wondrous call, it can be joyful and fulfilling; it is also a dangerous thing because we are before a Holy God. Yes we have grace, but we have responsibility too!

© 2007 (research from 1989 to 2006) R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development http://www.truespirituality.org/

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Filed under Abusing Pastors, Pastor & Church Relationship, Pastoring, Pastors and Discouragement

A Pastor’s Secret Heart

 “… will give those who are not pastors a deeper understanding of what the ministry means.”

“… many pastors today are having to endure spiritual hardship and much inward conflict and the testimony of this article is a soul-strengthening reminder that God’s ways are not our ways.”

Our experience of the pastoral ministry stretches back to an ordination in the late fifties, and during the ensuing years we have fed and shepherded three congregations. While, in the complexities of individuality, our experiences have been our own exclusively, we believe that others may share with us in some measure; we may express what other pastors feel. This we believe to be the case. We trust that our candour will not be misunderstood.

___________

In the sweep of these years since ordination, that is, from youth to our middle years, we can see two categories of experience, the bad and the good. Perhaps most of us, in our more public thoughts, are accustomed to concentrate upon the good and we give much emphasis to the privilege of our calling (of which none should be in doubt). But it is possible that, by taking stock of the bad, by facing it honestly, we may arrive at a deeper appreciation of the good. Certainly, for candid expression of what is bad, hurtful, searing, even desolating, we may take prophets and apostles for our example. We believe that the hold which these men had upon the sovereignty of God was the stronger because of their dark experiences, and by their plain revelations to us of their secret hearts, they afford us an opportunity of comprehending less imperfectly such a truth as Paul writes of, ‘the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings…’ [Phil 3.10]. We will adopt the pattern, therefore, of stating some of our bad experiences before the good, hoping thereby to magnify the name of the Lord who called us in our immaturity, and who has been our refuge, our strong tower.

Jeremiah’s speech is alarming: ‘O Lord, you deceived me, and I was deceived..;’ [Jer 20.7]. The prophet here expresses a cry from the furnace of his afflictions, daring to suggest that the Lord had not forewarned him of all the details of those sufferings which his ministry entailed. Ordained in his youth, the prophet sank under the hostility and venom of his contemporaries, not to mention the burden of apparent ineffectiveness, which seemed to characterize his ministry. It is true that God graciously decreed that Jeremiah should know the broad outline of the work which he was to fulfil from the commencement of his ministry [Jer 1.7-10], but of the daily details which would ensue — woven as they must be around and through his experience with people, and wrought within the tensions of his particular age, of these the Lord had said nothing.

Just so, we recall our ordination in youth. Perhaps our little flock had their expectations and we had great expectations within our heart. We thought that we knew ourself and others. In both respects we have had much to learn. We came to that day of days crying, ‘Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart’ [Ps 119. 111]. From the first, we set about the holy task of unfolding the meanings of the Scriptures. Moreover, in our three charges we have seen that the Scriptures, preached Christ-centredly, and in the conviction that they are God’s authoritative Word, do feed and nourish the believers. Yet such a ministry stirs wrath in the worldly and the unregenerate. As Jehoiakim tore and burned each page of God’s word through the prophet, after it was read to him in his room [Jer 36.21-23], so have we also seen the commandments of God demolished insolently in the fire. And this response is more obvious now than when we began our work. For us, at least, these are more difficult days than were those of the late fifties. Partly this derives from our youth being gone, because many will make allowances for a young man where none is made for the pastor with grey at his temples, and with heavy eyes. The most obdurate listener will entertain some hope that the youthful preacher will ‘change’, whereas no such hope will shield the same preacher in his later years from the barbs of those hard hearers. (We would here thank God for the love and understanding of those many Christian people, who, with courtesy and encouragement, have warmed even to our most immature utterances!)

But these are also more difficult days than former ones because of developments in society itself. Respect for authority generally, and respect for the ministerial office in particular, is much reduced. Individualism and self-assertiveness now rage without control. The very concept of the declarative communication of truth is demeaned: participation in the quest for ‘consensus’ has much diminished the preaching office. Together with this, we have seen a growing passion for excitement among professing believers. This poor, crude generation appears to know nothing, and to care nothing, for the testimony of the church’s experience through the ages. The strange, sad fact of the Montanists of the second century; the poignant waywardness of Andreas Carlstadt in the sixteenth century; the extraordinary novelties of Edward Irving’s ministry in the nineteenth century; and the diversions of those mystics of every age who set experience above God’s written testimonies, are all as if they had never been. In 1832 Daniel Dana wrote: ‘A special cause of doctrinal error and corruption is found in that excitement which frequently attends revivals of religion; and particularly, lengthened religious meetings. In these cases, the imaginations and feelings of men, being powerfully roused, the plain truths of the gospel pall upon their ears, and they demand something more novel, more startling, more overwhelming’. We fear that the present passion derives not so much from any revival of true religion, but rather from a religion which has already departed from allegiance to the Word. We fear that this passion is essentially man-centred, and that it will crash, within the coming decades, in a most dreadful disillusionment wherein the preacher’s work may have many more difficulties added to it.

The cult of youth enters upon our present experience with desolating power. We recall from our childhood an awe of those who were old in the faith. ‘The glory of young men is their strength, grey hair the splendour of the old’ [Prov 20.29]. Today, however, our western world has gone far to rob old men of their splendour. Even the middle-aged must often give way to youth as we have witnessed when serving as moderator in vacancy committees. We have sat in despair as believers have stipulated that they shall look only for a man under thirty years of age, or certainly no where beyond his early thirties. Indeed, we must frankly confess to a spirit of outrage at the assumption that men in their forties, with both vigour of mind and body enriched by years of pastoral care, are now dismissed as vessels no longer fit for noble use. It has seemed to us, in our most dolorous frame of mind, that this is a human sacrifice not totally dissimilar from those which desecrated the kingdom of Judah — to feed upon a man’s youthful strength and vision, and thereafter to forget him. We recall those many overtures made to us in former years, by churches which sought to procure for themselves a pastor. Now we turn into our manse with the narrowing years at times oppressing our heart. The world seems to have passed us by: ‘I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind: I am like a broken vessel’ [Ps 31.12].

We believe that these three ingredients of the present times, namely, diminished respect for authority, increased passion for excitement, and the cult of youth, have given rise to the existence and employment of wrong criteria among the churches in their search for pastoral care. The danger may be described, in general terms, as looking for ‘instant’ personality — ‘cooked and tinned’ and needing but to be opened and served — for glamour, for youth. The whole emphasis is upon immediate things: ‘with-it’ is an imperious prerequisite. With… what? we ask. We have not departed from our first conviction, that to be much with God, and much with his Word, and much with the flock, is to have one’s life joined where it matters most, irrespective of one’s age.

We may speak from sore experience, and say that a confrontation with moral problems will prove to be rocks upon which many ministries break. We know what it is to weep with and for the fallen, while seeking to counsel them in the way of life, and with nothing but compassion and love for them in one’s heart. But we also know how wrathful a flock can be, if their pastor should dare to enter upon such matters. We know what it is to be seemingly alone, in seeking to safeguard the church’s purity before a lax, indulgent and promiscuous world. We believe that moral problems call for the utmost love and wisdom: both graces are taught by the Spirit through the actual experience of bearing one’s responsibility in such times. But we would counsel the utmost caution. We would urge upon our brethren a forethought of the cost which the duty before them may incur.

The pilgrim went from his Valley of Humiliation into the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Our path has gone in much the same way. We believe that, as greed rends the world, so vanity too often rends the church. Congregation upon congregation is dominated by a few powerful personalities who love their prominence, and who brook no interference. We do not depreciate powerful personalities, per se. Nor do we forget that the church has been greatly blessed, in every age, by those whom God gifted with leadership qualities. Such men are needed today in every congregation. It seems to us, however, that the church is blighted by the influence of those who love their power more than they love the Lord. To such people there is an impossibility about the apostolic command, ‘Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ’ [Eph 5.21]. In such situations, collision with pastoral authority is inevitable. We have been hated for this very cause. We know what it is to be slandered, to have some affront set before us every week for years on end, to bear the company of those, in the services of worship, who will not shake our hand, nor allow us over their door-step. We know what it is to be quiet when others revile us, misrepresenting and distorting and fabricating all that animosity can invent. Moreover, weknow what it is to believe that we have deserved no such treatment — that those who treat us worst of all are just those who have received kindness from our hand.

We cannot deny the weight of this suffering. Our resolve at times grows weary. We break-down and cry in our study where no one sees. We learn a certain slowness in our trusting of others: some prove false, and their evangelical statements are exceedingly hollow. But of others we may suggest that their hold upon the truth is so slight, their sympathy with the Biblical emphasis is so superficial, their openness to the poor values of this crazed world is so wide, that, while they declare themselves to be profited under our ministry today, we dread lest some turn of events shall quickly disrupt their loyalty. The night-watches do tend to close our mind upon these sorry things; sleeplessness is our frequent portion during the darkness, and weariness is our frequent portion through the day. Loneliness is the salient feature of our path. We do not refer to isolationism, for we have always sought the company of our colleagues, and have contributed fully to the wider work of the church. But we and our colleagues are so busy, so engrossed, that when the heart is desolate at the ‘Fraternal’, none has sufficient quietness of spirit to discern it. We plough our lonely furrow. With none in our congregation could we share these matters. Leadership where the church is weak has this loneliness to it, as has leadership in many walks of life. We must confess, however, that we feel a certain impatience with much triumphalist talk about the ‘fellowship’ which believers have with one another. For the most part, the structures by which the church’s fellowship is expressed are not adequate to meet our need.

On one matter we see a constancy from our ordination to this present hour. We refer to the response which people make to the saving truth of the Gospel. As then, so now, we see that a saving faith is the imparted work of the Holy Spirit. We have known what it is, times beyond number, to press the claims of Christ upon our flocks. Our best efforts, our most judicious exposition of the Word, our most fervent and impassioned appeals and applications, all fail until it pleases the Lord to bestow his blessing upon our labours. We confess that, at times, we feel that the dullness and beast-like passivity in the people, as if they were so many cows placidly gazing at one from the other side of the hedge, derives from too much television-viewing. In fact, we suspect that our people do sometimes ‘switch’ to another ‘channel’ as they sit before us. Certainly at the heart of our human need is the inability to stir anyone until Christ’s loud voice says, ‘Lazarus, come forth’ [John 11.43]. We have seen this throughout our work. It has dominated our thinking, until, night and day, we cry to the Lord that he will graciously bless our hearers.

Now that we have written of the bad, we shall turn to the good portions of our work. They are the better, and are apprised as being so, because of our bad experiences. Supremely, we have learned that we did not choose Christ, but that he has chosen us [John 15.16]. A little imagination set in motion upon some of the facts here seated, will soon persuade any reader that we have often wished that we were in any other work but this. The Lord alone has kept us pressing-on at our duty. The conviction which brought us to our ordination, namely, belief of the divine call, is now finer for having come through the furnace. We believe that our present ministry is in direct response to that providence which see us here. We are, therefore, convinced about God’s will. Our peace is deepened, however much our will may have been crossed.

Our awareness is sharpened upon the face that God has a purpose for us. Our consciousness of obedience is much increased, so that we tend to fear, most of all, any act of disobedience which we may foolishly perform. We are encouraged to expect that, as God has been pleased to take such personal dealings with us, it will please him at any time to break forth in the normal routine of our life, with his extraordinary and reviving power. We now believe that our communion with the Lord is deeper than it was, so that we feel the assurance of his presence with us, even in the valley of the shadow. And we confess that we entertain some hope of our offering to God obedience, not only in the general matter of our continuing in a work which has brought us so much anguish, as he dictates that we should, but also in every detail, so that our whole life shall be couched by his glorious power.

Again, we have increased in our understanding of the Scriptures as the years have passed over our head. We have had this Book with us in times when our spirit was daunted and devastated. It has been our constant study. By it the Lord has spoken to us. It has moulded and chastened our thoughts. With all our heart we love this glorious document. Moreover, we cannot but testify to the face that our study of its pages is now, almost invariably, rich and wonderful to our own spiritual life. We feel a continual pleasure in the edifying of the Word. We rarely go before our people without a sense of the gravity, and the graciousness, and the wisdom of his Word. Our complaint is not that our message is poor: rather, we feel the paucity of our own words to express truths unutterable.

Again, we have increased in our compassion for our fellow men. Our eyes are sometimes filled with sorrow. Formerly they might have flashed with indignation — and this emotion we still feel. But now our hearts go out in pity to chose who are so small, so petty, so distorted in their vain ways. We see more clearly than we did ‘the judgment seat of Christ’ [2 Cor 5.10]. We look upon our flock with all that experience of their weaknesses and our own. We are poor muddled creatures. God is infinite in his condescension to make use of us. We go among our people now in a less opinionated way than may have been before. Nor do we go among our people only. It has pleased God to grant us the chaplaincy of a local hospital. Here we spend one afternoon every week, at the least. Gradually we feel that this extension to our ministry — which our own flock fully supports — is bearing fruit. It is our undying sense of privilege to have these opportunities set before us. ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’ [Mat 4.4].

Again we have increased in our admiration for the work of the Spirit in the lives of his people. The faith which our office-bearers display, the perceptive understanding of the Word which some of the least in our flock are given, the loveliness of Christ which lights up the faces of young and old believers until neither is old nor young, but conjoined in one excellence in him — these and many other works excite our ardent praise. We admire the catholicity of the faith. We have seen the same admirable work in many people, and in many flocks. We hail all believers, all who are regenerate by the Spirit and who love God’s Word, as one holy people. And if, among our friends, we have such as do not share our points of emphasis in subordinate matters, or who are unknowing in matters of great importance, we make it our task to dwell upon the uniting truths, both for their good and our own. We also remember our callowness, our immaturity, remembering also that it pleased God to use us even then; we do heartily admire the Spirit’s work.

Again, we have increased in our appreciation of the richness and the diversity of life. Perhaps we are deeper within ourself than we were before. Perhaps we are more cautious than we were; less credulous in our relationships. Perhaps we live in a larger patience with men even because of a certain scepticism, or slowness of judgment. We do not rush with exaggerated applause. These years have brought us so many heartaches, disappointments, and frustrations, that the boyish enthusiasm of the beginning is now quite gone. Yet the pathos of life and its glory are before us. We live now in a much greater awareness of God’s thoughts to us-ward, whether or not the world heeds our work. We live in keener anticipation of the Lord’s presence than we did. We move steadily into the second half of our expected ministry with some foreboding, some regret that our ambitions have been so signally unfulfilled, some sigh in our heart that these will never be our portion.

Yet there is deeper tranquillity. We confess to a delight in such musical works as those of Franz Joseph Haydn: works which come to us across the centuries from an age of violence and quite awful disruption, with serenity and the soaring aspiration of the human spirit. But such we interpret with the ‘tools’ of our knowledge of the Word, and chiefly in its disclosure of the glory of the Lord. We realize how brief is life, and how speedily we have come from our ordination to this point in our pilgrimage. The beauties of the world are all about us now; now we have eyes to see them. But increasingly our heart cries, ‘Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus’ [Rev 22.20]. We now have less expectation from men, or from the world. But there is a greater ingenuousness in our evangelistic yearning, for that very reason. For the Lord’s sake we desire their eternal good. Meanwhile our heart is nourished in hope: ‘God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away’ [Rev 21.4].

 

Reprinted from The Banner of Truth Magazine, no. 235, April 1983

 

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