A Model Pastor
God gives pastors for what?
It's strange to me that in thinking through the answer to this question the last thing that occurred to me was that we have a Model. My mind went through the whole catalog of methods and programs before the light dawned: how about the Good Shepherd? Don't we have in him the one perfect portrayal of what a pastor should be? How did he operate?
Well, first, he kept his own life in order. In his own words:
"I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me . . . for I always do what is pleasing to him" (John 8:28-29). That's a good place for pastors to start!
He had a heart of compassion for his flock: "When Jesus saw her weeping . . . he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled; and . . . Jesus wept (John 11:3~35). In the Greek of this text it is apparent that our Lord's first emotion was a seething anger at the awful devastation and frustration that death brings; then there was a sudden, quiet flow of tears as his pastor's heart identified with his friends in their grief and unbelief. This picture is especially beautiful when we remember that Jesus then proceeded to bring his friend Lazarus back to life.
He took his disciples with him, to let them see his actions and reactions in every kind of situation. There was no cover-up; they lived with him and thus had opportunity to observe the intimate detail of his life and ministry. Oh, yes, he puzzled them and stretched their minds and their faith to try to understand him. But what a way to learn!
He taught them the truth about life. He satisfied their deepest hunger, by leading them to green pastures and still waters. He led them in right paths! And what does God's flock need more than these?
How sad that we should offer them gimmicks and gadgets---the Mickey Mouse approaches and Band-Aid solutions to the deep problems of human life. Only the Word of life will suffice to meet the deep needs of the human heart. How dare we give "sermons" and neat little essays of human opinion instead of proclaiming the Word in clarity and power.
Jesus was a living exposition of life in what he did and what he said. Can we substitute another way and claim to be Christ's men? Have you noticed how many times our Lord said, "Follow me" in the Gospels? Perhaps that's the word we need to begin to take seriously. He's the model----especially for pastors.
But, you say, we need a modern example so we can see how these principles work out in practice---now. Okay, let's look at some, for in my life span I've seen all kinds of evidence, both positive and negative, that we can follow, even twenty centuries later. But we've barely begun to see and employ all the practical value of his way.
Some Basic Essentials for the Twentieth Century
Let's look at some of the ways we have discovered:
Keep a constant flow of teaching on the New Covenant concept that we are totally inadequate in ourselves, but completely adequate as we trust in the sufficiency of our indwelling Lord. This is the mainline teaching throughout the Bible---how to walk by faith and enjoy victory through Christ. And it's there in every portion of Scripture.
Complement the central expository ministry from the pulpit with life-related fellowship in sharing type activities as described by Ray Stedman in his book Body Life. Add to this plenty of sharing in Sunday school classes and home meetings, where there is ample dialogue for opening up the key issues that are bothering people. There is sharing together in both learning and caring in this kind of atmosphere.
Show and tell
Provide all kinds of how-to-do-it opportunities in which people can be shown as well as told how to function in real situations. This means we offer practice teaching situations, then real-life teaching ministries; training on how to witness, then actual witnessing together to people whose eternal destiny is at stake; counselor training, then opportunities to really help people in deep need. There's no way this approach can be just an academic exercise or "spectator sport."
Have enough concern and commitment to actually disciple our leaders and workers instead of handing them a book and turn-ing them loose on their own. This means a commitment and priority of spending time with them, just as our Lord with his own. (See Dave Roper's brief, "Making Disciples," in Appendix A.)
And most important---keep our own fellowship fresh and sweet with our Lord by hearing and obeying his Word. There's no way we can be part of the answer when we're part of the problem. Why? Because we have no power in ourselves to effect redemptive changes in people. Our Lord said, "Apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).
We can also, as pastors, help people discover their gifts by teaching what spiritual gifts are and giving opportunity to explore various possibilities of ministry. (See "Saints Alive!," Appendix A, and Body Life, already referred to, for guidelines on this.)
We can also do research and teaching on problem areas like abortion, marriage and divorce, women's lib, and other current concerns. It's most helpful if the pastoral staff can lead out in this research together, then teach their conclusions to other leaders and teachers. Pastor David Roper's brief on Principles of the Ministry in Appendix C is a good example.
Much can be done to help our people in their personal lives and ministries if we will be available to consult with them on interpretive problems, counseling situations, and the like. We should be ready to back up their ministries any way we can. Incidentally, we have found that much of this can be done on the telephone.
The Big Burner
Total Christian education should be our goal. As one of my colleagues says, it's like a big burner: the expository pulpit min-istry is the center of the burner, and the complementary efforts with their greater participation possibilities form the outer rings of the burner. This is the air-conditioning system of a church, maintaining a warm atmosphere and a climate conducive to spiritual health and growth.
Let's light up the Big Burner, not to make things hot for everyone, but to warm up the saints and condition the atmosphere. It can be the means by which we really hear from God, setting the whole tone of the ministry.
In order to do this we must get back to the kind of expository teaching that is dedicated to lifting out and presenting the true sense of the text so that God can reach our wills through our minds. This demands forthright declaration of truth in clarity and power. No wonder the early apostles decided they should "give themselves to the word of God and prayer" (Acts 6:4).
And dialogue, not monologue
Let's use all the creative imagination we possess to provide lots of sharing---of needs and supply, of doubts and faith, of questions and knowledge, of hurts and healing. Let's be willing to listen, talk, probe, debate, yield out of love, or stand firm on convictions in order that "speaking the truth in love, we may grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love." (Eph. 4:1-l6)
God's Gift to the Church---Pastors?
One of my fellow pastors said one time: "The best thing that could happen to the church is for all the pastors to be put in jail." Obviously this was said somewhat facetiously and not be-cause he hates pastors, for he is one. The point is that if all the pastors were removed from the scene, Christians would have to count on the ministry of the saints and so learn to trust the Lord to work through them, not just the paid professionals. How far we have strayed from God's original plan for the church, because in most churches the pastor is almost the whole show!
Actually, pastors are God's gift to the church, and his intentions were good. Along with apostles, prophets and evangelists, "his gifts were that some should be . . . pastors and teachers toward the fitting out of the saints [all God's people] for a work of ministry" (Eph. 4:12, a literal rendering). In other words, a pastor is sort of a "playing coach," not just on the bench, but in the game---not just telling the team what to do, but doing it with them so as to show them how.
This is quite different from what happens so often.
Pastors should be training people to:
- discover their gifts,
- learn how to study the Bible,
- learn to be counselors,
- learn to teach,
- learn how to evangelize,
- learn to recognize and defeat the Christians' enemies,
- but most of all, how to live in liberty and triumph through Christ:
in their families, in their work, among worldlings, and in the Christian body.
Know any pastors? Are you one?
Will the Real Pastor Please Stand Up?
I am often asked, "How many pastors do you have in your church? And the only honest answer I can give is "a lot." If they are talking about paid professionals I could give them a number, but if they are dealing with reality, I can't be specific. In reality we do have a lot.
Who is the pastor to the preschool kids? Certainly none of the paid pros are. Most of us never even see the preschoolers unless we happen to have one in our family. Yet the preschoolers don't lack pastors.
I love to tell the story of a young woman I know who was brought up shooting dice with "the boys" in the back room of a bar. Through the loving concern of a relative she got into an adult Bible class and discovered the joy of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Some time later when she heard a plea for help in a preschool class, she volunteered to help in the emergency. But she remained in that ministry for many years and became the department director for the whole preschool ministry. Who was the real pastor to preschoolers? It's not hard to see that it was this young woman. She and a corps of other teachers were the real shepherds of this "little flock."
Elders are also pastors. Every man in ruling authority must have his personal ministry and area of pastoral care.
The only distinction I can see between the paid pastoral staff and the other pastors in the church is that some are financially supported to free them to devote their full time to their pastoral responsibilities. It's great for people to understand it that way: that all of us called to a pastoral ministry, whether paid or volunteer, are co-pastors in caring for God's flock.
God gave many to be pastors and teachers.
"Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change" (James 1:17).