If you were to ask around, what do you suppose most people would say a pastor’s job is? To “marry and bury” might come up, and that is among his duties. But there must be something more than that, right?
In some places, you might get an answer of being “relevant”. Others might see him as an administrator over all of the daily goings-on of church life. Sort of a CEO of the church, whose word is law?
Maybe the guy handcuffed by the demands “prominent families”, or perhaps the workhorse responsible for so many odd jobs that his own wife and kids are neglected. Is that what being a pastor is all about?
The name, pastor, should say it all; it means “shepherd”. To understand the role the pastor plays, consider how a shepherd helps his flock.
If you see Ezekiel’s rebuke of the leaders of his generation (Ezekiel 34), you will get a sense of how God sees that role. Feed the sheep. Strengthen the weak, gather the lost, heal the sick, protect them from predators.
Why? What is the objective behind “shepherding the sheep”? Ephesians 4 answers that question. (paraphrasing:) To equip the saints for the work of the ministry, to build up the body of Christ, resulting in a mature, unified faith and knowledge of the Son of God. To build up right relationship with God, and each other in love, so that we are not swept away by those who will certainly come to deceive and cheat us.
Is the pastor’s function to give us a list of do’s and don’ts? Nope. It is to tell us how special we are and how wonderful he wants life on terra firma to be, with a big house and a fat wallet? That’s missing the point. Is it to entertain, amuse and tickle your funny bone?
None of those things. But in the anything-goes affirmation society we have built for ourselves, the real answer won’t fly with many “Christians”.
The pastor’s job is to help you grow up. To give you solid food that will sustain you for the journey. To teach you how to recognize hazards on the way. To help you understand the tactics that will be used against you, and properly counter them. To help you connect with another unit of Mature Ones, to go out and find others who need helping, protection, or direction, and become a Provider, rather than just the Provided-For. Basically pastors help ordinary people get up and join the fray.
Is that what we see today? Are they offering solid food, or candy-floss? Are we taught about real hazards, or does he blow sunshine up our backsides, too afraid of upsetting the Dear Ones? Does he help the flock to understand the adversary’s tactics, or is he ignorant of them himself? Is he there to groom children for maturity, or does he extend his congregation’s childhood indefinitely, offering a diet of pablum that cannot possibly sustain?
See how many congregations and denominations are empty shells of what they once were. How many have fallen to Compromise, Pietism, Pragmatism, Relativism, or Liberal Theologies. How many are split, or so consumed with self-centered pursuits that they hardly remember the word “Gospel”, let alone how to preach it.
The enemy does not intend to fight fair, or give advance warning. It’s our job to be alert. Do not be ignorant of the enemy’s schemes. There’s another wave coming. Are you ready? Or will you stand back and watch your flock become another trophy on Screwtape’s mantlepiece?
It’s time to stand up and give a solid defense of the gospel. To take public stands on current issues. It will not make you popular, but you were not called to be popular. A servant is not above his master, so remember how Christ was treated.
Here is just one example of what we need to be ready. This summer, while churches vacationed, and had covered-dish dinners, a determined group of 50 hand-selected people got focused training on how to flip the Church’s opinions on marriage — from the inside.
They were required to read 1,100 pages of dense academic reading material even before they could attend the seminar. They are not intellectual lightweights, they are not unprepared, and they are not to be easily dismissed. Matthew Vines and company have a plan they intend to execute.
Says Vines, “we need to participate in the discussion on two levels,” he said. “We need to have the academics, the facts, the hermeneutics on the issue, but we also need to be winsome. We need to be engaging. We need to be kind in our approach to it. It’s not simply about winning the factual debate. It’s about winning both the mind and the heart.”
If pastors do not make their sheep ready for such threats, they should re-read Ezekiel 34, and see what God has to say about shepherds who fail to protect their flocks. Or better still, the previous chapter, and its warning to those who fail to sound the alarm when a threat was coming.
Christ condemns those preachers who merely entertain “itching ears”. He reserves his praise for those he finds faithful to the Master’s call.
Which one are you?