Meditations on Pastoral Ministry
The office of an elder (1 Tim 3:1–7; Titus 1:5–9), he being a pastor of Christ’s sheep (1 Pet 5:1–5), has a divine origin and appointment (Acts 20:28). The pastor is called by God to be a minister of the Word (2 Tim 4:2), to steward the mysteries of the Gospel (Col 1:25), in the power and under the direction of the Holy Spirit (Is 63:14; Lk 4:1; Rom 8:14).
The man of God, in his calling, must first set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel (Ezra 7:10). Like Noah, the pastor is a preacher of righteousness (2 Pet 2:5); therefore, he must hide God’s Word in his heart (Ps 119:11). He must be awed by God’s Word (Ps 119:161), taking in God’s truth like daily bread (Jer 15:16).
The man of God is not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for he is a witness to its power to convert sinners and sanctify saints (Jn 17:17; Rom 1:16–17). He knows the Bible to be a double-edged sword (Heb 4:12), and a sword belonging to the Holy Spirit (Eph 6:17). His passion is to be an approved workman, accurately handling the Word of truth (2 Tim 2:15).
The man of God submits to years of education, in gaining knowledge of the Bible (2 Pet 3:18), which is hardly a point of pride. Not only does grace cause his growing in knowledge, but he reads of the holy prophets and apostles, who suffered immense persecution, both inside and outside the church (Heb 11:37). Gospel ministry offers greater suffering, for greater faithfulness in service (Col 1:24; 1 Pet 4:13). Still, like Jeremiah, he cannot deny his calling because God’s Word burns in his bones like a fire (Jer 20:9).
God’s revelation of Himself, a glimpse of His thrice holiness, constrains the servant of the Most High (Is 6:3). Having been purified by the Spirit and the Word (Is 6:5), the pastor is sent on mission to preach to a mixed congregation, as did God’s heralds before him. Some hearers will revel in what their ears now hear, seeing things in the Scriptures they have never seen before. Others, dim and dull, will plot the pastor’s demise. They, like the forty would-be assassins of the apostle Paul (Acts 23:12–13), deny themselves, until they have succeeded in “serving God,” by killing the man of God, be it in body or spirit (Jn 16:2).
The man of God must take heed, therefore, unto himself (Acts 20:28). He must resist the devil (Jas 4:7), and the temptation to become a man-pleaser (Gal 1:10; Eph 6:6). Pastors must spend much time, alone with God — in prayer, in devotional meditation in God’s Word, and in preparation to preach and teach sound doctrine (1 Tim 4:6). The ministry of the Word and prayer is the minister’s labor (Acts 6:4). This is done in his private study, in pastoral counseling, and in the public reading and proclamation of the Scriptures (1 Tim 4:13; Acts 2:42).
There is much to dissuade the faithful pastor, and many leave their first love under pressure, but this is why pastors must draw strength from their devotional relationship, with the One who made them adequate as servants of the new covenant (2 Cor 3:5–6). Like the Puritans and Covenanters, they may be forced out of their pulpits and churches, being separated from their flocks. Some are cast away into obscurity, as were Stephen Charnock, George Herbert, and A.W. Pink. These gave themselves to write theology, and later generations have not yet ceased to profit from their labors done as unto the Lord.
Daily diligence, in godly duties, marks the indefatigable redeemer of time. The man of God is no slouch, nor sloth, for it is a labor of love, sometimes for an audience of only One. He must press toward the mark of his high calling (Phil 3:14); and it is the best calling, for its elongated intimacies with the holy One of God (Acts 4:13). Having seen and experienced the goodness and severity of God, his task is solemn and discourages unwarranted levity. It does not go without joy, however. Here is the pastor’s secret strength — a manifestation of the powerful work, of the indwelling Spirit, to produce good fruit (Gal 5:22–23; Eph 6:10).
Warning the wicked of wrath to come (Mt 3:7; Lk 3:7), and the saints of chastening love (Heb 12:4–11), is one side of the pastor’s counsel and preaching. Hope for the future is the other side (Ps 146:5; Col 1:27; Titus 2:13). He hands off the hope of glory, like a cup of cold water, to a thirsty pilgrim on the marathon run of his life. The weary says to the weary, “Thank you for your Word this morning, pastor.”
Finally, the man of God is fallible, sometimes a bit fragile. He needs the prayers of God’s people more than he requests it of them. When he is weak and humbled, then God is strong (2 Cor 12:10). The candle burns itself out while its light shines for others to see. This is your pastor, who knows you, personally, and loves you.
The mega miracles of charlatan show men are no match for the sinner, who repents at the home visit of his pastor. Revival comes to those whose souls cleave to the dust, in only one way…the Word (Ps 119:25), powerfully demonstrated by the Spirit (1 Cor 2:4), through the minister of the Gospel.
God does not share His glory with another (Is 42:8), but first in line to see His glory is your pastor, who is transformed by seeing Jesus transfigured into something greater. Not that Jesus’ glory ever changes (Heb 13:8), but the pastor would rather be in the Shekinah-filled tent with Joshua and Moses, or with David in God’s house, than to be anywhere else or with anyone else. A man is changed more and more, as he is inspired to spend more and more time with Jesus. Like Moses, your pastor’s face will shine, after a good week of preparation.
Your pastor needs you like the men who stood beside Moses on the day of battle (Ex 17:11–12). The man of God raises his heart and his hands to heaven, where he knows the battle belongs to the Lord (1 Sam 17:47). He wants you to know that victory, too (2 Cor 2:14; 1 Jn 5:4). That is why your pastor was sent to you, why he is who he is, and why he does what he does. He is a man after God’s own heart, a friend of God, a man of God’s own choosing. Your pastor is a suffering servant, who has the joy of the Lord, as he sees his children walking in the truth (2 Jn 1:4; 3 Jn 1:4). Are you with him, or working against him?
Spokane Valley, Washington
July 9, 2022