Pastor Appreciation: The Man and the Mystery
As a van driver for a transportation company, it behooves me to use the platform given to me to show you the value of your pastor. Clearly, I have nothing to gain in being an advocate for your pastor.
The apostle Paul often gave witness to his own heart in the ministry of the Gospel (Acts 26; 1 Cor 4, 9; Phil 1:12–25; Gal 1:11–24; 2 Tim 4:9–18). Most often he was giving a defense of his apostleship, against those positioned to undermine his ministry. In view, in this article, is the Spirit-empowered man of God, who often suffers, in order to unveil the mystery of Christ crucified, by proclaiming (katagellomen), preaching (kerygma), teaching (didskontes), and admonishing (nouthetontes) God’s saints.
Our text is Colossians 1:24–29. In this passage the apostle Paul shares his thoughts from prison, in Rome, writing to a church he had never visited. His heart’s desire was for the Colossian believers to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that they might walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects (Col 1:9–10).
Paul suffered in serving Christ and His body, the church (Col 1:18, 24). There is no more succinct description of the trials of Paul than to read 2 Cor 11:21–33. There, of course, was more.
Pastors suffer in diverse ways. There is competition in the ministry. The feelings of inadequacy abound. If it is not the pastor’s preaching style that is deficient, surely it is his pastoral counsel that falls flat. No doubt the pastor has problems at home. Problems in the church, burden the man of God to no end.
The pastor is still learning, despite having to be the “expert” in spiritual matters. He must hold doctrine with conviction, but when his convictions change — because he is growing in knowledge and spiritual maturity — he may just outgrow his denomination. There is always the next challenge of spiritual integrity that incessantly visits pastors. Pastoring is a never-ending test of doctrine and practice.
Pastor popularity wanes for any number of good reasons. It is the temptation to compromise, to keep people happy and attending, that drive many pastors to depression, and some to suicide.
Still, Paul suffered for the sake of the elect saints (2 Tim 2:10). Thus, he suffered (with joy!), as did our Lord Jesus Christ, at the hands of those who mistreated him, who were the very ones He came to save. Whether we speak of Joseph, Moses, David, Jesus or Paul, there are troubles within and outside the church.
The apostle Paul received a stewardship, bestowed upon Him by Christ Himself (Col 1:25–26). It was given to Paul to believe and to suffer, as the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15–16). His task was to unveil the mysteries of Christ to every man, Jew and Gentile, the beloved saints of God.
Pastors have treasure in earthen vessels. They are clay pots, with the riches of the glory, of the Gospel mystery in them. As a pastor studies, meditates, and prepares to preach and teach the Word of God, the value of the treasure increases (pleroma). He is growing in grace and knowledge. Here is the value of an older, more experienced pastor. He has, in theory, more years in the Bible and more scars on his body and soul. The presbyteros have something to say, while the mega congregations love their hipster youth pastors.
No one can microwave a sage pastor into existence. Only as God allows a pastor to see the wisdom of Christ, does his value manifest, as a fragrance of life unto life to his appointed flock. The people begin to hear the voice of Christ with greater clarity, as their pastor increases in stature and wisdom among men.
God has willed to make known the Christ of Scripture to His saints (Col 1:27). Blessed is the flock, whose pastor has a double portion of the Spirit, as was requested by Elisha, at the departure of his pastor and mentor, Elijah. Do you value your pastor in this manner? As when Jonathan was ready to relinquish his royal place to David, the result of God’s anointing on him.
The leadership strategies and gimmicks employed by the ignorant, sadly, miss the simplicity of the pastoral calling. Paul wrote, “We proclaim Him (Col 1:28).” The Greek word, translated, “proclaim,” is kataggellomen, which is where we get our English word, “angel.” Your pastor is a missionary to you, for your benefit, “To the angel of the church at Missoula…” What you need from him is his admonishing counsel, his accurate handling of the Word of truth, and his love for Christ Jesus, our Lord. That’s it. There is nothing else. Woe to the pastor who must secure a second master’s degree in marketing!
When the power (dunamei) of the Holy Spirit energizes (energeia), the work of your pastor’s ministry (Paul used diakonos = deacon = servant) to labor, and even strive (agonizomenos = agonize), for the sake of Christ’s church, then you are in a good place.
The demonstration of the Spirit with power is not some frenzied, high energy rock concert where God’s people act like the world, pretending to be filled with the Spirit. Rather, when the Spirit and the Word are working mightily in a pastor and congregation, there is a sanctifying work and effect (Jn 17:17; Rom 15:16; 1 Thess 5:23; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2). Sin lessens its grip because holiness pervades in the Christian’s inward parts. The manner of her walk is observed by others outside herself. She has been the beneficiary of a faithful pastor, who has suffered to present her complete, holy and blameless, in Christ.
Thank God for your pastor; for the means of God’s Spirit and Word in him, to unveil the mystery of Christ in you, and for his willingness to suffer in diverse manners, in the process to establish you in the faith.
Spokane Valley, Washington
November 28, 2021