The Word-Centered Pastor
I will never forget the first time I read about a pastor being saved. Thomas Chalmers had been called to the tiny parish in Kilmany, Fife, Scotland in 1803. After the death of a sibling, and an illness that nearly took his own life, he was genuinely faced with mortality. This caused him to muse on life, death, Christ, and salvation. It was 1811 when his life was transformed and his ministry, too.
Chalmers’ conversion, as a young pastor in his twenties, came in the usual way. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ (Rom 10:17). This story of God’s grace forever caused me to be cautious, to really listen to pastors, to hear if they were truly converted. The reason: Chalmer’s story of belonging before believing is troublesome for congregations of people who sit under unconverted men.
One would have to be a member of an unconverted congregation to sit under an unconverted preacher, because the child of God has the Spirit of Christ, who gives discernment in spiritual matters. It did not take long for the rest of the Church of Scotland to know of a bit of revival at Kilmany. When God had mercy on their pastor, He had mercy on many in the congregation, too. The word spread.
The Word of God is the word of life, the word of truth (Ps 119). It is powerful when it is preached. Because it is inspired by God, when it is wielded as a double-edged sword of the Spirit, it has its intended effect. Men are either cut or pierced, and then they are nourished and nurtured. The pastor, who has full faith and confidence in the Word, is one who has become Word-centered. The Word-centered pastor is exactly what the description entails, for he is not entangled with any other affairs (Acts 6:4).
As a goat nibbles on a plastic milk jug in times of want, a sheep has no diet for alternatives. How far do some people drive each Sunday to hear the Word of God preached from a man of God? One would be amazed at the tales of sacrifice of people, who love the Word of God enough to spend a great portion of their Sunday in the car to reach green pastures and still waters.
In the current famine in the land of America, a famine for the Word of God exists because of the state of the shepherds (Ezek 34; Amos 8:11). Bent on church numerical growth and cultural relevance, many pastors have become administrators of activities or top-notch entertainers. How many pastors where you live are considered Bible scholars, and at the same time, impassioned proclaimers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Every healthy economy has a measured supply and demand, and this must be true in the church, too. What do congregations want in a pastor? If generations of “relevant” church have produced anything, it is irrelevance. The reason is that the only thing relevant at church is the Word of God, preached by the man of God, filled with the Spirit of God, producing acceptable worship by the people of God.
The Field of Dreams mantra, “If you build it, they will come,” may be true for passion plays, rock concerts, Easter egg helicopter drops, etc. Compare “if you, preach it, they will come,” and it may only be true to a much smaller degree. They will be a peculiar lot, a small congregation of eager sheep. They only want one thing from their pastor, for him to know the Scriptures, and for him to open the Scriptures, so they might be fed, watered, and protected.
Where is the Word-centered pastor? He is somewhere alone with his rod and his staff, watching over a little flock of people, who wouldn’t be anywhere else.
Spokane Valley, Washington
March 15, 2022