For most of my fifty years in ministry, I’ve served as a foreign missionary or seminary professor. However, in my senior years, I’ve been called to serve as the Teaching Pastor of our church. This new responsibility has prompted me to think about the calling of pastors. For sure, it is a high calling, and it is a challenging one, too.
The Pastor’s Challenge
To describe the indescribable—” Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Cor 9:15, NKJV) I thought about this the other day. We are expected to stand before our churches and describe the indescribable gift of Jesus Christ to the world. Talk about a hard job!
To shepherd the flock—”Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly;” (1 Peter 5:2, NKJV) This means pastors should provide pastoral care for their members: visiting the sick, comforting those in sorrow, counseling, conducting funerals, etc.
To administer the church—The verse above speaks of “overseers,” and this refers to the administrative duties of a pastor (budgets, planning, church calendar, committees, etc.). One of my seminary professors said, “Preaching is the easy part of pastoring.” Another student asked what he meant. He replied, “In committee meetings the members talk back.”
To evangelize the lost—”But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Tim 4:5, NKJV) This means pastors should preach evangelistic messages, witness to the lost, and train their members to witness.
To preach biblical sermons—”Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” (2 Tim 4:2, NKJV). When I served as a senior pastor, I preached three times a week about 46 weeks each year. That represents a lot of messages to prepare and deliver.
To set a good example for the members—”Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (1 Tim 4:12, NKJV) No one despises my youth anymore, but I can remember when folks would say, “But you’re so young, do you know how to do this?” People don’t say that anymore, but I still must be careful to set a good example.
To give an account to God—”Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” (Heb 13:17, NKJV) This verse says that pastors will give an account to God for the behavior of their members. We studied this in my Sunday school class recently, and I asked the class if they wanted to give an account to God for the behavior of their fellow church members. They all emphatically replied, no.
To be judged more strictly—”My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” (James 3:1, NKJV) This verse cautions pastors to interpret and apply God’s Word carefully (2 Tim 2:15) because God will evaluate what we teach.
The verses above demonstrate the challenges that pastors face. No wonder that the Apostle Paul wrote, “And who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Cor 2:16b)
The Pastor’s Comfort
I’m happy to report that the Lord helps pastors fulfill their calling. We are not left to our own resources.
The Lord Jesus is always with us. He promised, “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Just think, Jesus had just commanded His eleven remaining disciples to evangelize the whole world; yet, He promised to accompany them always and everywhere. He is always with us, also.
The Lord Jesus provides the strength we need. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13, NKJV)
God provides when we are insufficient. “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Cor 3:5-6, NKJV)
God proves Himself strong, even when we are weak. “Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:10 NKJV).
The Pastor’s Crown
The New Testament teaches that faithful pastors and missionaries can anticipate the reward God has prepared for them.
They will receive the crown of glory. “and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.” (1 Peter 5:4) This verse is part of a passage about the responsibilities and attitudes of church elders (pastors).
They will receive the crown of righteousness. “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Tim 4:8, NKJV)
For those of us who are pastors, these verses remind us that we must rely on the Lord’s power to perform our ministry. Truly, we are insufficient. This should keep us humble and dependent on the Lord. For readers who are not pastors, I hope this motivates you to pray for your pastor. When I was a pastor in Kentucky, I regularly appealed to my members to pray for me. I often said, “You get what you pray for.” Many pastors are tired, discouraged, downtrodden, and burned out. Let’s lift them up in prayer and say something encouraging. They are trying to fulfill a high calling.