The Actual Job of the Pastor

April 13, 2015

I’ll mention from the outset, that not all of you will agree with some of the positions that I take. That shouldn’t be much of a surprise since I’m an evangelical pastor that some of my positions are counter-cultural. But that’s not why I’m writing on this issue today. I’m writing concerning well-meaning Christians who don’t think people like me are going far enough.

Recently in the Northern Dutchess News, a letter to the editor appeared to call on the carpet pastors who are “apathetic cowards, invisible apostles, silenced saints while the cross lies abandoned in the gutter.” Strong words. He chastises the church for capitulating to the culture around itself instead of striving to be “salt and light” (Matthew 5:13–16). This is true in a number of cases. There are certainly churches and denominations that have given up on the book that undergirds all they say, think, and do: the Bible. Through amazing feats of hermeneutical gymnastics they rip the book from its context and make it say things it was never meant to say, all to appease the current cultural bugaboos. But, this writer specifically goes out to address evangelical pastors (like me) of not doing our job in leading the troops into the ongoing battle of the culture war.

Now, if all the job of a pastor was to lead a war against and ever-shifting culture, then frankly, I think I have my medals to prove my worth. I don’t normally brag, but I’ll pull a Paul on this one occasion (2 Corinthians 11:16–33):

  1. I have stood out front praying in front of Planned Parenthood.
  2. I have raised money and supported pregnancy resource centers and helped start one in the last community in which I ministered.
  3. I have spoken at a rally for religious freedom.
  4. I have participated and encouraged letter writing campaigns in support of persecuted brothers and sisters around the world and taken a stand for Christian values.
  5. I have publicly spoken out against the ongoing moral decline of our Western culture.
So, according to the letter writer, I should be fine. But unfortunately, the letter writer addresses issues which, fundamentally, are not the core part of what a pastor’s job is. Sure, a pastor is part of the larger world and should be exercising his rights of freedom of speech and religion, but his job is fundamentally about helping the people that the Lord has entrusted to him, and not necessarily as the leader of a culture war. What are the pastor’s jobs?
  1. To teach and preach the Word of God (2 Timothy 4:1–5). My primary obligation is to instruct my people what God has told us in His Word. That certainly includes what is morally right and wrong according to the Scriptures, and how Christians are to live in a world that fundamentally disagrees with them on said morality. But teaching the people is the primary obligation of the pastor. Not necessarily to lead a culture war as the general.
  2. To equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12). As a product of teaching and preaching the Word of God, we are seeking to help our churches do the work of the ministry. It’s actually not my primary responsibility to be doing the work of the ministry (whether within the confines of our church doors or outside) but to give my people the tools and resources to do it. In the end, they’re the generals in a war against evil. I’m simply a military advisor.
  3. To lead the church (1 Peter 5:1–4). My job isn’t to lead the world. My job isn’t to be the world’s police officer. My job is to lead the church and exercise authority over it. While I need to speak the truth of the Scriptures into the world at large, my primary responsibility is to effectively lead the church God has given me. That’s enough work already than trying to lead the world too.
While I certainly have moral stands I take that are rooted in what God has revealed in the Bible, my primary job is not as a general of the culture war. Certainly I will speak the truth into the world (and expect the freedom to do so, just as I expect those with whom I disagree to have that same freedom), but I will primarily consider and care for the people that God has given to me. And I’m not going to whip them into a frenzy to brow-beat people of the world into submission. All people are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and deserving of our respect and goodwill (Galatians 6:10). And, while that means not calling what is evil good and what is good evil (Isaiah 5:20), it does mean we’re going to be gentle and kind, and show the world a different way, based upon our love for each other, and our love for people (1 Peter 2:12).

I’m not a general. I’m just a humble servant of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, trying to help prepare my little sheep-fold for glory.

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Hope for Today

April 6, 2015
Easter sort of builds us up to a heightened level of spiritual frenzy just to let us down again on Monday. We move through a season of preparation, are confronted boldly with the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our forgiveness of sins, and then move to a crescendo of joy at His resurrection on Easter Sunday. Then, the next morning, we wake up and everything was as it was before. The climax is over. We move into the denouement of the story and conclude and ask ourselves, “what does this all mean for me today?”

It’s a good question. Why does the resurrection matter? We understand the cross and forgiveness and appeasement of God’s wrath, yet the resurrection looks so much like an end of life thing. When I sin, Jesus death has paid for that sin. But how does the resurrection bear on my life today, and not just as promise of eternal life? How does His resurrection, and my resulting resurrection bear upon my life today?Our hope, not only in the future, but for today, on Easter Monday, and every day, is bound up in the resurrection. Consider Peter’s words in 1 Peter 1:3-9,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Peter tells us, that those of us who are in Christ Jesus, have a living hope through Jesus’ resurrection. Not only do we have a future hope, but our hope is living and real and active for us today. The promise that we will receive our own resurrection, that is imperishable (it’ll never waste away), undefiled (never to be corrupted by sin), and unfading (it will never fade or lose it’s luster). Everything of which we see in our own lives today will be forever changed.

  • The chronic disease or pain will be gone. Have hope in the midst of it today, because it is momentary.
  • The sin issue that you’re constantly battling will be conquered. Have hope in the midst of it today, because it is momentary.
  • The signs of wear and tear and aging will be reversed. Have hope in the midst of it today, because it is momentary.

This is all being kept for us (preserved) by God and His power ready to be revealed to us at the end of our lives here on earth. This is something in which we can rejoice! All of our failed efforts, all of our desires to be young and beautiful, active and in good shape, pure and holy, are momentary pit-stops on our race to the finish line. At the end of the line is Jesus, and the promise of no more pain, sorrow, or tears. These things we experience in this life, are trials of faith. Will we trust in Jesus and the hope He offers in the resurrection, or will we turn our backs from Him.

All of this is simply making us more like Jesus. The trials, the pain, the tribulation, the suffering, is making us more like Him. Refining us into pure gold. So, when I see my trial, my pain, my disease, my sin, I see how Jesus is preparing me to inherit that incorruptible gift of new life. And while we may groan today under the weight of corruption, one day we will receive anew what was promised on Easter Sunday and will rejoice and praise Jesus! We will get to rejoice because we will one day receive the outcome of all of those trials that have refined our faith: salvation. Full and final.

So friends, take the resurrection of Jesus with you daily. Remind yourselves that Christ rose from the dead, and corruption and sin and disease and death have no lasting sway over us. Remember, when these things bring us low to the pits, we can remember, “this is momentary. I will receive an inheritance that will be eternal.”

We have hope through the resurrection of Jesus. Hope for tomorrow, and hope for today.