The Actual Job of the Pastor

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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