Monday, August 23, 2010

A Monday Post for the Flock

The work of pastoral ministry is one of disciple-making. Our work is not to grow the church, build the church, advertise the church, expand the church, make popular the church, etc. Read the pastoral letters (1 Tim, 2 Tim, Tit). Pay attention to the commands to Christian pastors. Pay attention to what should absorb and preoccupy us. We are called to be educators, teachers, theologians, thinkers, proclaimers, debaters, etc. This is our work, so says God. We are not nurses, coaches, or psychiatrists. We are shepherds, for Jesus. Shepherds lead and protect by feeding. Faithful teaching of Scripture both leads God's people in the paths of His righteousness and protects them from false teaching and false thinking.

Therefore, we are to be readers. Pastors that don't read don't learn. The truth of Scripture is given in words. It's propositional. The way to understand it is to study it, to learn what the words mean and how they fit into the larger story of redemption. Because this is the case your pastor needs books; books that help him understand "the Book". He needs book money because books are not cheap. If you want to help your church flourish, encourage your pastor(s) in his study. Establish a "pastor's resources" fund within your church budget. My people have been kind to me in this regard. From that fund I get to buy books, magazines, sermon audios, etc that help me learn what the Bible means by what the Bible says. Also, establish a fund that will allow him to participate in helpful and encouraging pastor's conferences. These conferences have been greatly used by the Lord in my own life. They are a time away, and a time to think, and to learn, and to be corrected by Scripture.

Also, encourage your pastor(s) to be a diligent Bible student. Don't nag him about every minute drama in your life. When he delegates responsibility, handle the delegated task, yourself. It's not that your pastor(s) doesn't want to help you. It's that he needs to read and think and pray if he wants to obey God and serve you faithfully. He is the one charged with preaching and teaching. Many tasks pastors are expected to fulfill (because of their title, not their gifting or the biblical requirements) should be filled by the membership. There are folks in your congregation more gifted than your pastor in various areas of ministry (See 1 Cor 12, Ep 4). So help him by doing your part and  by being scrupulous about what you take to him for counsel. Pastors should counsel their people, from the Bible. This is a form of disciple-making.

One more thing, speak to him about his sermons. Paul tells Timothy that he must so give himself to biblical pastoral ministry (disciple-making), that his progress in his work can be seen by his people (1 Ti 4:15f). So as his teaching improves and his sermons become more helpful, let him know that. And ask questions about what he says that you don't agree with or understand. Talk about the implications of what is preached. Verbalize your interest. One of the most encouraging experiences I have is when one of my flock shares with me what they have been learning from God's Word. Sometimes this learning is a result of their own study and reading. But sometimes it comes through my preaching. When I hear them say that they're learning the truths and implications of Scripture, I am greatly motivated to press on in my work, because I preach for their spiritual progress. 

This past weekend a man in our church shared with me what he had been learning from Galatians during his devotional time while on vacation. So I asked him if he would share this with the congregation on Sunday, which he did. It was a good time of edification for our church. Another brother bought books for all of our current elder candidates (The Life of God in the Soul of Man by Henry Scougal - a classic. By the way, this is one book that is cheap, less than $6 new). He purchased extra copies for our book table. He also left an encouraging note in my office on Saturday morning for me to find later (I normally study on Saturdays). I could make a long list at this point of the kindnesses I'm regularly shown by my people (not all of them of course). But I digress. So I will only say here that your pastor is human. He will benefit much from your labors of love, which in turn works to your spiritual benefit. Everyone wins.

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