I am completely fascinated by the North American church. On one hand it is very influential. There are almost 100 gigachurches now (those whose attendance are over 10,000) therefore influence is large. However, on the other hand, it is deemed by the secular culture as backward and irrelevant. Most of the liberal-leaning mainline denominations are decreasing in membership and attendance yearly while unaffiliated “evangelical” churches (I use that term loosely) seem to be growing.
Therefore, pastors often, no matter their affiliation, find themselves in a peculiar crossroads. They ask questions such as, “What does it take to grow? What can I, as the pastor, do differently? What do the people want to hear? What do I think they need to hear?” When we start asking these questions we are in a very dangerous territory. Why? Because God’s Word has already spoken on these issues. The pastor’s job description is very clear. So, let’s take a look at it:
For starters, there are only two offices of the church mentioned in the New Testament: pastor (shepherd)/elder/bishop (the terms are interchangeable) and deacon (which means servant). One office for the shepherding and overseeing of matters in the church and the other for serving. Right away, many churches are already off base on these job descriptions and expectations of the members. So, if you’re wondering why your church isn’t growing or making disciples, and your leadership doesn’t seem to look like the way the Bible commands, then I would seriously take this situation under consideration.
As a side note, many large church pastors act more like a “prophet” than a pastor. God has not ordained there to be “prophets” for the church. He’s ordained pastors and deacons. These “prophets” are completely inaccessible to many of the attenders. This is the problem inherent with the gigachurch model. The “pastor” is not really pastoring anyone. He (or she) is just a speaker that goes around telling others how to live and what to do with out a personal relationship of any kind with the vast majority of those listening. Sheep should know (on at least some introductory level) their pastor who preaches to them. Many don’t.
Secondly, it’s my belief that many pastors are not operating the way God has intended. Therefore, the church they pastor is not healthy and not working the way God has designed. God, in His all-knowing providence, has gifted the church with three books of the bible written exclusively to discuss church leadership: 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. In these letters to pastors, we see what the pastor (and deacon) are to be doing.
For the pastor, all of his qualifications are character-based. There is only one “skill” that is needed: that of teaching. For the deacon, they are all character-based. Teaching is not a requirement. So, we see that the qualifications for the two church offices of the church are based on character and not intellect, ability (other than teaching), personality, appearance, or any other such worldly trait.
Don’t expect your pastor to be the smartest man (yes, man) you’ve ever met. He doesn’t have to be. Don’t expect him to have the best personality you’ve ever met. That is not required. Don’t expect him to be the best-looking man at the church. (Believe me, you don’t want that). And please don’t expect him to be anything the Bible hasn’t called him to be. Expect him to be growing in self-control, respectableness, sober-mindedness, hospitality, and teaching skills. Expect him to not be violent, or a drunk, or quarrelsome, or a lover of money. Expect him to be gentle and to have control of his house. Expect him to not have just started walking in the faith, and that his reputation among those outside the church is good.
Pastors, however, today now seem more guilty of putting additional “requirements” on what they preach and teach. Paul instructs Timothy to, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Tim. 4:2) This is very simple: preach God’s Word. Preach the Gospel.
However, the temptation seems to be for pastors to view themselves as “experts” in every field. They preach on marriage, they preach on parenting, they preach on fitness and health, they preach on social issues, they preach on politics. All of these are important issues. But the Gospel should be proclaimed every week.
Pastors should view themselves as general practitioners. They are not specialists. They are your run-of-the-mill family doctor. You can go to them for many things. But they should specialize in preaching the Gospel. Have major heart problems? Go see a cardiologist. Have major counseling needs? Don’t expect your pastor to preach on that. Go see a Christian counselor. Have major gastrointestinal issues? See a GI doctor. Have major money issues? Don’t expect your pastor to preach expertly on that. Go see a financial planner. Pastors: don’t try to be an expert on side issues. Don’t try to be the cardiologist. Don’t try to be the specialist. Be the general practitioner. Preach the Gospel.
The same Gospel that saves is the same Gospel that must weekly and daily grow the believers. Why?
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).
False teaching many times is a result of pastors preaching and teaching to what the people respond to. That’s not the job of a pastor. The job of the pastor is to preach truth. And often times, truth hurts. Many times preaching the Gospel and Truth is precisely NOT what the people want to hear. But it is is what they need to hear. Therefore, if pastors will be true shepherds, as is their calling, they will lead their people beside still waters. They will encourage, comfort, rebuke, convict of sin, and call for repentance. And they will properly do what God has designed them to do: not what man wants them to do.
The biblical pastor will be your family doctor that says, “You ought to really lose 20 lbs.” No one likes to hear that. But the pastor’s job is to point people to Jesus; the ultimate doctor, the ultimate pastor, the ultimate Savior. Jesus comforts, Jesus encourages. But he also convicts of sin and calls for repentance. He is the Gospel.