Saturday, January 14, 2012

Reforming the church is embracing God's gift of pastors

What should the church want from their pastor-elders? What should they look for in a pastor or elders? What should the church expect their role to be?

The most important question that the church should ask when addressing issues like this is, "Who decides the role of the pastor?"

Where did the role of the pastor originate? Where did it come from?
Did it come from pastors?
Did it come from congregations? No.

The role of the pastor did not originate from any man. The role of the pastor did not even originate in the church. It originated from Scripture. And therefore Scripture alone must dictate what the role of the pastor should be in the church. 

Believers should want what the Bible wants. They should want a pastor that lines up with the Biblical qualifications not with their own feelings, thoughts and opinions. Our opinions really do not matter when it comes to deciding who our pastors should be and what his role is in the church.

Only God's truth matters when it comes to things that originate with Him and everything does! He chooses equips godly men for pastoring and shepherding the flock and then His Spirit alone calls them into the ministry.

Acts 20:28
...the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God.

Therefore when it comes to deciding who our pastors should be and what role they should carry out in the church we must start with Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), "conforming everything in our lives to the Word of God."

NOTE: Let me preface all that I am about to say with this quick note. I am going to write a separate blog at a later time about those men who call themselves pastors but who are not faithfully preaching the Word or shepherding the sheep. Because there are those men out there and they are a threat to the church rather than a blessing to it. Paul spends a lot of time in his letters to Timothy warning him about these false teachers and urging him to remove them from the body. But today I am only addressing how the church should treat men who are truly called to the position of elder and are faithfully carrying out that role.

So this is going to be my first series of posts on the same topic: how the church is called by Scripture to view their pastors and elders. I'm not sure how many of these posts I will do, so bear with me. I just know that if I try to shove everything into only one you will sit here for far too long.

I have one major issue to deal with in this first post on the role of the pastor and I will leave the rest to the following posts. And that is that Christ gave pastors to the local church and therefore the embers of the church are called by God to recognize them as a gift to them from His hand.

In my previous post on our view of the local church, I mentioned that because worldliness has crept into the church it has given many of its members (professing believers) a low view of the church.

The first place where that becomes the most visible is how the congregation treats their pastor or elders.

That is why we must correct our mistreatment of pastors and change our wrong expectations of their role by pointing out very clearly this biblical truth: God gave pastors to the church. God gave pastors to the bride of Christ!

Ephesians 4:11-13
And He gave some as apostles and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stare which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

Because God gave pastors and elders to the church to lead the church, it makes perfect sense that if you have a low view of the local church then you will have a low view of your God-given leaders. And you will develop wrong expectations as to why they are there.

In order to keep us from developing unbiblical expectations of the pastor's role, let's begin by looking at two biblical words from the text we just read: "He gave"...

Ephesians 4:11-12
And He gave pastors and teachers

Let's just think about those two words for one moment. "He gave."
Where else do we see those two words in Scripture? The first place that probably came to your mind was

John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son...

And who did God give His Son to? The world? Yes, in a sense, but if you read that verse in context He actually gave Him specifically to the church that is presently in the world. He gave Him to the elect, who live in the world among every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

Revelation 5:9-10
...for you were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

When God gave His Son to the world, He was specifically giving Him to the church in the world, to purchase them out of the world.

It was a sacrificial giving. It was a giving of Christ to take on the punishment of the cross. Christ went to the cross not for a general purpose but for a very specific purpose: to purchase the salvation of His elect children around the world. Every one of them will one day come out of the world and live with Him eternally in heaven because He purchased them.

So God gave His Son to the church and He gave the church to His Son.

John 17:6
I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your Word.

As we discussed in my last post, there is nothing more precious to Christ than His bride. It is a gift to Him from His Father. He laid down His life to purchase her out of her sin and gave her new life. First the Father gave Christ to save the church, and now that Christ has saved His bride, now He wants to nourish her with the Word of God.

So Christ gave a special gift to His bride, to serve her like He does, to lay down their lives for her and preach His Word to her. Christ gave His church pastors.
Those same two words that are used to tell us that God the Father gave Christ to His church are now being used to tell us that God the Son gave pastors to His church.

Ephesians 4:11-13
And He gave some as apostles and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,

Why did Christ give pastors to His church, to His bride? How do they best serve the church?

Ephesians 4:11-13
And He gave pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;

He gave pastors to His bride to equip them and build them up in their salvation.

The church is called the body of Christ because it has His name on it - it has His blood on it. It bears His death marks, His seal.

Therefore there is nothing more important to Christ than to uphold the reputation of His name and His Father's name by strengthening and building up the body of Christ.

How does He do that? By giving to them pastors and elders who will faithfully and patiently preach and teach that Word to them, thus equipping them with a greater understanding of the Word of God.

2 Timothy 4:1-2
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.

Do you realize your great need for the Word? Are you hungry to understand it better and to apply it to your life?

Then be thankful! Be thankful that God gave you a pastor that is willing to study hard to teach it to you and your family.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13
But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work.

1 Timothy 5:17
The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.

Is the Scripture not clear on this point? Christ is a gift to the church to save the church and to give it life, where there was only death. Pastors are a gift to the church as well, to work hard to continually point the church back to Christ!

If you love Christ, then you should love your local church. And if you love your local church, then you should love your pastor who serve you in that church in order to point you to Christ, the life and breath of the church.

Based on everything I have discussed in this post, I have three major challenges for you. And I am giving you these challenges with the presupposition that you actually have a biblically qualified pastor or elders in your church. Because if you don't you should honestly evaluate why you are still in that church.

1) So first of all, if you have elders that are faithfully pastoring you with the Word of God, then you only have one option: You must view them and their ministry as a gift from the hand of Christ to you and your church. 

2) Secondly, if he is a gift from the goodness of Christ to you, then do you treat Him like a gift? Do you encourage him? Do you faithfully pray for him? Do you go up to him from time to time and just tell him how much you appreciate the fact that he spends hours in his study preparing to preach the Word of God to you and your family every week.

3) Finally, if he is a gift from Christ to your church, and if he is spending hours preparing to preach the Word of God to you and your family every week, are you listening? Are you listening to the Word as intently and as passionately as he is preaching it? If you are sitting there during His sermons twiddling your thumbs and day dreaming, you are not receiving Him as the gift Christ intended Him to be! You should be preparing your heart throughout the week to hear the Word of God and learn from him. And then you should seek not only to hear it, but to apply it your life and be changed by it. If He is preaching the Word of God to you, then every week is an opportunity to grow or change something in your life so that you can move closer to Christ and further out of the world.

That is not only what every true pastor wants from his people, but more importantly that is what Christ wants from His people. Pastors and elders are simply called to lay down their lives to make sure that you know exactly who Christ is and what He is saying.

The more you start viewing your pastor as a gift, the more you will start really listening to Christ and being changed by His Word.

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