Christianity 201

July 15, 2014

You and Your Pastor

Twice before we’ve featured the writing of Scott McCown here, but sadly, it’s been awhile.  I visited his blog, The Morning Drive recently and ended up wishing I could post a whole handful of articles. I ended up going back this one which talks about the relationship you (individually and corporately) have with your minister/pastor/preacher.  Please click through and read this at source; click the title below.

Your Preacher

preacherA while ago, Adam Faughn asked me to write and article about preaching for his blog: Faughn Family of Four. As I was looking through some files I came across the article and updated it for today’s blog post.

About three years ago I posted a question on a Social Networking Q&A site. The question was, “What do you expect from your minister (preacher)? One answer stood out as the answerer simply described the preacher where she worships. I thought I would begin by sharing that answer with you:

First and foremost, he is someone who is dedicated to following Christ. He cares more about people than image, he is a servant rather than a celebrity. He is not power-hungry, but is willing to delegate tasks and trust people, even when they do things differently than he would have them done. He is willing at times to say “no” and make sacrifices so that he is able to meet the emotional needs of his family.

  • He is willing to admit when he’s made a mistake. And he is also quick to forgive those around him. As a member, it is easier for me to grow in Christ because I know that I am deeply, genuinely loved. That I am accepted as is, but encouraged to grow.
  • He has close, open friendships where he is able to be honest about anything in his life. He honors and respects his wife.
  • He is willing to laugh at himself, and by his example I have learned a little about how to laugh at myself too. In his sermons he passes on stories that lift people up–nice things his wife, children, and folks in the congregation have done…
  • He sees people for who they are. He is not a big talker, but he is an encourager and a good listener.
  • He tries to model his ministry after the image of Jesus washing His disciples feet. He makes it his goal to always be the lowest person in the room, to always be serving those around him, just as Christ served us and gave himself for us.
  • He prays. He prays a lot. And he devours the scripture.
  • He isn’t trying to share some sort of theoretical faith he’s learned about in his head. Rather, it’s a faith he is living–”join me in following Christ.”
  • He sees himself as equipping all members for ministry. He is not there to entertain us or to make us happy; he is there to help, teach, and encourage us, so that we can be the best ministers we can be to those around us in whatever role we find ourselves in.

The Apostle Paul was in many ways a “pulpit preacher.” He spent three years located and serving with the Church in Ephesus. He describes his time there to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20. By looking at his words, we can get an idea of what the pulpit is about: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:18-21, 27b – ESV).

Paul instructs a younger minister, his son in faith, Timothy, encouraging him in the following ways:

“ . . . For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth – 1 Tim 2:5-7.

. . . But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness – 1 Tim 6:11.

. . . Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth – 2 Tim 2:15.

. . . Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will – 2 Tim 2:23-36.

. . . preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 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. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry – 2 Tim 4:2-5.”

Here is what we learn from the Scriptures:

The Pulpit is not:

  • A venue for your soap box or personal point of view.
  • An avenue to vent anger or to speak to one individual’s struggle.
  • A place to push your political standings. There are times to take moral stands, but preach the morality issue and do not make it a political speech. Do not tell people how to vote, tell them what God says and let them decided what to do.
  • A way to make a living. You can make a living while filling a pulpit, but do not enter ministry just to make a living. My Bible College instructors were quick to tell us if we could make a living doing something else, then do it.

What the local congregation can (should) expect:

  1. Sound teaching: Make sure you are expounding the text and not reading into the text what you already believe.
  2. Studied material: A good sermon takes time to study, write, review, edit, and reflect before presentation.
  3. Significance: Sermons should have an impact on people lives. Messages need to have significance to the listener. This requires knowledge of peoples lives by being available to them.
  4. Simplicity: Theological babble sounds good and impresses other preachers at lectureships, but keep weekly sermons simple. The educational level in most congregation varies from children to well educated adults. Try to reach each group where they are.
  5. Servant mentality: A preacher is not the controlling officer of the congregation. He is a servant of the congregation where he worships and works. Look for opportunities and be ready to serve when called upon.

What the local congregation should return (pulpit can expect)

  1. Time to study: Those that fill the pulpit full-time receive support so that they can spend extra time in study. A number of years ago I stopped referring to the room I use at the building or the area of my home as my office, but as my study. When someone asks me if I have “office hours” I reply, “I am usually in my study at the building” during certain hours. Using the word study lets them know what I am doing while there, and keeps me from becoming a manager of church affairs.
  2. Taking lessons to heart and action: I love the story about a preacher who presented a lesson on Going the Second Mile in Love. One lady who always complained about others not treating her well, shook his hand saying, “that was a great lesson.” “Thank you,” he replied, “How are you going to put love in action this week?”
  3. Toleration: One person cannot be in more than one place at a time. “I called the building, but no one answered” and “That preacher never visits” are expectations that should not co-exist, but do.
  4. Togetherness in service: Every member is a servant “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another . . .” 1 Pet 4:10.

3 Comments »

  1. Thanks for sharing my words.

    Comment by Scott McCown — July 15, 2014 @ 6:17 pm | Reply

  2. Where do you find a pulpit anywhere in the Bible? Where do you find one man lecturing the Bible for 30-45 minutes with zero interaction, zero participation, zero questions, and worst of all zero reproduction of the teaching ministry he does to other believers? Functionally, this is descriptive of the pulpit and preaching habit of church in America. Help me find this in the Bible. I won’t consume 86% of my giving to make this happen unless it’s from the Bible. Acts 20 presents the opposite of this. It says Paul was a business man meeting his own needs and the needs of his companions. He did not take one dime from the offering plate. That means he had to train up other men to do what he did and share the work. That is why he is talking to the Ephesian elders about his example for them to follow. That example is rejected with pulpit and hired preacher assumptions in place. The scriptures call for the opposite of what happens in pulpit and pew routines. (Col. 3:16; Heb. 10:24,25, and many others). I know you know these scriptures but for some reason you want a gathering where this never happens. Perhaps my Biblical questioning, rebuke and correction of your assumptions is worthy of deleting my post or ignoring it. Perhaps “you know where I’m coming from” and you don’t want to deal with it. Perhaps you would only consider it an “argument” to interact on the truth. These are shallow, defensive responses common to the clergy. I hope you are different. I’ll soon find out.
    I expect mutual participation in the teaching – heart driven expression of truth.
    I expect the teacher to teach in a manner that is reproducible to others to also do
    I expect the teacher to teach “free of charge”, “refusing the right to pay”, not being a “burden” on the saints.
    I expect my fellow “royal priests” to “proclaim the glories of Him…” when they meet.
    I expect 100% of “giving” to go beyond the givers. You only have to give up 2 things to do this.
    I expect Jesus to build every member of his church to ” grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, (speaking the truth in love) makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

    I would think you would be able to observe from the many churches you have been in that lecturing the Bible every week by one hired man does not “equip the saints to do the work of the ministry” except in a very few saints. I’m sure you know that 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people. We could probably add to this that 65% of that 80% is done by one man.

    Is it possible for you to entertain ideas flowing from God’s Word that are almost the opposite of what you have been “called” to do and are clearly presented in scripture?

    Comment by T Aagard — July 17, 2014 @ 12:09 pm | Reply

    • Your comment got caught in spam filtering, probably due to its length.

      I think you really locked on to the word “pulpit,” hopefully not at the expense of missing the point of the article. In the book Pagan (Tyndale House) it’s quite clear that the physical pulpit originated with schools of higher learning, as did the notion of a platform party or a processional. So, no argument with you on that; it was never part of the early church.

      It’s possible however that it was part of the town meetings, the ecclesia, from which we get our word church. But because so much of the rest of church formality originated with the academics, it’s more likely that it came into wider use from that source; after all, the early church met in peoples’ houses.

      Still, we do live in an age of specialization, and the idea of certain people being set apart is scriptural. The question is, were they set apart vocationally, or set apart from the rest of society by their manner of lifestyle? You can argue the latter, but the Old Testament sets us up to expect the former, in light of the Levitical priesthood.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — August 1, 2014 @ 7:47 pm | Reply


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