“Don’t they only work a couple of hours on the weekend?”
I giggle when I hear these questions for two big reasons:
1. Because of the sheer amount of hours I work each week.
2. Because pastoral ministry indeed operates with a level of mystery as it deals with matters of the heart and soul.
Doing the work of a pastor could very well mean a number of things to a number of people. For some, it’s pastoral counseling with a parishioner or preparation for a sermon. For others it could be thoughtful mediation or reflective study. For me, my “work” often involves reading my Bible, writing, brainstorming for upcoming teachings, biblical counseling, and vision-casting for our leadership team.
I think often about my pastoral role. I am consistently musing on what “doing my work” means. I write whitepapers and blog about it often, but much of what I write is rarely shared with our congregation. Pastoring can be like making sausage. We like sausage but not everyone wants to see how it’s made!
However, based upon my reading of Acts 14:19-23, and its focus upon Barnabas, I want to expound a bit upon the “Ministry of the Minister.”
I love the New Testament character of Barnabas. He is an underdog. He is lesser known than his buddy Paul, which is why I like him so much.
Acts 14:19-23 (ESV) But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
Go back and reread the passage and notice the bolded phrases. These phrases constitute a very clear, and progressive mission of pastoral leadership: the ministry of the minister.
1. Preach the Gospel
2. Make many disciples
3. Strengthen the souls of the disciples
4. Encourage disciples to continue in the faith
5. Prayerfully appoint leadership
Undoubtedly, pastors do so much more than these five things…I know I do! Sadly, I often liken myself to a cruise director, like Julie McCoy on The Love Boat, running around trying to keep everybody happy and smiling. But the problem with the ‘cruise director’ concept is that it turns The Church into a pleasure craft complete with every creature comfort; a spiritual smorgasbord or hedonistic hideaway of sorts.
That, however, is NOT the purpose of The Church.
Instead, we are to be a lifeboat or a battleship. We have a huge and honorable mission. The pastoral calling is to serve The Church in this clear and compelling mission:
• To preach the Gospel: The Apostle Paul told the church in Galatia that he was “entrusted with the Gospel” (Gal. 2:7) and then to the church in Corinth, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16). Pastoral leaders must preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen again. That is our mandate.
• Make many disciples: The result of the preaching of the Gospel is not just that people would have heard, but that they would believe and obey. The Great Commission in Matthew 28 is that we would “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…teaching them to observe all that I [Jesus] have commanded you.” Our clear and compelling mission at West Salem Foursquare is aligned to the Great Commission: Making More and Maturing Disciples.
• Strengthen the souls of the disciples: I have a wonderful friend and spiritual mentor that would often ask me: “How is it with your soul?” This is a good question that gets right to the heart of the matter: our souls. Pastoral leaders concern themselves with the soul and seek to see it strengthened in the Lord.
• Encourage disciples to continue in the faith: Life is hard. God is good. The task of pastoral leadership is to connect the two: Life and God. We serve as a Barnabas, whose name means ‘Son of Encouragement’, to disciples that are sojourning together in Christ. The ministry of the minister is to encourage (which means to put courage into) believers to continue in the faith. In other words: don’t give up. Finish well!
• Prayerfully appoint leadership: Paul and Barnabas were going from city to city appointing elders in the churches. The word elder is interchangeable with overseer, bishop and pastor. With prayer and fasting, they would recognize and release key people to lead and govern the ministry of the local church. This is the role of modern day pastors as well. We still are to recognize and release people into leadership ministry. Ephesians 4:12,13 tells us that we are to “prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
There it is again. Our clear and compelling mission: Making More and Maturing Disciples.