Wednesday, August 02, 2006

What a Pastor does

I did another installment of my sermon series on "Preparing for your new pastor" Sunday evening. This one may be the last in the series.

The title this time was, "What will YOUR pastor do?" It was a reflection on portions of Ephesians 4:11-16.

What is clear from this passage is that the goals of church life (and of ministry) are:
  • Unity among the brethren
  • Knowledge of the Son of God
  • Maturity of faith
  • Greater Christlikeness among God's people
If these are the goals of the church, then what does that require of a pastor? In short, what is the Pastor's primary job?

In an interesting (that is, interesting to those who studied Greek in seminary) dig into the text, I found that there are differences in how the text is translated. Older translations tend to prefer a translation of v.12 as "to equip the saints, for the works of service, for building up the body of Christ". In other words, the gift to the Church of pastors, teachers, and other leaders is to fulfill three purposes: equipping, serving, and building up. On the other hand, more contemporary translators (think NIV, ESV) prefer to translate it this way: "to equip the saints for the works of service, for building up the body of Christ."

As I see it, the implications are these: if we go with the older translation, equipping the saints is simply one part of the pastor's job. He becomes a lot more "hands-on" than he might have envisioned. If, however, the more recent translations are correct (and I believe there is compelling evidence that they are), the pastor's job is fairly straightforward:

Equipping the saints.

Equipping turns out to be the manner in which all of the above goals are achieved. The pastor equips in the following ways:
  • In the works of service: he trains the flock how they can share in this work. If a pastor is doing works of service apart from equipping, he is not really serving.
  • Knowledge of truth: the pastor should be one who understands the truth and its application. Truth here, by the way, refers to the specific truth of the Gospel and its resulting theology, not truth in general.
  • Practice of love: "speaking truth in love" requires a balance that is too easy to miss. But the pastor must be the foremost example of how this balance looks-- not just in the pulpit, but in his study, the hospital room, and the parish living rooms.
  • Example of Christlikeness. No pastor will flawlessly follow the model of Christ. But is he more like Jesus than most? In short, if he is fulfilling the first three means of equipping the saints, he probably is.
This is what the pastor does. He equips through teaching and example, through guidance and leadership, through invitation to involvement and open modeling.

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