The most overworked people in the world are those who attend to the basic and urgent needs of mankind. I’m thinking especially about ministers, and in particular the pastors of churches. The demands placed on their strength, physically and emotionally, bring them often to the breaking point. As we continue our discussions on Your Pastor And You, I am not so much concerned with the amount of the preacher’s work as I am with the nature of his activities. For example, some time ago I read a magazine article that described the activities of the pastor of a church during a certain day, and it was supposedly typical of his usual schedule. It went something like this:
“Arriving at the church at 8 a.m., he had intended to spend at least 2 hours studying for his Sunday sermons, a noonday speech to a local service club, and 5 radio messages for the coming week. He was reminded by his secretary that the church bulletin was scheduled to go to press at noon and that he still had to write an article for it. He also had three telephone calls to make, one of them to the chairman of the church finance committee. “After finishing with those things, only 30 minutes were left for the preparation of his radio talks, since at 10 o’clock he was to meet with the program committee of the Ministerial Association. But as he began to study, he received word that the mother of the president of one of the women’s societies in the church had died and he was needed at once to comfort the family. This of course caused him to miss the meeting with the Ministerial Association; but he was able to attend the 12:30 luncheon of the Women’s Auxiliary. Following this he spoke to a study class. At 2 p.m. he officiated at a wedding. At 3 o’clock he began his regular visits in the city hospitals and finished just in time to go to the men’s supper, where he gave the prayer. The supper lasted until 7:30 p.m., allowing the pastor to get away just in time to attend a meeting of the Every Member Canvas Committee. Having done that, his day of service was finally ended and he arrived home about 9:30 that evening.”
This was a pastor’s own account of the way he spent an entire day.Was he fulfilling his obligation as a pastor of his church? Is this the way the Lord intended for him to occupy his day? When a man assumes a pastorate, is he justified in spending most of his time in administrative meetings, board meetings, committee meetings, budget-planning meetings, building program meetings, luncheons, dinners, and banquets?
The answers to these questions are suggested by the very same portion of Scripture we used as a basis for our previous lessons in this series.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light (Jn. 1:6-8).
In these verses, three characteristics are mentioned about John the Baptist.
First, he was a man, John was no angel; he was a man with human limitations.
Second, he was a man sent from God. Although he was subject to weaknesses of the flesh, he was nevertheless a man sent from God—he came with divine authorization.
Third, he was a man sent from God to bear witness of the Light. His unique occupation was to proclaim Christ. Verse 8 repeats this emphasis on his work. The apostle John wrote, “He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.”
Yes, John the Baptist was a man—he had human limitations. He was a man sent from God—he had divine authorization. He was sent from God to bear witness of the Light— he had a heavenly commission. He was to preach Christ.
These three things are also true of all genuine ministers of the gospel today. As men, they are subject to human weaknesses and failings, and they therefore need our prayers. As men sent from God, they deserve our respect and should be esteemed because of their divine appointment. Like John, their calling is to bear witness of the Light. And this gives us the answers to our questions about the activities of the pastor.
Even as the work of John the Baptist was to bear witness of the Light, so today the work of those who are sent from God is to present Christ. That, of course, is best accomplished through the faithful preaching of the Word of God. Expounding the Word must take priority over everything else in the life of those called “to bear witness of the Light.” Anything that hinders them from this task; anything that detracts from their effectiveness in presenting Christ the Living Word through the written Word; anything, I say, which draws them away from that must be carefully avoided.
The high priority that should be given to the ministry of the Word by those servants called of God to preach is made very clear in Acts 6. In this passage we read about a situation in the early church which, if not handled correctly, could have sidetracked the apostles.
Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution (Acts 6:1).
Very likely “the daily distribution” had reference to the distribution of money and food to widows in the Jerusalem church. And here’s what they did about the problem:
Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the Word of God and serve tables” (v.2).
As conscientious men, they could not ignore the plight of those poor widows. But they concluded, “It is not desirable that we should leave the Word of God and serve tables” (v.2). You see, serving tables wasn’t their work. That isn’t what they had been called to do. It was their responsibility to give themselves to prayer and the Word. They didn’t consider themselves too good or too important for that kind of service, but they recognized that this was not the ministry to which God had called them. So please notice what they did. Oh that we might learn a lesson from this! They said:
Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word (vv.3-4).
Seven spiritual men who could be trusted were appointed to oversee the needs of the widows so that the teaching elders might (and I like these words) “give [themselves] continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.” And God blessed in a wonderful way. Verse 7 tells us that “the Word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.”
Having properly delegated the responsibility of meeting the physical needs of the people to a group of deacons, the apostles, as men “sent from God” to “bear witness of the Light,” gave themselves wholly to their task of praying and preaching. As a result, “The Word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem.”
And today whenever you find a church with a bornagain, dedicated pastor who gives himself faithfully to prayer and to study and ministry of the Word, you’ll discover a spiritual, vibrant, and growing assembly of believers. But when a congregation places such exacting demands on its leader that he must officiate at every committee meeting, attend all fellowship functions, and be active in a myriad of civic affairs to the extent that his life of prayer and Bible study is interrupted, you’ll find a lethargic, lukewarm or cold, dead church. Oh, it may be filled with acti vity and have a big program, but that doesn’t necessarily produce fruit for eternity. It’s possible for a church to have numerous activities, meetings, clubs, projects, and many “wheels going around” without really doing anything as far as its intended work is concerned.
When I look at some congregations, I am reminded of that impressive machine, that has hundreds of cogs, gears, pulleys, and belts which all go around smoothly and swiftly at the touch of a button. When the inventor was asked about the function of the machine and what it is supposed to do, he replied, “Oh, it isn’t supposed to do anything, but doesn’t it run beautifully?”
So too, when you attend a church where the Bible is neglected, Christ is not preached, and the pastor is loaded down with administrative responsibilities, you may witness a large organization with many “wheels going around” but no spiritual power being generated. Be sure, therefore, to put first things first. Make certain your pastor isn’t burdened down with administrative and civic obligations to the extent that his spiritual life suffers and the ministry of the Word does not remain central in his life and in the church.
John the Baptist, our example for these lessons, came to “bear witness of the Light.” Your pastor too should be occupied with preaching Christ. And if he’s to do so effectively, don’t expect him to be the church errand boy, drive the Sunday school bus, run off the church bulletins, do the janitor work, take the members of the ladies’ aid to all their meetings, preside at every function, or be out on visitation every afternoon and evening. You see, all of these things may be well and good in themselves. Every pastor who is genuinely sent of God would be glad to perform whatever services he can, but both you and he must be on guard lest these activities prevent him from being a man of prayer and a man of the Book. That could make him miss out on fulfilling his primary mission. Not only will he slip spiritually, but the entire church may well go down with him. Remember, the spiritual tone of a congregation is keyed to its pastor.
So when you are asked to do something for which you’re qualified and time and circumstances allow, don’t say, “Let the pastor do it; that’s what he’s getting paid for.” Rather, do your part and help the man “sent from God” so that he can more effectively “bear witness of the Light.” Every Christian should want to help his pastor in such a way that together they can fulfill the work of the church. There are the elderly who need attention; the spiritually indifferent need warning and counsel; the poor need companionship; the sorrowing need comfort and cheer. Your pastor can’t do all these things. He and the church need you. And together you can do great things for God.
I would repeat with added emphasis—whenever you’re asked to do anything for which you’re qualified, you should give it serious consideration. And if it can be handled without detriment to your family or other responsibilities of equal or greater priority, do it. God will bless you if it’s done in His name and for His glory. Help in whatever way you can so that your pastor may be released to perform his ministry in the manner God desires.
In closing this study, I wish to review the responsibilities you have toward your pastor.
1. As a man, he needs your prayers.
2. As a man sent from God, he deserves your respect.
3. As a man sent from God to bear witness of the Light, he needs and deserves your help.
Now, if you’re in a church that doesn’t have a man in the pulpit who deserves your respect and cooperation because he isn’t born again, doesn’t really believe the Bible, and doesn’t preach it, that’s another story. You owe it to yourself and also to your family to identify with a church where there is a God-sent man with God’s message.