It has been my wonderful and cherished privilege for a number of years to serve the Lord as a minister of the gospel. During that time, however, I have never been the pastor of a church. I have never experienced the blessing of being the regular preacher to a local congregation. After leaving college and seminary, I joined my father in the Radio Bible Class. And since that time, most of my life has been involved in and dedicated to this work.
Even though I’ve never pastored a church, my most tender, formative, and impressionable years were spent in a parsonage. I was the son of a pastor, and I shall always remember those days. How could I ever forget the thrilling experiences of my childhood, when, as the very windows of heaven seemed to open, showers of blessing were poured out in such abundance! It seems as if only yesterday, with my head on mother’s shoulder, I listened to my father’s words as he would plead with lost souls to flee from the wrath to come. Yes, I shall always treasure those precious memories, and even more so since my father’s homegoing. He’s now with the Lord whom he loved and served so faithfully.
There are, however, some things I’d like to forget. Although the work of a pastor can be most satisfying and rewarding, it also involves extremely difficult, discouraging, and disappointing experiences that can sap the energy and frustrate the efforts of even the most dedicated servant of God. As the son of a pastor, I was made aware of the unique problems facing those who are called of God into such an honored place of service. Because of this, my heart will always go out to those faithful pastors who so nobly serve the Lord in their high calling.
As good soldiers of Christ, these men of God continue on without complaint in spite of the temptation to give up and say, “What’s the use anyway?” They have my deepest respect. I know that when Jesus comes, their reward will be great.
It is not only the work of preaching, the calling, and the administrative duties that tax the energies and endurance of a pastor but the physical weariness and nervous exhaustion that can result in strained relationships between him and his congregation. When there’s misunderstanding and opposition involving honest differences of opinion and earnest convictions on the part of respected members, he feels the pressure of his position most greatly. The inability to please the very ones he loves the most, and the disappointment of being opposed by those he was depending on for moral support—these are the things that prompt him, on occasion, to throw up his hands in despair.
Sorry to say, in many churches it seems that the pastor just cannot do anything right. No matter how sincere he may be or how hard he tries, there are always some who stand ready to find fault and criticize. Someone has described it this way:
• If the pastor is young, he lacks experience; if his hair is gray, he’s too old for the young people.
• If he has five or six children, he has too many; if he has none, he’s setting a bad example.
• If he preaches from notes, he has canned sermons and is dry; if his messages are extemporaneous, he isn’t deep enough.
• If he caters to the poor in the church, he’s playing to the grandstand; if he pays attention to the wealthy, he’s trying to be an aristocrat.
• If he uses too many illustrations, he’s neglecting the Bible; if he doesn’t include stories, he isn’t clear.
• If he condemns wrong, he’s cranky; if he doesn’t preach against sin, they claim he’s a compromiser.
• If he preaches the truth, he’s too offensive; if he doesn’t present the “whole counsel of God,” he’s a hypocrite.
• If he fails to please everybody, he’s hurting the church and should leave; if he does make them all happy, he has no convictions.
• If he drives an old car, he shames his congregation; if he buys a new one, he’s setting his affection on earthly things.
• If he preaches all the time, the congregation gets tired of hearing just one man; if he invites guest ministers, he’s shirking his responsibility.
• If he receives a large salary, he’s mercenary; if he gets a small one, they say it proves he isn’t worth much anyway.
Now, I realize that this exaggerates the situation, but it does emphasize the general attitude in so many places. It doesn’t seem to make much difference where you go or which church you attend, there’s always that one group or faction who is “down” on the pastor. Even though he is doing his very best to shepherd the flock faithfully, longing for the rich blessing of the Lord on his ministry, and making an earnest effort to earn the approval of the congregation as a whole, there is always someone who finds fault, opposes him behind his back, or publicly denounces his actions.
Recognizing that such conditions do exist and that they mar the effectiveness of the local church, which has such a vital role in God’s program, I am bringing these lessons on the subject, Your Pastor And You. Some may question my motives and misunderstand what I say, but I’m going to speak out anyway and let the chips fall where they may.
In the gospel of John, three things are said about John the Baptist that are true of every genuine servant of God. And I’m convinced that if these three things were kept in mind by each pastor and every member of his congregation, much of the difficulty being experienced in our churches today would be avoided. The apostle John wrote:
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).
There are three significant things mentioned in these verses about John the Baptist.
First, we are told that “there was a man.” He was a human being, subject to the same weaknesses and limitations as other people. John was no angel; he was no supernatural creation; he was no hyperphysical emissary from the throne of God. Rather, as the record states it, “There was a man.”
Second, we are told that “there was a man sent from God.” Although he was a man with human limitations, John was distinguished and set apart from others in that he was a specially chosen one. He was “a man sent from God.”
And third, we are told that “there was a man sent from God . . . to bear witness of the Light.” He came to preach Christ, the Light of the world. That was John’s mission. Verse 8 says, “He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.” From this passage in John 1, we learn the following things about John the Baptist:
1. He was a man.
2. He was a man sent from God.
3. He was a man sent from God to bear witness of the Light.
These very same things can also be said about all pastors who are genuine in their calling. They are men—they have human limitations. They are men sent from God—they have divine authorization. They are men sent from God to bear witness of the Light—they have a heavenly commission. Their primary work is to present the Lord Jesus, the Living Word, revealed in the written Word. If true to their mission, they preach Christ. Like John the Baptist, they are to “bear witness of the Light.”
So keep in mind these three things about this man of God when you think of your pastor—that is, if he is born again, believes the Bible to be the infallible Word of God, gives evidence of being ordained of God, and is committed to faithful service and the sound preaching of the Word.
Remember, as a man, he has faults and limitations. As a man with a divine call, however, he should be treated as God’s servant. And, inasmuch as his mission is to proclaim the gospel of Christ, you owe him your cooperation and prayer support to help make his ministry as effective as possible.
What I say in this booklet does not apply to anyone who preaches another gospel, rejects salvation by grace through faith alone, or denies the deity of Christ, His virgin birth, His perfect life, His atonement for sin, His literal resurrection from the dead, and His coming again. One who does not accept these Bible truths could never be called “a man sent from God.” Beware of blind leaders of the blind!
Our purpose in proclaiming the Word of God is, like that of John the Baptist, to “bear witness of the Light” and to preach Christ—the Savior of sinners, the only hope of a lost and dying world.
AN INVITATION EXTENDED
It was about Jesus that the apostle Paul wrote:
Who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2:6-8).
And the apostle John stated it this way:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn. 1:14).
Whereas true ministers of Christ are men sent from God, only the Lord Jesus was the God-man—truly God and truly man. You may ignore what I say and turn a deaf ear to other preachers, but you dare not slight God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He was God Incarnate, the Word made flesh. He came to this world for the purpose of giving Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. He said:
The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost (Lk. 19:10). For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mk. 10:45).
And the apostle Paul told us:
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. . . . But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:6,8).
Because the Savior came and provided for our redemption through His death on the cross, salvation is offered as a gift. It is received by faith. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). And John gave us this promise: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (Jn. 1:12).
To receive Jesus as your Savior, offer this simple prayer of faith right now:
Lord Jesus, I acknowledge my sinfulness and inability to save myself. But believing that You died and shed Your blood for my sins, I now receive You as my Savior. I’m trusting You alone for my salvation. Save me.
Did you do that? If you did and really meant what you said, then thank the Lord for saving your soul and claim the promise in Romans 10:13 that “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Now, if you have accepted Christ as your Savior, you should affiliate yourself with a Biblebelieving, Bible-teaching, and gospel-preaching church. It’s not that church membership has anything to do with obtaining salvation. That’s a gift of God’s grace received through faith. But you need a place where you can hear the preaching of God’s Word, enjoy the fellowship of other believers, and find an opportunity for Christian service.