Seven Sayings: Into Thy Hands

This sermon outline was more devotional in approach.

Luke 23:44-46

44 And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.

45 And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.

46 And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.

Psalm 31:5

“ Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.”

Learning to die from Jesus (Points made by John Piper)

  • Remember that God reigns.
  • Remember that God pities
  • Remember that your spirit lives on.
  • Remember that God’s hands are open to you.  
  • Do not murmur, complain, and rage against God.

Into thy hands…

  • What have you committed to God in sanctification?
    • Committed your prayers…
    • Committed your possessions…
    • Committed your family.
    • Committed your time…
    • Committed your life completely…

Basic Church Ministries

In every church, there are some primary ministries.  The size of the congregation or the purpose of a new pastor to come in doesn’t matter when it comes to these essential activities.  In a way, the following four types of ministry describe much of what groups of believers do in the world.

Ministry of the Word in Discipleship

As a foundation, the Word of God is the starting point for everything else.  So much Scripture attests this point (for example Mt. 4:4; 28:18-20; John 21:15; Acts 6:4; Eph 4:11-12; 2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16-17).  The great commission found in Matthew 28:18-20 focuses on our teaching the Jesus’ word to all nations.  The Scriptures are to be used in evangelistic and discipleship efforts.  Everything the church does is to be biblically-informed.  Our worship is to be in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).  Second Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that the Scriptures are sufficient in fully equipping people to do the work of God.

Christan Caregiving

Christian caregiving is not something that only the pastor does.  The whole congregation should be involved in the care of souls.  The pastor should take the lead here to model before the congregation and equip them to provide care for one another.  Acts 6, Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4 each demonstrate that all believers have a place of service in God’s assembly of believers.

Worship

It was already stated that worship is to be done in spirit and truth (John 4:24).  This is more than musical experiences in congregational services.  Worship is both personal and congregational.  In both settings, the character, position of the heart, and development of the believer in Jesus is essential to true worship.  Worship is coming before God in thanksgiving and praise (Psalm 100).

Sharing the Gospel

Evangelizing is another essential component of church ministry.  The church is supposed to teach the Gospel, pray for sinners, help individuals develop a personal ministry of evangelism and incorporate them into the larger outreach ministries of the church.  Sharing the Gospel as found in Matthew 28:18-20 notes that all the people in the world are the scope of our mission.  We are to go global and go local with the Word of God.

If you are a new pastor, church leader, or a new believer, these four essential church ministries make up the foundation everything else we in the Church.  Make sure they are Biblically-based and give honor to God and not man.

The Lord is my Shepherd – Psalm 23:6

As we come to the final verse of the twenty-third Psalm, we find a beautiful conclusion.  The psalmist declares the continuing goodness and mercy of God toward His people.  However, we may wonder what brings about these blessings.  What are the purposes and benefits?

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” – Psalm 145:9

God’s goodness comes from His nature, not our worthiness.  Another psalm reads, “The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works” (Psalm 145:9).  The Gospel writer recorded these words from Jesus, “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45).  Like the previous, God’s loving mercy comes from His character, not our virtue.  Micah 7:18 is a reminder to us, “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.”  The greatest demonstration of God’s goodness and mercy was the self-giving sacrifice of Jesus for us.  Through His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, we are the recipients of an “unspeakable gift” (2 Cor. 9:15).

God further demonstrates goodness and mercy by drawing us to His home.  The word house could mean the family or household or flock of the Good Shepherd.   However, it carries with it the continuing theme of this psalm, to be in God’s presence.  John wrote about the encouragement we should receive about going to be with God:

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14:1-3

Soon, and very soon, our faith will become a reality.  We shall dwell in unbroken fellowship with the Lord forever.  I am looking forward to that endless day.  It is a promise that every person has been given and will receive if they receive it by faith.

The Lord is my Shepherd – Psalm 23:5

In the middle of our chaos, God can provide a space to receive His grace.  The shepherd knows his sheep are weary and hungry in the dark areas of life.  He also knows that in the treacherous terrain that there are dangerous enemies waiting to attack.  Still, in the midst of an uncertain place, the shepherd of our soul delivers what feels like a banquet to us.

The shepherd would at times feed the sheep on a raised table (like a natural trough in the ground).  Two reasons for this raised table.  First, it kept dirt from the sheep from falling into their food and secondly, this made it easier to keep the sheep from wandering off.  In turn, making it harder for enemies to steal sheep.  God knows what He is going to do for his people.  He knows how to protect us from own self and from those who would seek to do us harm.

Also, anoints our head with oil.  Why?  One, for bug prevention.  Bot flies and such would dig into the nostrils and ears of sheep and drive them made.   The Devil also likes to get in our head, but the Holy Spirit can keep him away.  It was also for healing.  Sheep want to butt heads and would need their wounds attended too.   Sometimes, the Holy Spirit must address the conflict between the sheep and bring healing to broken spirits.

Finally, we are told that our cup is running over.  Seemingly this phrase speaks of the overflowing blessings the shepherd pours over the sheep.   It is lovely to know our God is willingly giving us good, but underserved gifts.  We have not merited the Lord’s favor.  However, He loves us and knows each of us by name.  Oh, how great is the Shepherd’s love for us!

Finally, if you will venture out with me a little, Revelation 19 speaks of a table being spread in the presence of all our enemies throughout all space and time.  The marriage supper of the lamb.  There is one last time in the future, yet to come, that we will have to dine in the presence of the enemy.  But, praise be to God, who gives us the victory!  We shall still have the Shepherd on our side.

 

 

The Lord is my Shepherd – Psalm 23:4

The fourth verse of Psalm 23 is very popular and has been quoted by people from different walks of life.  Not just by Christians either.   It is a very relatable verse.  However, this flippant usage of this verse underlies a more damaging notion.  It is an approach called moral therapeutic deism.  What does that mean?  Let’s break it down:

  • Moral – This is not Biblically founded morality but rather a humanistic morality.  IT is the idea that people are good and all are on their way to heaven, except for those deemed to be thoroughly evil.  Just be a good “ol’ boy or girl,” and everything will be alright in the end.
  • Therapeutic – Christianity is therapeutic and good for guidance in this sense.  It can help teach morality and how to cope with stressful life issues in a self-help book approach.  All you need is a daily verse of inspiration, and anything more would be like fanaticism.
  • Deism – As this perspective goes on, it approaches a type of deism where God is distant and unneeded, except when needed.  Classic Deism taught that God created and sustained the universe but since then has remained distant and left the world to naturalistic movements.  However, moral therapeutic deism, there are times of crisis when this god will react and help.  However, whenever there is no crisis, he’s not around.

Does this help explain many of those in who claim Christ but are none of His?  I believe it does and with moral therapeutic deism as a backdrop, we can understand why Psalm 23:4 is therapeutic.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” – Psalm 23:4

Albert Barnes wrote, “The idea is that of death casting his gloomy shadow over that valley – the valley of the dead.  Hence, the word applies to any path of gloom or sadness; any scene of trouble or sorrow; any dark and dangerous way.  Thus understood, it is applicable not merely to death itself – though it embraces that – but to any or all the dark, the dangerous, and the gloomy paths which we tread in life: to ways of sadness, solitude, and sorrow.”

The Scripture is no stranger to grief and is one of many reasons for its undeniable relevance.  Passage after passage paints the picture of reality we live in:

“Before I go whence I shall not return, even to the land of darkness and the shadow of death;  A land of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness.” – Job 10:21-22,

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” Isaiah 9:2

However, Psalm 23:4 is not a lament but praise.  Notice it says, “Though…I will fear no evil.”  Just as much as Scripture paints our grim reality, it is also using a backdrop of God’s majesty.  Let’s sample some of these passages that remind us not to fear because God is with us:

But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah. I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about.” – Psalm 3:6,

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.” – Psalm 27:1-4.

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” – Isaiah 41:10,

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Cor. 15:55-57

Why can we have this confidence?  Because “Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”  The staff is a symbol the shepherd guiding his flock, and the rod is a symbol for protection.  However, there is a greater implication that goes against the idea of God be afar off.  These symbols are of tools that had to be used nearby.  Again, remember the verse says, “I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.”  God is near His people.  We exclaim that, “he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”  What a great comfort this is to us.

When we are in trouble, He is already by our side.  Yes, and when we pray, He is already there.  However, the implication is that He never leaves.  Even in the good times, God is right there by our side.  He is offering us guidance, correction, and protection, at every moment of our existence.  The Lord is not distant, but truly “God with us.”

The Lord is my Shepherd – Psalm 23:3

So far, we have seen that in the Lord, we do not lack in the first verse.  In the second verse, we find provision and rest.  As we continue, we see restoration for our souls.

“He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” – Psalm 23:3

This verse is about restoration and not just a refreshing as with the previous verse.  It’s the difference between an invigorating soda in one instance and the doctors working to restore a patient from dehydration.  The severity of our circumstances requires a more profound work when we come to this verse.  

Jesus Christ is the only one who can bring complete restoration to our lives.  Isaiah 53:6 reads, All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”  It is through Christ’s sacrificial death, resurrection, and ascension that we have this faithful promise. 

What is this restoration of the soul?  In the context of shepherds and sheep, it is speaking about a lost sheep being restored to the sheepfold.  The parable of Jesus from Luke 15 comes to mind:

4What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

This restoration speaks of our justification.  It is a change of positions.  Such as from sinner to saint, from lost to found, from orphaned to adopted, from death to life.  It also speaks powerfully to our moments of weariness and straying.  There are times when life brings us so low, and we succumb to our temptations.  It is at these times we find God restoring our strength and faith.

We also see that “He leads me in paths of righteous, for his names sake.”  As we live as believers, our aim is become more and more like Jesus.  It’s not about us.  It’s all about his excellent name.  Psalm 25:4-5 records a beautiful prayer in this same mind, “Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.

Still, God’s grace to us is his namesake.  It’s not selfish, it’s scandalous.  His name is on the line.  How far would you go out of your way for a person like you?  God gives us mercy when we are undeniably guilty.  God had displayed His love through His Son even when we were sinners.  God’s actions are considered foolish by the world, but they are lifegiving.  Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”  The Lord has went out of His way (which is actually His way) to restore us to Himself.

Psalm 23:1

Psalm 23:2

The Lord is my Shepherd – Psalm 23:2

 

My wife and I like to tease each other about our different perspectives on a restful vacation.  I think her motto is rush instead rest.  Abbie loves holidays involving Disney and Pigeon Forge.  Lot’s of going and doing.  For myself, look more towards camping and fishing.  I guess we each have a different perspective of rest and that’s okay.  As long as we sincerely get to recharge and refocus.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

In the first verse of the twenty-third Psalm, we learn that Jesus is our shepherd and he is all we truly need.  Now, we read in verse 2 a summary of God providing rest and sustenance.  Phillip Keller in the book, A Shepherd’s Look at Psalm 23, wrote that sheep will not lie down when there is fear of outside influences, friction within the flock, annoyance from flies or parasites and when they are hungry.  Those are all excellent preaching points about how unity is an endeavor (Eph. 4:3).  

The truth is that we really are like anxious sheep and for a good reason.  One out of four people deals with anxiety in some form or fashion.  Around 41% of employees report anxiety from work-related stress.  Over 50% of students from school-related stress and no wonder with recent events.  Amazingly, 43% of the USA uses prescription mood altering drugs.  For recreational drug use, 42% of users relate it to stress while over 70% of alcohol use is attributed to stress.

Our society won’t let you rest and nourish yourself.  We push, “I have not done enough,” instead of “I’m doing too much.”  We do not want to rest and we do not know how to rest.  We do not healthily handle stress.  We do not seek the provisions given by God to find peace and contentment. 

The Shepherd provides places of nourishment.

First, we are to be nourished by God’s Word.  The Word of God is like pure milk (1 Pet. 2:2), meat or solid food (Heb. 5:12-14), honey (Ps. 119:103), and more references like these.  However, two key verse that sticks out:

“But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” – Mt. 4:4

“If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained” – 1 Timothy 4:6

Food is essential for life.  Amen!  However, God’s Word has even greater value.  We will only find our nourishment in God’s Word.  If we are to become “whole” followers of Christ, we need a whole revelation of God, and that is the Bible.  C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity:

“God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.”

Still, the question remains how does the Word of God lead us to rest?  I would like to borrow another illustration, this time from Charlie Brown.  My favorite comic strip of Charlie Brown is where Linus and Lucy are looking out a window at the rain.  Lucy quips that she is afraid of a global flood.  Linus, however, comes back to explaining God’s promises found in the early chapters of Genesis.  Lucy thanks Linus for taking a great load off her mind.  The final line is Linus saying, “Sound theology has a way of doing that!”  A healthy intake of God’s Word leads us to rest because it helps us see the world in God’s light and helps to develop our faith in Him.

The Shepherd provides places of rest.

Having a place of rest is a theme found all the way through the Bible.  In creation, we see God resting on the seventh day.  The Garden of Eden is described as a place of tranquility.  Israel’s promised is a place of earthly rest.  However, the Hebrew writer describes it as only temporary as an eternal rest still waits for God’s people (Heb. 4).  Jesus calls out to us, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Mt. 11:38-29).  

The Lord has provided us the most significant sense of rest in Jesus Christ.  We can have rest from our sinfulness, guilt, and fruitless works.  If Jesus is not your highest desire, then search your priorities. Try and simplify your life.  Declutter so you can focus on Christ.  Only by seeking Him first and above all else will we find rest for our soul and rest from the things that cause stress.  When we seek other things first, we only hurt ourselves.  Jesus said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mt. 6:33).  

Follow this link to the previous series post on Psalm 23:1

Statistics come from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America website and Psychology Today.

The Lord is my shepherd – Psalm 23:1

The following series of blog post will explore each verse of the beloved twenty-third Psalm.  These posts are based on a set of sermons I preached through in the summer of 2017.  I pray for your soul to find encouragement, comfort, and challenge through this psalm.

Why Psalm 23?  Out of the 150 Psalms, which are short lyrical pieces for singing, Psalm 23 is well-beloved Psalm and is one of the most well known.  This psalm is attributed to David.  He wrote about the care and comfort God gives to his people.  Psalm 23 has provided a source of inspiration to people throughout time and continues today.

Psalm 23:1, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

The Lord is my Shepherd – Yahweh Rohi

Shepherd language is all through Scripture.  It seems as if the shepherd metaphor is one of the Lord’s favorite descriptions of Himself.  Look at the sample of the Old and New Testament passages.

Isa. 40:11, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.”

Jer. 31:10, “Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock.”

Ez. 34:12, “As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.

Ez. 34:23, “And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd.”

John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”

Heb. 13:20, “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant.”

1 Pet. 5:4, “And when the chief shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”

The truth David shares essential to notice is “the Lord is my shepherd.”  The Lord is not distant and unmoved by our condition.  David noted a personal relationship with the Lord and the remainder of the psalm details the benefits of this close proximity to the Shepherd of our souls.  We are his sheep.  We are ignorant and straightforward because of the limitations of our nature.  Our nature is one that requires outside care and substance to sustain us.  The Lord is my Shepherd, and He provides the care I need.  All of us who are a part of the Lord’s flock can rejoice and be at rest because of our Shepherd.

I shall not want.

David does not mean we will receive all our desires.  It does not mean we won’t face difficulties.  The exclamation “I shall not want” means, I will not lack care from my Shepherd.  I shall not want for salvation, acceptance, or hope.  There is no other that can provide these blessings.  We will not find our salvation insufficient on the day of judgment.  God’s grace alone is sufficient for all my need in this present life (2 Cor. 12:9).  Only through our relationship with Jesus will we find peace in this world and hope for the world to come.  May we rest in this statement, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

Follow this link to the next series post on Psalm 23:2

Three Reflections on the Old Testament Tabernacle

2018-02-13 14.23.11

We recently had the opportunity to co-host a course on the Old Testament Tabernacle in Ashland, Kentucky.  A long-time family friend facilitated the sessions and shared many fantastic points about the Old Testament Tabernacle.  After I few days of reflection, I want to offer three observations from this course.

 

 

The Old Testament and all that it contains is necessary for a full understanding of the New Testament and God’s present work.

This first reflection focuses on more than just the Tabernacle.  Paul wrote in Romans 15:4, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”  The Old Testament is not just a preface to the New Testament.  It is one Scripture and serves as a sturdy foundation for our faith.  Old and New Testament together provide a robust resource for the Christian.  And, much of the New Testament may not make sense without the Old Testament.

The Old Testament Tabernacle was an excellent illustration of Christ’s future work.

Hebrews 8:1-6, begins a connection that the author will further develop in chapter nine.  In 9:1-14, we are shown that the Old Testament Tabernacle is a “figure for the time then present” (vs. 9) and “patterns of things in the heavens” (vs. 23).  Furthermore, the language John uses in his Gospel also notes the comparable nature of Jesus and the Old Testament Tabernacle.  When John says “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,” the translation is equivalent to saying that Christ pitched a tent and camped with us.  The deacon, Stephen, concluded his sermon to the point that God desired the Tabernacle (the tent) but was later given a stationary temple.  To which Stephen noted, “Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? Saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest?  Hath not my hand made all these things?” (Acts 7:44-50).

We quickly become overwhelmed by any attempt to illustrate the greatness of God.

God is infinitely greater than we can ever imagine or attain.  Our attempts to talk about the Lord with any metaphorical illustration will fail to adequately describe any quality of Him.  Even with the Biblical examples, such as the Tabernacle, we will not be able to bring in to view any boundary of God’s greatness.  He is too wonderful to immense to be put into any of our boxes, concrete or abstract.

The Pastor 

Filling the office of the pastor takes a genuine calling from God.  The prophets, judges, and teachings foreshadow it in the Old Testament, and the New Testament defines it.  Church history has validated it, and culture has tested it.  Now, the office of pastor is losing its influence through misunderstandings, a lack of clear purpose, and because of those who have left it with a stained witness because of moral failure.  The fact remains, Scripture provides a definitive and robust understanding of the nature, purpose, and practice of the pastor.

Scripture shows there frequently were multiple pastors serving in a local community and assembly of believers.  The Apostle Paul “ordained them elders in every church” (Acts 14:23 KJV).  It may be that a church has need of multiple pastors for different ministries in a congregation, but the scripture lays out qualifications for those who would hold the office of pastor.  Various individuals having those criteria met find they are growing and being tested in those requirements at different times.  Nonetheless, they are signposts for what they need as a pastor and waypoints for growth.

Identifying these scriptural qualifiers of the pastor is essential.  Only then the pastor can chart their course for growth in the ministry.  This makes the building of a pastor a more important pursuit than just taking a person and putting “a stole around the neck” (Willimon, 2009, p.11).

Character, credibility, and competence are all issues that a pastor has to deal with.   The integrity and example that comes under the microscope of inspection by the believing and unbelieving communities elevate the importance of a pastor’s nature.  Scripture places the overall qualifier to a pastor as “blameless” (1 Tim. 3:1-7, cf vs. 2).  Some versions translate this as “above reproach,” and the or to be “well-thought-of.”  The scripture further qualifies this lifestyle of the pastor as faithful to their spouse (vs. 2), sober (vs. 2), gentle (vs. 3), have a good home life (vs. 4), experienced (vs. 6), along with several other traits.

Integrity

The daily grind of managing ministry, family, personal pursuits, and all the expectations that they entail will take their toll on the pastor.  Shortcuts and temptations will always come around and present themselves as viable options.  Willimon (2009) wrote regarding collapse under the intense expectancy: “The pastoral ministry requires a wide range of sophisticated skills—public speaking, intellectual ability, relational gifts, self-knowledge, theological understanding, verbal dexterity, management acumen, sweeping floors, moving folding metal chairs, serving as a moral exemplary, and all the rest. No wonder failure is always crouching at the door” (p. 23).

The nature of the pastor though is to remain steadfast and focused even when their world has become broken and is falling apart.  The integrity of the pastor is a source of strength in keeping their family together and the church together.  If they have penetrated the community with the love of God, their integrity may even help the community hold together in times of tragedy and destruction.

Example

The pastor is a model to show the congregation and world how they should be living as believers.  This type of lifestyle places an immense amount of weight on the pastor’s shoulders.  Yet, God and not the church has given the expectations, because people can become brutal in their expectations.   Shelley (1988) shared “They expect our family to be an example. This is legitimate and not a problem except when this means there are two sets of standards: one for the pastor’s family and one for everyone else” (p. 50).  In the epistle, 1 Peter 5:2, commands the pastor to be an example before the congregation.

Purpose

The pastor can be further explored for their use.  Adding to it the formal instruction of proclamation and intentional discipleship, the pastor informally fulfills their mission by example.  To the pastor, the writer, James, may have told them to not only be more than “hearers” of the word but also to become more than “proclaimers” (James 1:22).  The proclamation of the gospel and lifestyle of the person are essential to the purpose of the pastor.

The word that Paul used to describe the office of pastor translates literally as an “overseer” (Easton, 1893).  Oversight over the souls of men demonstrates a person has a higher vantage point than those around them and that they have the purpose of organizing and protection.  This title indicates a high purpose for the pastor as God’s primary instrument of ministry in the church.  “The difference between a pastor who visits preaches, and baptizes, and any other skilled layperson who performs these same functions is in the pastor’s “officialness” (Willimon, 2009, pp. 18-19).  The purpose of the pastor is first seen as the official leader of the church, but it is more accepted and spoken of with greater respect as the example, namely in the form of the shepherd.

Ezekiel portrays the leaders of Israel as bad shepherds because they did not feed the sheep, tend to their wounds, search for the lost, or lead.  This reminds the pastor that though they may have their shepherds head and heart standing higher than the sheep that surround them, their feet are all on the same ground level.  The pastor has to smell like the sheep.  The pastor has a purpose in being with the sheep and that all comes down to leading by example.  The goal of the shepherd is to lead the flock from one point to another point in life to another.

The Word

The ministry of the Word of God is the subject of exhortation from Paul to Timothy and Titus.  Teaching and preaching are both divisions of our proclamation.  Preaching has great potential and if it is done correctly can have eternal effects.

Pastoral work is not merely making social calls; pastoral work is also preaching.  The minister does not cease to be a pastor when he goes into the pulpit; he then takes up one of the minister’s most demanding and severe tasks.  Some of the finest and most useful of all a minister’s pastoral work are done in the sermon.  In a sermon, they can warn, protect, guide, heal, rescue, and nourish as “a shepherd who is skilled in his work never fails to feed his flock.” (Jefferson, 2009)

The Body

Pastoral care is “practical concern for the spiritual lives of individuals” (Galli, 1990, p. 11).  The body of Christ needs to be nurtured by the Word of God, but there also comes time for healing the body, strengthening the body, helping the body the through difficult times.  The pastor teaches the body how to care for itself by example, but the pastor has to continually find themselves among those in the body.  This can take place in many practical ways from visitation to small groups, pastoral counseling and more.  Pastoral care seeks to help people in tangible and intangible ways.

The office of the pastor can be a tricky one to define if consideration is given only to the current culture and people’s expectations.  There must be balance and check by the Holy Scriptures for the role of pastor.  The Word of God plainly defines the office by its nature and purpose and prescribes the work of it.

References

Easton, M. G. (1893). Easton’s Bible dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers.

Galli, M. (1990). Introduction. In Mastering Pastoral Care. Mastering Ministry (11). Portland, OR; Carol Stream, IL: Multnomah Press.

Hatfield, Mark Vol. 12: Leaders: Learning leadership from some of Christianity’s best. 1987 (H. L. Myra, Ed.). The Leadership Library (50). Carol Stream, IL; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Books.

Jefferson, E. (2009) The Minister as Shepherd. Bibliolife & Thomas Y. Crowell Company.

Shelley, M. (1988). Vol. 16: The healthy hectic home: Raising a family in the midst of ministry. The Leadership Library (50). Carol Stream, IL; Dallas, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub.

Willimon, W. H. (2009-02-01). Pastor: The Theology and Practice of Ordained Ministry. Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.