What should pastors do and what should the church expect, encourage, and allow?
I believe the best way to answer that question is to ask: what are some of the fundamentals that Scripture gives for pastors to practice?
(3) A pastor must consistently use his God-given spiritual gifts
In verse 14 Paul tells Timothy,
“Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.” (1 Ti 4:14)
Now we aren’t sure what gift Paul is talking about here. It is something that relates to pastoral ministry, so it is probably teaching, discernment, leadership, care, or something of the like. The problem is that Timothy has neglected his God-given gift that others have affirmed. Because he has neglected this gift, he hasn’t been ministering in the way Paul knows he can. So Paul invites Timothy to remember, so that he will be encouraged and motivated to do what he has been sent there to do — to denounce false teaching and grow the church spiritually in Ephesus.
Just as Timothy was to use his spiritual gifts, pastors are to use their spiritual gifts for the upbuilding of the church that God has placed them over. Which means that a pastor has to first know what his spiritual gifts are. And then he has to make sure that he is consistently utilizing those gifts to their fullest potential.
Again the church has to expect, encourage, and allow that to happen, because that is the way God is using that man to build the church.
(4) A pastor must consistently concentrate on his own spiritual growth
Again, Paul says to Timothy starting in verse 15,
“Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.” (1 Ti 4:15-16a)
The word “Practice” denotes both hard thinking and doing. “Immerse” means to give yourself to, so that you are completely consumed. Combining these two ideas, we learn that Paul wants Timothy not only to think hard about what he is telling him but to do it as well, giving his whole self to the task at hand. If Timothy does what Paul is suggesting, he will grow spiritually.
Timothy’s spiritual growth will not only be good for himself, but for the church as well. A stagnant shepherd often results in stagnant sheep, which means that pastors have to consistently concentrate on their own spiritual growth.
Now, you may think it sounds funny to say that pastors have to concentrate on their own spiritual growth. After all, pastors are supposed to be professional Christians who are privileged to study the Word of God on a consistent basis. I don’t know about the professional Christian part, but it is true that pastors are privileged to consistently study God’s Word.
Even though pastors are privileged to consistently study Scripture, that doesn’t mean they are always growing spiritually. There is a difference in communing with God through the Scriptures and prayer, and studying to preach a sermon, teach a Bible study, or provide counsel. It is easy to slip into a professional mindset that allows you to divorce your life from what you are studying.
So pastors have to be careful. They too have to concentrate on growing spiritually. They can’t allow the demands of the pastorate to take away from their time with the Lord. And the congregation not only has to expect and encourage him to practice the spiritual disciplines, but they also have to allow their pastor the time.
You see, we are all in this together. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ. We are all a part of a church family. As such, we have to watch out and care for, as well as we have to help one another grow in the Lord. And your pastor has to be included in that as well.
Don’t think just because he is preaching to you every week that he’s doing well spiritually. That he’s consistently growing. As a pastor, there are times when I’m not growing as I would like, just like there are times when you aren’t. So you need to pray for your pastor, encourage him. You need to minister to him, just as he seeks to minister to you. Doing so will help him consistently grow spiritually.
Over the last several posts I have explored the things that a pastor should do and the church should expect, encourage, and allow. In my last post, we are going to explore what the benefit of a pastor consistently practicing these fundamentals and the congregation expecting, encouraging, and allowing him to do so are?
Question for Reflection
- Are you encouraging your pastor spiritually?
Post adapted from my sermon How Can Both the Pastor and Congregation Continue in the Faith?