Ministry is demanding, it’s busy, it’s grinding, and often times it is very administrative. That is, I’m finding (along with other young pastors I know) that if a pastor does not learn early on to recruit and train competent laypeople and to delegate areas of ministry to them, the pastoral ministry can end up becoming a lot of paper shuffling, schedule keeping, and organizational management.
This seems a far cry from the characterization of pastoral ministry that Paul articulates for his pastoral apprentice Timothy in 1 Tim. 1:5, a text God led me to dwell on during my Q Day: “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” In other words, the charge or “calling” of a pastor is to cultivate in the people whom God has entrusted to him love. What sort of love?
First, love that issues from a pure heart. That is, love that flows from a sanctified heart. Pastors ought to be working to lead and encourage their people in holiness; in developing and increasing distaste for the allurements of the world; in wholehearted devotion to Christ and his Kingdom. Pastors ought to be out in front of the flock in holy living, leaving in their wake people who are not only holier, but begin personally to develop a thirst for deeper holiness in themselves.
Second, pastors must develop in people love that issues from a good conscience. That is, a conscience that clearly discerns good from evil and that compels its owner to “abhor what is evil and hold fast to what is good” (Rom. 12:9), to “approve what is excellent” (Phil. 1:10), and to set his thoughts on honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy things (Phil. 4:8). Pastors must also develop in their people strong consciences as opposed to weak consciences (i.e. those who treat as law things that are matters of Christian liberty [e.g. social drinking]).
Third, pastors must develop in people love that issues from a sincere faith. Lip-service faith will not bring about a life that treasures Christ and changes lives. All lip-service faith is good for is giving people confidence that they are on their way to heaven as they stumble toward hell. Pastors need to work for the sincerity of people’s faith and to that end, when necessary, must separate out the wolves from the sheep.
So, my call to my pastor friends who read this blog (and in case any are wondering – I desperately need to heed this counsel myself) is: Pull others into your ministry who can serve the church by taking on the sorts of tasks and duties that prevent you from fulfilling the charge that Paul gives us in 1 Timothy 1:5, even if you think that they might not do certain things as well as you. Everyone needs to do in order to learn to do well. I think we might find that, given the chance, most laypeople will thrive and end up surpassing us in their ability to achieve result precisely because they may have more time to do it well. We pastors need to do this not only for our own sanity, but for the good of our people. And to the laypeople that read: Free your pastors up to do 1 Timothy 1:5 ministry. Do not view them as the doers of ministry and yourselves as the receivers of ministry. Ask them how you can help them. Do not wait for them to ask you for help. Make ministry a joy for them. Make yourself a joy to pastor (cf. Hebrews 13:17).
Lord willing, the result will be an entire people marked by love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.