The Call

Ephesians 4:11-13 “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

I do not carry the title of pastor. The Lord has called me to many things but pastoring hasn’t been one of them.

Just because I am not a pastor doesn’t mean I don’t greatly revere these men of God.

No matter what calling the Lord has placed upon the life of a believer, I can see that each is equally important in the Kingdom of God. Whether as an apostle who assumed such a lowly and perilous position, or an evangelist that brings good news to the lost, pastors equally carry a vital position within the church.

Today, I’d like to lift up pastors as a tribute to those who have heard the call and responded faithfully.

Poimenas

Poimenas is the greek equivalent for pastors. Described often as a shepherd of the flock, overseer, feeder, protector, or ruler of the flock, these men have been placed in a position of great honor and with it, great responsibility.

Properly, a shepherd  is a (“pastor” in Latin); (figuratively) someone who the Lord raises up to care for the total well-being of His flock (the people of the Lord).

Have you considered what the idea of “total well being” entails?

A congregation of believers is not like overseeing a legion of Angels, ready for the battle. It’s more like a rag-tag group of volunteers who joined the army right out of the fields and all they have is a bunch of pitchforks and spades with which to fight.

The church represents those who are the flock—-Sheep! Now, I’m placing myself under this depiction so anything unflattering I own myself.

According to the Fort Wayne Zoo, Sheep have very impressive cognitive ability and just like humans, they form deep and lasting bonds with each other, they stick up for one another in fights, and they grieve when they lose a friend. Even though sheep seem very simple, they are actually emotionally complex, they can experience fear, anger, rage, despair, boredom, disgust and happiness. They will usually stay together in a group while grazing. In fact, a sheep will become highly agitated if it is separated from the group. It is the banding together in large groups which protects sheep from predators which will go after the outliers in the flock.

Are any of these attributes of sheep starting to sound familiar?

The shepherd of a flock of sheep is meant to watch over them, protect them, and feed them. When a sheep gets isolated from the flock, the shepherd is the one who goes out looking for it. The shepherd loves his flock and is known for defending it to the death.

John 10:27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”

Jesus likens Himself as the Shepherd to His sheep.

Do you see the value of pastors?

Pastors have been called to assume a role to their congregation, as Jesus is to the church. They are meant to be like an extension of Christ on earth. They are called to love the people under their care, and give themselves for them. They are anointed with the responsibility to teach what Christ has revealed, in all Truth and honesty. They protect by filtering out harmful doctrine and false teachers that may try to infiltrate the church and lead them astray. If a wolf appears, whether in sheep’s clothing or in full array, the pastor is the shepherd who ultimately takes the stand against such intruders.

The responsibility upon pastors is not a light load to bear. If a pastor walks in his calling faithfully, it is incredibly taxing. Every wind of doctrine that attempts to blow into the church, every dispute within the ranks, every state mandated policy of masks or quarantine must go through the shepherd, regardless of how well it is received among the congregation.

Is it no wonder how short the average stay is for a pastor in a church.

According to an article failingpastors.com, May 28, 2019

The average stay at a church for a senior pastor is about four years. Youth pastors last about three.

The article describes how troublesome this trend is and why it is so destructive for such a change in leadership. The article goes on to tell pastors to “suck it up”, or “be a man”, but what I think really needs to be addressed are the reasons why so many people leave churches. The machoism of sucking it up is really a focus inwardly rather than outwardly. The Lord is our sustainer and it is by His joy we are strengthened.

John 15:9-11 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.“

These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”

Yes, some pastors are looking for larger congregations to lead and there are serious concerns that need to be addressed if that is the sole reason for leaving but I think there is more. The support pastors need from elders or deacons is critical since the weight of bearing the load of a pastor is a heavy one to bear. The flock can also make it much easier for a pastor, listening to instruction, walking faithfully, and encouraging their pastor can be a great help.

Leaving a church can be difficult not just for the pastor but for the congregation. Besides leaving a congregation in a lurch, the question needs to be asked, If God called a pastor to a congregation, has he seen the call through? In other words, the calling ends when the Lord says it ends and not because it isn’t easy or pleasant.

The Shepherd

Jesus said this about shepherding the sheep….

John 10:11-16 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.”

The model for being a pastor was given directly by Jesus. The focus is not in lifting up oneself to a place of adulation or honor but in lowering oneself and placing the needs of the sheep as the primary means of serving the Lord.

Far too long I have witnessed pastors placing themselves in positions of honor. A common scene as a kid was to see the huge white cadillac parked at the entrance of the church, a single spot reserved for the senior pastor. Sitting on stage with other pastors, 3 piece suits, and in the 1980’s colored hair and prosperity gospel preaching.

The image of the pastor was not of one who walked the fields with his flocks but one who exalted himself above the flock in a place that seemed unreachable.

Today, my view of pastors has been changed. As a kid I was terrified of approaching the pastor, it felt like approaching the King and at any moment’s notice I would be exposed as a fraud.

During a recent service I attended at my church, as the service concluded the rain was pouring down in buckets. As my wife and I left the church parking lot we noticed our senior pastor running through the rain, trying to get to his car. It wasn’t until after we gave him a short ride to his car did we realize he had parked at a remote parking lot that was far from the church, just in case there wasn’t enough parking for the flock.

This is what a pastor who lays down his life for his church looks like.

A Good Teacher

A good shepherd is one honors God first by preaching the Word of God and not some loose translation that fits his doctrine.

One aspect I’ve come to appreciate is the expository teaching of a good teacher. This process of understanding the true context of scripture, who it was written to, and then drawing forth observations that fit into a good interpretation that is applicable today is a skill that takes practice.

There are far too many Joel Osteen’s in pulpits who take a feel good concept and misapply scripture to fit their doctrine. It is this practice where prosperity gospel teaching has its roots and consequently hinders the flock rather than helps it. There are so many heretical practices of money raising, false prophecy, exaltation of angels, healing hoaxes, and false understanding of gifts and anointings, it’s no wonder so many people have lost interest in the church.

A ‘good’ teacher is one who prays a lot, loves unconditionally, and lifts up Jesus in all they practice. These attributes reflect Christ to the flock and consequently Jesus is worshipped because of it.

Remember who the angel’s appeared to at the time of Christ’s birth?

Shepherds.

Luke 2:8-10 “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.”

Shepherd’s were considered a very low class of people. Spiritually, lowliness is a sign of great humility and this attribute is considered great in the KIngdom of God. It was to these shepherd’s that the declaration of Christ’s birth had been made and these good tidings were to be given to “all people”.

Shepherd’s hear the good tidings and share them with the flock.

Bad Teachers

Acts 20:28-31 “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.”

With any great call comes great responsibility. For those who abuse such a call, how great is their sin.

When someone is placed in a position as overseer, the scrutiny of their actions should be held to a position according to God’s Word. One of the first signs of a bad teacher is they exalt themselves.

It’s hard to exalt Christ, if man is in the way.

When mankind is exalted, their words become their gospel. This is how many are led astray, this is where the position of the Pope has been corrupted for centuries, and at times people have been led to their death because of bad leadership.

If a teacher is in error, confront them privately from the Word of God. Pray before you do and keep an eye towards restoration and not seeking someone’s total destruction. The Lord still loves them, He just wants them to represent His Word faithfully.

There is so much more that can be said regarding good and bad teachers but I need to cut this a little shorter. If a teacher is clearly in error and you’ve come to find they won’t change their ways then find a church that does teach the Word faithfully and practices it accordingly.

Be sure to regularly encourage your pastors, let them know how much you appreciate them and please show them grace if they don’t always come across exactly as you expect….most are doing their best.

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