To be a pastor is surely one of the greatest graces given to men within the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Leading a congregation in His name is no small feat. He has chosen you out of His flock to feed His flock. That knowledge alone should stop you in your tracks to stand in awe of Christ's plan for His Body through you. This isn't a calling that should be taken lightly. In fact, Scripture says men who answer this call will be judged more harshly (James 3:1).
With that truth firmly in mind, I wish to address an issue I've recognized within various churches, whether they be in my neighborhood, or whether they post sermons online. The issue has many facets, but it all boils down to a lack of godliness. These facets include:
- Personal holiness
Many who call themselves pastors are not godly. I'm sure we could all name a few false teachers on both hands. However, I'm not speaking of false teachers, rather I'm speaking of men who stand in a place of authority who do no much more than "jumping jacks for Jesus" in front of their congregations. If you wear the title "pastor", own it. Dig in, get dirty. Crack open the ESV or the NASB and study hard. Wrestle with God as Jacob once did. Do not let Him go until He blesses you. Spend long hours in your prayer closets. Yes, I said hours.
Preaching should never be something done "on the side" or taken as a "privilege to be a leader." Preaching is hard work, dedicated work, done by men who can draw Living Water from the deep well of Scripture. It is not telling stories about your own life or how to overcome obstacles. The sum and substance of all preaching everywhere is Christ and Him crucified. If the congregation hasn't been taught about the life or teachings of Christ in your sermons, you are not preaching a sermon but giving a lecture or having a speaking engagement.
If the sermon does not revolve around the Word of God going out to the people, you have not built your house upon the rock, but upon the sand. If the congregation is not being fed on the Bread of Life that is God's holy Scripture, one must assume the man giving the sermon does not love the Lord, as the one who loves God feeds His sheep (John 21:17).
A congregation rarely rises above the spiritual maturity of the man leading them. This should light a fire under many men who care about the eternal wellbeing of those they lead. This should drive the man of God to strive after the Almighty with both hands and willing to be led down the hard, winding road. A man who cares about his flock will weep over them and hold them up before the Throne of Grace, asking the Lord for more wisdom, maturity, and a passion for Him within the hearts of His people. The man who understands this knows these people are not his, but the Lord's, and everything he does on their behalf is for the glory of God.
This high responsibility is not for the lead pastor alone, but for all pastors of the church. Associate pastors should not shirk their responsibilities to God. Those who preach when the lead pastor is out of town or away at another church should not see themselves as the "substitute teacher". There is just as much responsibility riding on the shoulders of associate pastors as there is on the main pastor. This is not a "free Sunday" to preach on what you like, but rather, the grace of God to grow you in leading His sheep. Do not squander these opportunities with fluffy sermons.
Here's the rub in all of this. I am well aware I'm a woman, and because of the biblical mandate that a woman is not allowed to teach or have authority over a man (1 Timothy 2:12), this letter might fall on many deaf ears. If that's the case, I will still continue in prayer for your church and your congregations. However, as a sister in Christ, am I not allowed to encourage my brothers? (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Consider this letter isn't meant to teach you, rather, to implore you to fill that pulpit like the ambassador of Christ you are.
Therefore look to the men who have gone before you and have worn the same mantle that you now wear. Men like Bunyan, Knox, Owen, Edwards, Whitefield, Spurgeon, Moody, Ryle, Pink, Tozer, Lloyd-Jones, Stott. There is reverence there. A certain amount of awe. They believed God is worthy of poring over Scripture, studying the original Greek and Hebrew, and cultivating a relationship with Him that surpasses the ages. These men venerated their pulpits, and by that I mean they preached according to their adoration for the Lord Jesus Christ. They were not flippant; they climbed the steps with a righteous fear of God in their hearts.
When one studies, prays, and makes the glory of Christ the driving force of their lives, they have an "aroma of Christ" about them (2 Corinthians 2:15). I'm sure you've run into these godly people throughout your line of work. They don't solely rely on the Sunday sermon to fill them, they go home and do their own prayer and study to bring them closer to God.
If singular congregants do so, how much more the man of God?
Your congregations can tell the difference between a sermon that's been polished all week and one that's been phoned in on Saturday night. God should never be the recipient of our dregs. He should get our first fruits. All too often sermons seem as if they are piecemealed together, an afterthought, or they lose their focus once the pastor drifts away from Scripture. When the aroma of Christ is missing, the prayer, study, and godliness are missing as well.
If there is little Scripture in the pastor's sermon, there is little Scripture in the pastor's life.
My purpose behind writing this letter is to stir up the Church of Christ and compel the Lord's shepherds to not merely check if the sheep are in the pen, but to feed them as well. If we truly wish to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ and bring glory to His name, we must give Him honor as well. We must lift Him up. We must be willing to do the homework, willing to be on our knees, willing to wrestle and sweat for the meat of the Word, not just milk only (Hebrews 5:12-14).
We need spiritual maturity in our pulpits in order to ensure spiritual maturity in the Body of Christ. When the pastor is so taken with the Lord Jesus Christ that he finds Him altogether lovely and absolutely magnificent, when he expounds on the everlasting grace of the King of Glory, when he gazes heavenward with unwavering devotion in his eyes, my brothers, that is when the Holy Spirit captivates the hearts and minds of the people of God, as that is when the Spirit of God is with you.
Remove the veil from the eyes of your people and declare from the mountaintops the wondrous, glorious, dazzling, epic beauty of the Lord God Almighty. Light souls on fire by plumbing the depths of His boundless Word, and pray meaty prayers that compel your congregations to grow in Christlikeness. If you don't know how to do this, you have work to do. In Jesus' name.
In prayer for one and all,