The Pastor’s Primary Responsibility
During the summer I take, somewhat sporadically, some time to 'vacation.' I try to spend some time with family, but I also try to take time, alone, to hear from God.
One thing which I've been thinking a lot about this past week on vacation is what my "primary" responsibility as Pastor is… there's so many things that are part of my job, and that I enjoy doing… vision casting, preacher-teacher, counselor, staff-coach. But none of these I see as my PRIMARY role.
My primary role as Pastor is to know the Word and hear from God. I'm not just trying to talk spiritual mumbo-jumbo. The Word of God has a power in it that cannot be replaced or duplicated by anything else. Consider these examples:
- Martin Luther summed up his world-transforming ministry this way: "I simply taught, preached, wrote God's word; otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept, drank Wittenberg beer with Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened all who opposed me. I did nothing; the Word did it all. For it is almighty and takes captive the hearts, and if the hearts are captured, the evil work will fall of itself."
- Billy Graham was once asked, "If you had your life to live over, what would you do differently?" He said, "One of my great regrets is that I have not studied enough. I wish I had studied more and preached less. People have pressured me into speaking to groups when I should have been studying and preparing. Donald Grey Barnhouse said that if he knew the Lord was coming back in 3 years, he would spend 2 of them studying and 1 preaching. I'm trying to make that up now."
- The Apostles were asked to meet a genuine ministry need in Acts 6–the hunger of some of their widows. Can't you hear people around them saying, "Now, what good is it to do all that preaching if people from your own congregation are starving?" The Apostles' response, "We must devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the word." It's not that they turned a deaf ear–they saw to it that others stepped in to meet the need, but they knew that the greatest thing they could do for their community was devote themselves to the Word. The result is recorded in vs. 7, "The Word of God kept on spreading and the number of disciples increased greatly…"
- Jesus and the Apostles several times warned of ministries that would "succeed" on the surface but which eternity would reveal to be nothing. Think of the parable of the seeds (Mark 4), Paul's warning of the work that turns out to be stubble that won't endure the fire (neither the fire of persecution nor the fire of God's all seeing eye), or Jesus' warning about houses built on sand (Matt 7:24-27)Yes, I'm talking to my megachurch pastor friends who think that a large church proves the blessing of God. If we have a large congregation full of the kinds of "fruit" that won't endure the tests of persecution, will we have anything lasting to show for our ministry?
- Puritan Robert Murray McCheyenne: "What my people most need from me are not my clever sermons but my personal holiness."
That is why I say that I must make my primary task, as Pastor of the Summit, knowing the Word and hearing from God. It is the Word alone that creates lasting fruit. I would do a disservice to everyone if I did not make it my primary task.
It's not that the other things aren't important, just that nothing can replace the Word. As Martin Luther noted, if I get the Word right, I can sleep and drink beer (even though I don't drink, but you know how those Germans are…) and the revolution will happen.
In the Apostles' day, it was waiting on tables which threatened to take away their time from prayer and the Word. What do you think most threatens to take away pastors' time from the Word today?
Here's what I see…
- reading leadership books
- going to pastors' conferences
- reading blogs
- putting creativity into messages
- staying up on technology
- denominational politicking
- staying up with the latest church growth theories
Again, not that any of these things aren't important. But brothers, know the Word!