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The Twenty-First Century Pastor

by Tim Binion

The twenty-first century pastor has many responsibilities beyond that of preaching the gospel. Being a pastor is an endless challenge and assuming all of the duties associated with being a pastor can be overwhelming. We live in a day when people attend church only concerned about how long you preach; they arrive late, dare you to get their attention, and leave with a critical attitude. We preach to the most abused, neglected, molested, and lied-to generation in all the world’s history. It’s easy to see the perils of this profession. However, as the saying goes, “If you don’t like the smell of sheep you shouldn’t be a shepherd.”

Aim: To provide practical principles for the peculiarities of pastoring in perilous times.

First, pastors must be put into the ministry: “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry” (1 Timothy 1:12).

Secondly, God puts necessity in the heart. The ministry is not chosen as a man chooses a profession. It is in obedience to a special divine call from God. When God calls a man to preach, he preaches under obligation. If he does not preach, to him it is sin: “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16)

Thirdly, God puts tenacity in the soul. He must put up with all kinds of hostility, calamity, and severity. The “Charles E. Fuller Institute of Evangelism and Church Growth” released these survey results:

* 90% of pastors work more than 46 hours per week.

* 1 of 3 pastors say, “Being in the ministry is clearly a hazard to my family.”

* 1 of 3 pastors feel burned out within the first 5 years of ministry.

* 70% of pastors do not have someone they would consider a close friend.

* 90% of pastors feel they were not adequately trained to cope with the ministry demands placed upon them.

* 75% of pastors have reported a significant crisis due to stress at least once in their ministry. 

* 40% of pastors have reported a serious conflict with a member at least once a month.

A pastor will not put up with adversity without a heart motivated by necessity. Disappointments and discouragements come, in which he must fall back for support and comfort in the fact that he is an appointed ambassador of the most High God, especially appointed to this office and this work. 2 Cor. 11: 28 reads “Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.”

If God places a man in the ministry, he will go ANYWHERE, he can withstand ANYTHING, and he will be HAPPY ANYWHERE (Philippians 4:11-13).

A pastor must be filled with a weighty desire to serve (1 Timothy 3:1; Acts 20:24). Along with a weighty desire to serve, there is a sense of intangibility; personal weakness and unworthiness that produces a heartfelt reliance on divine sufficiency (2 Corinthians 3:4-6).

God specifically places him in a field of labor or locality. A pastor must be placed by the Holy Spirit in a Church. He must occupy the post God has assigned him.  (1 Peter 5:2, Acts 20:28, Psalm 37:23).

He is placed in a locality for the purpose of being an example of fidelity. 1 Timothy 4:12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. The qualifications to pastor are vital. One defect is fatal – fatal to the minister and to the people. Few positions have in them so many elements of danger (1 Timothy 3:2). He is placed in this office as a model of morality (1 Peter 5:3). No brilliance of intellectual literary, or rhetorical, qualifications can atone for the absence of a devotional spirit and a pure life in a pastor. Every area of a pastor’s life comes under scrutiny. A man cannot be blameless and live reckless at the same time. In every area of his life he should be able to say like Paul; “follow me as I follow Christ.” A pastor is expected to be a model Christian in every way (1 Corinthians 9:25).

When God places him over a Church there must be some conformity; without conformity, he will compromise the purpose of God for his pastorate. 

He must adapt to church policies. It is possible to adapt to those policies without placing oneself under obligation to teach and defend them.

He must adopt the people. He adopts the people and cares for their souls as a sacred trust from Christ.

He must accept their problems. Our Lord makes loyalty to the flock in danger as the test of a good shepherd (John 10:11-12). Every Church has problems and their problems become his problems.

There are three primary problem areas: policies, people, and problems that entice him at times to change his locality (field of labor). A pastor should never leave or stay because of policies, people or problems.

Only the Lord knows and controls his time with a people. If he leaves at the wrong time, he loses the confidence and love of a congregation which takes time to secure. If man sent him there, then he should listen to man, but if God sent him there, he should listen to God. God alone controls the promotion and demotion of a minister. He works for God. A pastor should remain faithful to Him no matter what happens. 

The twenty first century pastor also has three primary areas of pastoral responsibilities: God’s precepts, His person, and church people. First, he must preach the precepts of God’s Word (2 Timothy 4:1-5). His chief purpose is to preach the precepts of God’s Word without fear or favor of men. A pastor’s chief work is public instruction and a pastor must have an aptness to teach the people (2 Timothy 2:15 and 2 Timothy 2:2). Time for preparedness must be a priority.  Hermeneutics suggest that a pastor spends “one hour in the study for every minute in the pulpit.”

The ablest sermon fails unless the people are awake and attentive. Preaching must be done with clarity and authority. Sermons pulled out of his brain, rather than from God’s word, fails to stir the soul. All diversity in his preaching must have authority from the Word of God. One may preach with authority and lose sight of his priority. All of God’s Word needs to be preached, but not all at once. God has a main message to present for each sermon.

The church needs a message that grows within the preacher’s soul and increases in power by the Holy Spirit, resulting in the people knowing they have heard from God through him. The word of God must be a fire within his bones that rolls from his lips with simplicity, clarity, and authority. His preaching must be according to the gifts and abilities God gives him! 1 Peter 4:11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth.

The men who deal with spiritual things must be spiritual themselves. The quickening power of a preacher is what gives life to his words. What a pastor speaks from the pulpit is to influence the souls of men. Therefore, he needs spiritual energy that springs from something deeper than logic and rhetoric. A pastor must pray in the Spirit, speak in the Spirit, and live in the Spirit. It is not great talent God blesses so much as the likeness to Jesus. “A holy minister is an awesome weapon in the hand of God” (Galatians 2:20). The power of the minister is not the polish of his style, the pictorialness of his illustrations, the fervor of his manner, the order and arrangement of his discourse, but in his living connection with God and his capacity to act as a connecting link between God and the human soul. It is God in the soul which is the secret to true pulpit power. If he wants to be spiritual and powerful in proclamation, “endued with power from on high”, he must be prayerful. Prayer is the channel through which God pours His life into the pastor’s soul. It is the uplifted hand of man’s weakness that takes hold on God’s strength.

Prayer brings down from heaven the sacred fire, which alone may kindle the preacher’s sacrifice. Prayer is the first thing, the second thing, and the third thing necessary for power from on high. Jesus, the Chief Pastor, lived a life of ceaseless prayer (Mark 1:35)Sometimes, Jesus spent the whole night in prayer.

If communion with God filled so large a place in the life of the Chief Pastor, it surely should not have less place in the life of the under-shepherds. All our libraries and studies are mere emptiness compared with our closets. We grow, we wax mighty, we prevail in private prayer. Pastors above all others should be distinguished as men of prayer. The character of his praying will determine the character of his preaching.

Light praying makes light preaching. This requires constant self-examination. The theology of the pulpit is the theology vitalized by prayer and glows in the heart as a great living reality. Too many times this is more recognized then realized. 

A pastor must interrogate himself. Not only does a pastor use self-examination to maintain this power, but a rigid self-interrogation. There must be times when we stand alone in the presence of the omniscient One and cry,  Psalm 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. 

Whatever call a man may pretend to have, if he has not been called to holiness, he certainly has not been called to the ministry. Without this self-renunciation and self-devotion to Christ the inner life will be without spiritual power. A pastor must live a crucified life and constantly cultivate a childlike reliance upon the assistance of the Holy Spirit. If he wants his work to be weighty and mighty, he must have piety (1 Corinthians 2:4). The power and demonstration of the Spirit is not his animated style of presenting the gospel. It’s the conversion of sinners to God, sinners receiving peace, joy, and happiness that transforms their lives. 

All pastors should work toward scholarship, maintain Lordship, and live a life of leadership. 

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