Friday, April 16, 2010

Together For The Gospel 2010: Session #9

C.J. Mahaney

Ordinary Pastors


I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
2 Timothy 4:1-5
Some pastors are remarkably gifted and have tremendous influence in the church. As for the rest of us, not so much. Most of us are ordinary pastors. Ordinary pastors don’t write books, let alone best-selling books. Ordinary pastors aren’t well known. An ordinary pastor pastors an ordinary sized church.

As ordinary pastors, we are predictably tempted to compare ourselves to other pastors, especially at a conference like this. It’s easy to lose the joy of being called to pastoral ministry because we become more focused on comparing ourselves to others. And we easily become discouraged. Too often ordinary pastors are discouraged pastors.

So this morning we want to look to the true definition of pastoral ministry so that instead of comparing ourselves to other pastors, we will be encouraged, so that we will be joyfully sustained in service to God’s people over the decades.

We can’t be like other remarkably gifted pastors but we can be and we are called to be faithful. It’s not about gifting, it’s not about influence, it’s not about fruitfulness. It’s about faithfulness.

1) Faithful to the Message

Preach the Word. Timothy would have recognized this as a reference to the gospel. Paul doesn’t need to clarify that to Timothy at this point. He’s telling Timothy, “Be faithful to preach the gospel.” Pastor, never assume that those in your church have sufficient knowledge of their need for the gospel.

We will experience temptations to stray from this gospel. We must be faithful to preach this gospel. And in order to do this, we must resolve to be unoriginal. If we don’t do this, we’ll be distracted by all that is new, trendy, and popular and that which is of secondary importance rather than the original old message of the gospel which is of first importance. If we don’t resolve to be unoriginal, we will lose sight of what matters most.

You might not look like much. Where you meet might not look like much. Church might not run smoothly. But if we’re being faithful to the charge to preach the gospel, there is power under the hood. And the church will be edified. And the lost will be evangelized.

Whitefield and Wesley may preach the gospel better than us but they can’t preach a better gospel.

Whatever our church demographics are, our charge is to preach the gospel whether people are indifferent or antagonistic.

We must not only be familiar with the message, but we must also be familiar with the people we are preaching to. We need to prepare to preach the Word in view of the people that we are preaching to. We need to spend time with the people so that we can discern how to best to serve them specifically as we preach the Word to them.

Faithfulness to the message requires godly character in general and patience in particular. Patience is essential, not optional for a pastor. Pastoral ministry requires not just patience but complete patience. We must not only be exegetically precise and theologically accurate but we must be completely patient with people. The latter is the most difficult. It’s much easier to study and prepare a sermon than to be patient with people. If we don’t cultivate this patience, our frustration and irritation will eventually surface in our ministry.

How does a pastor cultivate this complete patience?
  • Frequently meditate on God’s patience with you. Daily reminders of God’s patience with me protect my soul from sinful impatience with others.
  • Remember that sanctification is a process and not an event. Sanctification is a very slow process. We’re so tempted to expect our people to comprehend and apply truth quickly when it has taken us years to comprehend and apply those same truths.
  • We must learn to trust in God’s timetable. Ministry is frequently illustrated in Scripture with agricultural metaphors, based on a timetable of long seasons.
Don’t assume that you are sufficiently patient.

2) Faithful to Your Ministry

This is what the life of an ordinary pastor looks like: he is sober-minded, he endures suffering, he does the work of an evangelist, and he fulfills the ministry. This is the day in and day out of pastoral ministry.

One of the hardest things for a pastor or ministry to do is to just keep doing the same thing. We need to be less distracted by and attracted to new things. We just need to keep on doing the same thing.

3) Faithful to the Savior

Paul issues this charge to Timothy to fulfill his ministry in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, the Savior who he’s to stay faithful to.

In verse 8, Paul is looking forward to receive his reward from His Lord. And he’s calling Timothy to do the same, to look forward to receiving commendation from the Savior.

On the last day, there will be a parade of ordinary pastors who will stand before Jesus and hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful ordinary pastor.”

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