I recently watched a short video by The Gospel Coalition where Kevin DeYoung was featured. DeYoung shared his thoughts on what his time in seminary did not teach him about ministry. In this short clip, he also stated three areas he felt called to focus on when he entered the ministry. In typical alliteration, DeYoung focuses on preaching, prayer, and people. Since most good ideas are borrowed from other people, I’ve decided to borrow DeYoung’s ministerial focus and apply it to myself. Now, in my own words, I want to explain what it means for me to preach, pray, and be with people as a pastor at Redemption Hill Church.
One of my favorite quotes on preaching comes from John Calvin. “Wherever we find the Word of God surely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ, there, it is not to be doubted, is a church of God.” I’ll table the conversation about the sacraments (Calvin is referencing communion and baptism) and focus on why preaching is central to a local church.
If the Bible is the revelation from God, then it needs to be opened up and shared with the church. The pastor preaches from God’s revealed Word and the congregation hears the preached Word. When God’s Word is preached dead hearts can come alive and weary hearts are strengthened. It is the delightful duty of the pastor to open up the Bible to show the church the glories of the gospel of God. When the pastor rightly points to Christ from the Bible, the people fall more in love with their Savior.
The Bible shows us more of Christ, and it also trains and teaches the church how to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1:27). Second Timothy 3:16 tells us the value of having God’s Word preached and heard. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Therefore, all of the Bible, old and new testaments are for the good of the church.
The apostle Paul demonstrates for us the importance of a pastor to be praying for the church. In his introductions to the Colossian and Thessalonian churches, he says, “We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you (Colossians 1:3).” And, “We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers (1 Thessalonians 1:2).” Paul’s emphasis on pray is repeated throughout his letters. Prayer is a discipline, and it is also a reflection of his love and affection for the local church. How should a pastor pray for members of the local church? Let’s allow Ephesians to be the guide. “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people” (Ephesians 1:18).
A pastor, an undershepherd to the Chief Shepherd, can pray that the sheep of His local fold will know more of God today than they did yesterday.
Pastors need to be about preaching, prayer and have a passion for people. Having a passion for people can go in several directions, but I’ll keep my focus on people in the local church. A pastor must be about caring for people that are in his local church. Caring includes rejoicing at the birth of a child and grieving when there is death in the family. It’s about marrying two love-birds and then walking with them through a hard season of marriage five years after the wedding date. A pastor should strive to know the people in his church. But to know his people he must be with his people.
The metaphor of pastor/shepherd and church member/sheep is helpful. The smell of the sheep is on the shepherd, and the smell of the shepherd is on the sheep. Richard Baxter, a 17th-century puritan pastor, modeled the importance of knowing the smell of his sheep. Twice a week he visited people in his church. During his visits, Baxter offered counsel and instruction from the scriptures. Baxter would make his way through the entire church directory and then start the cycle over when he finished with letter Z. While pastoring in the 21st century is different from the 17th century, Baxter’s focus on knowing and caring for the members of his local church is exemplary.
There are other facets of pastoral ministry. DeYoung even mentions the need for a pastor to be patient in ministry (And this point is well taken). But if a pastor can hone in on using his time on the preaching of God’s Word, praying for members, and caring for people in his church, it will be time well served.
Soli deo Gloria