Thursday, May 6, 2010

Expectations, Fears, and Hopes: Part 3

This is part two in a series of post that I've been thinking about lately in respect to the expectations of pastors. You can read the first two here: Part 1, Part 2.

I want to begin with this post looking at the expectations that God has for the elders of His church. There will probably be 2-3 posts dealing with this particular aspect of expectations, but today will begin with a pattern that I think is developed for the leaders of the church in Acts 6. To see this, however, one must realize that the ministry of the apostles is in some ways given to the elders today. Acts 6:1-6 says:

1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.

I believe this is the beginning of the deacon ministry, which later will be recognized as an office in the church. While some do not hold to that view, the point I want to make from this is not really concerned with that fact. However, in this passage you see the primary responsibility of the apostles in verses 2 and 4. The first thing we see is that the apostles recognized that there was a need being overlooked. The Hellenists complained that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution. The apostles did not say, "Well, that's not important. We really don't care." Rather, they seemed to agree that this was a problem because they wanted to see it taken care of by others. That is why it says in verse 3 to pick seven men who could take care of this problem.

Why wouldn't the apostles take care of it themselves? Why didn't they drop what they were doing and make sure the widows were cared for? The answer in verse 2 is that they were to continue to focus on the preaching of the word of God. As I stated in the last post, it is right to realize that the pastors of the church need to be concerned about the ministry of the word. That is the primary, fundamental calling upon their lives. The apostles realized it was important to care for the physical needs of the widows, but not at the expense of the ministry of the word.

Years ago I served in a church with several staff members. I heard comments about the 'Senior Pastor' being a pastor (based on how he loved the people, visited the people, etc.), but that our 'Associate Pastor' was a preacher (meaning he was able to proclaim the Word). There is a flaw in the thought process of that statement. The pastors calling is to minister the word! While this does take place in more places than just the pulpit on Sunday mornings, it still is the calling up a pastor's life. In other words, you are not a pastor if you do not minister the word. The Bible does not separate those two things into categories. Being a pastor means ministering the word. And perhaps the primary way of ministering the Word is through the public proclamation when the church gathers.

The second thing pastors should be devoted too (based on Acts 6:4) is prayer. Pastors are called to lead the flock that they've been placed over, and yet they are to lead as God wills for them. The only way pastors can faithfully do this is by praying for themselves and their flock. Pastors cannot change hearts. The Holy Spirit must move like the wind and change hearts. The Holy Spirit must move with the ministry of the Word to help people to grow in Christlikeness. The bottom line from Acts 6 is that the pastors of the church must take seriously their calling to the ministry of the Word and to prayer. The other needs of the church are important, but they are secondary at best to those two things.

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