Summary: The role of a pastor/teacher is much more than that of a carer. Psalm 23 illustrates to us from the Good Shepherd what is involved in this ministry that is intended to lead others to maturity in Christ.
PASTORS AND TEACHERS -- Psalm 23
Have you ever thought of entering the ministry? Maybe you have. Or maybe you haven't and you wonder how a church pastor spends their time during the week.
What is involved:
There is a well-worn joke that pastor's work only one day a week. It's about as funny as a 2.30 appointment at the dentist.
There are lots of committee meetings, action points to follow up on, phone calls and emails to respond to, visits to make, sermons to prepare, books to read, time devoted to personal devotions and prayer and finding a diversion from ministry in order to rest.
Much of what a full-time pastor does is hidden because of confidentiality. Pastoral work includes leadership, administration and bearing the burden that is sometimes placed upon a pastor's shoulder.
Burden bearing is a demanding part of pastoral ministry.
George Barna has collated some shocking statistics on pastoral ministry and the dropout rate because of what could generally be described as stress.
* Only 1 in 10 people who enter pastoral ministry will retire whilst still in some form of ministry.
* And the number one reason why pastors leave ministry is to do with direction, and the accumulating effects of the conflict that arises when Church people have differing ideas of the direction the Church should take but not willing to follow the same direction together. Congregations can be unwilling or very reluctant to change and follow in the direction that Pastor believes to be right and best for the Church together.
* In many respects Pastoral ministry today is similar to, but different from, pastoral ministry in New Testament times. At Westwood we recognise pastoral gifting in the membership. This is not only in the members of the pastoral team. There are others among us who have a notable pastoral gifts and ministry.
* What are the similarities and the differences we find between our practise and New Testament practise?
How can we be helped not only to recognise if this is our gift but also how we can excel in exercising it?
* In recent weeks we have taken a look at the three of the five ministries of apostles, prophets and evangelists in the early church. Today we are going to take a look at the last two ministries grouped together: that of pastors and teachers.
Expectations of pastors have altered through the generations. There was a time when churches would look for pastors to be evangelists who would persuade large numbers of people to become Christians. Later this shifted an expectation that the pastor's role was to nurture the congregation and respond to the needs of individuals. Now, in addition to the traditional roles of preaching, visiting and taking weddings and funerals etc the ability of the pastor is measured by their ability to organize, build and manage a complex organization, leading to new levels of growth. (James Thomson -- Pastoral Ministry according to Paul p9).
Let's return to what the Bible shows us.
THESIS: The role of the pastor/teacher is to assist Christian believers towards maturity in Christ.
What is involved in the process? What example can we follow?
Psalm 23 reveals how the Lord, the 'great shepherd of the sheep' goes about it.
* What is the goal of the shepherd? Ultimately it is to ensure that the sheep become mature and productive.
* The work of a shepherd today is very different in many respects to that in Bible times.
* The shepherd stayed with the sheep for many years.
* Sheep were largely kept for their wool and not for meat.
* They were all known by the shepherd.
The intention was to arrange that the conditions were right for the sheep to be able to stay healthy, be safe and grow.
APPLIC -- The five ministry gifts of Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are all needed QUOTE:
'so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.' Ephesians 4:12-13
The work of the pastor/teacher is integrated with the work of the others. Apostles innovate, prophets speak from God into the situation, evangelists lead people to Christ and the believers are built up through the ministries of teaching and pastoral work.
The ultimate goal is that Christians become mature in their faith. How?
This is a word for those whose call and gifting is to pastoral ministry as members of the body of Christ.
But it is also for each of us as followers of the Good Shepherd.
'The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures'