If we were to rank the most important parts to a pastor's job description, preaching would be far and away the top. It's the primary aspect of ministry in Acts 6:4, and the only skill in the pastoral qualifications is the ability to teach. But for some, that's where they stop. I get that, in some churches the polity lends itself to a teaching pastor role, or the size of the staff means the lead pastor is less hands-on with the day to day administration. But the reason I think a lot of pastors stop at preaching is they don't fully understand what it means to shepherd.
Over the last 3 years as a lead pastor this has become gradually more apparent, and yesterday hit like a ton of bricks. I'd preached on suffering for the Christian, and after the service held the arm of a lady going through months of trial without any relief. And like a fullback opening the hole, I was hit with the emotion of the moment. Since then I've tried to process the moment and the best I can figure is that there are 4 ways that preaching is the beginning.
Pastoring begins with exegesis, but finishes with application - We can't take liberties with the text or try to justify our point with proof-texting. It's not faithful ministry if we rip a verse out of context and apply it in a way that clicks with people. We have a responsibility to "rightly divide the word of truth" and that begins with the hard work of exegesis, interpretation, study, prayer, thought, reflection, and a whole lot of backspace/eraser. But we can't finish there. We have to seek to apply what we're preaching. That's where we move from preacher to pastor. A pastor walks alongside the flock and guides them to godliness. They're not talked to and then left to fend for themselves. Pastoring doesn't just ask "what does it mean?" but "how does this change lives?"
Pastoring begins with theology, but finishes with love - Again, we should have right theology. Orthodoxy is kinda a big deal. Theology guides our worship, our devotion, our love, our polity, our marriages, our families. Everything is theological, but God has left His impression on everything. Of all the people concerned with theology in the New Testament (besides Jesus), Paul wrote compellingly about love. We can have all the right theology, but if we don't love we've missed the point. A robust theological prism will drive us to love: a love for God and a love for our neighbor. That's the point. We can begin with a solid orthodoxy, but if it's not rooted and expressed in love, we've missed the point. Love as a pastor involves a couple things that I want to draw attention to:
Pastoring begins with the pulpit, but finishes with the chair - Our most visible form of ministry is the pulpit. Everyone is watching. The greatest number of people we'll impact are there. But pastoring doesn't stop there. It finishes with the chair. The living room chair. The waiting room chair. The hospice chair. The wedding reception chair. The front porch chair. The kitchen chair. The coffee shop chair. The public ministry is the most visible, and it's the one most associated with our ministry (think about how we select pastors in most churches, it's after a "trial sermon"), but it's the lowest touch ministry. The highest touch comes from the chair.
Pastoring begins with the head, but finishes with the heart - As pastors, we should seek to know as much as possible as we can, get as much training as we can, read as much as we can, study as much as we can, and mine to the core every time we're in front of a text. And we should encourage the same in other people as well. We should recommend books, loan out books, provide opportunities for spiritual growth and Bible study, and get good resources in front of them. But we can't stop at the head. We have to finish with the heart. As pastors, our job and our joy isn't in getting approval or applause or recognition for being a great scholar or a great preacher. Our joy is from leading people to love Jesus more. If people in the church are more in love with Jesus and the things Jesus loves (the Word, the Church, the World, your Neighbor) than when you arrived, you've done well.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.