What relationship does the pastor have with his church? Is he the CEO who makes sure the programs run smoothly? Is he the master-of-ceremonies to make sure people don’t get bored? Is he the therapist who soothes consciences? Answer: None of the above – he’s a servant. Turretin hammered this home well (Institutes III.227):
“…It is evident that the church is not for the sake of the ministry, but the ministry for the sake of the church; and that the church does not depend upon the ministry, but the ministry depends upon the church (as in civil society, the magistrate depends on the society, not…the society on the magistrate). …The church precedes the ministry and produces it and not the ministry the church.”
“Now the church is superior to pastors, not pastors to the church; the church does not belong to the pastors, but the pastors to the church. Hence pastors are called the servants and ministers of the church: ‘We are your servants for Jesus’ sake’ (2 Cor. 4.5).”
If only we could keep this straight! People too quickly leave a church when their favorite pastor leaves (he’s gone now, so this church will go downhill). Pastors too quickly think “this church needs me.” This is, of course, one of those things that runs against the grain of western culture, one of those things that makes biblical churches look so odd to Americans: the “leader” of the church is “least of all?”
If you notice the little image above (bonus points for whoever guesses the story behind it!), the pastor is the man on his knees dedicating his life as a servant to the church, who is standing.