(This is a re-post from June 2012)
Aside from writing the magnificent confession and catechisms, the Westminster divines also wrote a directory for public worship (DPW) which was approved in 1645. One section of this directory that has always stuck out for me is where it explains the duties of the pastor in simple, clear, biblical terms. Here are the seven points – which I’ve summarized and edited.
“The servant of Christ is to perform his ministry…”
1) Painstakingly, not doing the work of the Lord negligently.
2) Plainly, so that the uneducated may understand – delivering the truth not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power, lest the cross of Christ be made of no effect; not using unknown languages, strange phrases, and rhythmic sounds or words; citing non-biblical texts and authors sparingly, even if they are so elegant.
3) Faithfully, looking to the honor of Christ and the conversion, edification, and salvation of the people; not seeking his own gain or glory; keeping nothing back which promotes these holy ends; not showing favoritism but pointing out the sins both of the lowly and the mighty.
4) Wisely, explaining all doctrine, encouragement, and rebuke in a manner that is clear; respecting the situation of the congregation, not mixing his own intense enthusaism for something or bitterness.
5) Seriously, in a manner fitting for God’s Word, avoiding all gestures, expressions, and words that may lead people to despise the ministry.
6) Lovingly, so that the people may see and know that he genuinely desires to do them good.
7) Truthfully, as taught by God’s Word and persuaded in his own heart that it is true; publicly and privately living according to the truth in order to be a godly example to the flock; watching over his own life and doctrine as well as that of the congregation, with the goal that the truth of God be preserved, souls converted, and that he himself may receive blessing from his labors in this life and in the one to come.
Allow me a few comments on these seven adverbs describing the ministry. First, these seven points are based on Scripture. They also lead the pastor and his congregation back to Scripture. Second, these words describe the pastor as a servant – a servant of Christ primarily but also his church. This means that neither culture, desire for popularity, personal preferences, nor “itching ears” drive the pastoral ministry. Third, these seven points fight against the current notion that a successful pastor is one who is likable, trendy, “twitterable,” and amusing. In other words, they call the pastor to Christian maturity, piety, and wisdom and away from Western culture’s fixation on youth, looks, fame, and entertainment.
A pastor’s duty and goal, therefore, is to serve Christ by faithfully explaining his Word (law and gospel) to his people – for their Christian good and his glory. Perhaps we can apply John 3:30 to the pastoral ministry: he must increase, but I must decrease.
By the way, you can find this part of the DPW in the appendix of Westminster Confession of Faith (but I’m sure it’s also online and in other books). I strongly encourage pastors to read it!
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015