The Pastorate: More Than The Pulpit (Bridges)

The pulpit is only part of a pastor’s ministry.  Of course, it is a major and central part of the ministry, but the pulpit is not the only part.  A pastor also has pastoral work to do; this too is an essential part of his ministry.  I appreciate how Charles Bridges explained this.  It’s also convicting for me, and a good reminder for myself:

“Let us not think that all our work is done in the study and in the pulpit.  Preaching …derives much of its power from connection with the pastoral work; and its too frequent disjunction from it is a main cause of our inefficiency.”

In other words, a major cause of a minister’s inefficiency is a separation of the pulpit and day-to-day pastoring/shepherding.  Bridges continues,

“The Pastor and the Preacher combine to form the completeness of the sacred office, as expounded in our Ordination services and in Scriptural illustrations.”

As a rightly called and ordained minister, my goal then (with God’s help) is not just to be a good preacher, but to be a good pastor as well. As he goes on to explain, Bridges notes the biblical pattern for this balance and he gives some positive effects of the joining of the pulpit and the pastoral work.

One positive effect is how the joining of the pulpit and pastoral work preserves the church from schism and builds up Christian unity.  When the pulpit and the pastoral work are both flourishing, it will help keep a congregation united.

Another blessing from a balanced preaching and pastoral ministry is gaining the confidence and love of the flock:

A pulpit ministration may command attention and respect; but except the preacher convert himself into a Pastor, descending from the pulpit to the cottage, and in Christian simplicity ‘becoming all things to all people,’ there will be nothing that fastens on the affections – no ‘bands of love.’  The people cannot love an unknown and untried friend, and confidence without love is an anomaly. …We must constantly aim at nearer contact, and closer interest with them; winning their hearts as the way to win their souls….”

These are helpful notes for pastors!  It’s a good reminder for us to pray for this kind of balanced ministry, that we would be good preachers and good pastors.  This will bring God much glory and bring much good to his people.

The above quotes are found in part 5, chapter 1 of Charles Bridges, The Christian Ministry.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI

Pastors Staying Put (Miller)

An Able and Faithful Ministry: Samuel Miller and the Pastoral Office by [Garretson, James M.] I’ve come to appreciate this wise advice Samuel Miller gave to a young pastor laboring in a town called Frederick in 1854.  I’ve taken the word “Frederick” out of the quote and left it blank so fellow pastors can apply it to their own location:

I was especially gratified with the evidence that you begin to feel yourself at home in ______.  No man will be likely to be very useful to any people to whom he does not feel bound by the ties, not only of pastoral relation but also of pastoral affection; and no one will be likely to feel much of this toward a people among whom he regards himself as only a temporary sojourner, and from whom he means to escape as soon as he can.

If you wish to benefit your flock spiritually, and, at the same time to gain spiritual and theological strength yourself, regard them as your beloved people; try more and  more to take an interest in them, and resolve, in the fear of God, to stay as long with them as Providence shall make it your duty to stay.  Depend upon it, and you will find work enough to do in _______ to employ all your strength….  Let me beg you then to sit down contented and cheerful to your work in ______, resolved if it be the will of God, to spend many years, or even your life there.”

I agree, and I’m doing my best to follow Miller’s advice.  This is an important topic in our celebrity culture where pastors might be tempted to move to a bigger congregation in a bigger city with bigger venues.  I suppose it has to do with being content, as Miller noted.  Pastors too are called to be content where God puts them – urban, suburban, or rural.  Wherever the Lord leads, there we serve and there we show Christian love and pastoral care to God’s people – as long as the Lord wills!

The above quote is found in a letter by Samuel Miller, found in James Garretson, An Able and Faithful Ministry p.324.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

Calvin’s Company of Pastors

I’m very much looking forward to reading this book after finishing the introduction.  Here’s an edited snippet from the intro:

The reader will encounter three important themes wending their way through the chapters of this book:

First, the ministers of Geneva cannot be understood rightly unless one appreciates the religious natures of their sense of vocation. The pastors in this book emerge as men committed to the reformation of the church and devoted to the spiritual instruction and care of God’s people.

Second, it is inaccurate to portray Calvin and his pastoral colleagues as ivory-tower theologians, disengaged from the everyday concerns of their parishioners.  On the contrary, as evident in their ministries of preaching and pastoral care, the pastors of Geneva devoted much of their time and energy to addressing practical matters of Christian discipleship, enjoining townspeople and peasants alike to conduct lives characterized by faith, hope, and repentance. …’Theology for them was indeed always practical.’

Third, it will be demonstrated that while Beza, Goulart, and their pastoral colleagues jealously guarded the legacy of Calvin, they made subtle changes to the expression of pastoral ministry in Geneva in response to the practical challenges they faced.  This does not mean, however, that Geneva’s ministers after Calvin should be judged as bold innovators who betrayed Calvin’s theological and ecclesiastical program.  Their innovations were far too modest for such an assessment.  It is my primary concern not to employ a hermeneutic of suspicion when judging Geneva’s ministers, but to exercise both charity and critical subtlety in evaluating the pastoral behavior of Calvin and his colleagues in light of their unique historical and religious contexts.

Stay tuned!  I’m sure I’ll come back here with more quotes from this book as I read through it: Scott Manetsch, Calvin’s Company of Pastors (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 9-10.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI



The Pastor and Feeding Christ’s Sheep (Bucer)

Concerning the True Care of Souls Martin Bucer’s (d.1551) pastoral theology book Concerning the True Care of Souls is a wonderful resource.  I recently came across this section that I had marked up – it’s a good reminder for those of our readers who are pastors!

When St. Peter is asked for the third time if he loves the Lord, and himself for the third time protests his love, then for the third time the Lord says to him: ‘Feed my sheep.’  It is as if he were saying: ‘If you love me so much and want to show this by your actions, feed my sheep, because there is nothing you can do for me which is preferable or more pleasing to me.’

If we really love Christ, he is everything to us; therefore if anyone is called to this ministry, whatever unpleasantness, sufferings and crosses he may have to bear in the course of his ministry, he will be upheld and strengthened against all unpleasantness, sufferings, and crosses only by the fact that the Lord Jesus has commanded him to do this, and commanded it as the highest ministry of love that we can show him.  Then each one will feel as Paul did when he writes about himself in 1 Cor. 9: ‘Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach.  Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me.’

‘I am simply discharging the trust committed to me,’ says the dear apostle; for that should be more than enough for any Christian, if he is called to this ministry, to accept it and carry it out with all faithfulness, withstanding and suffering whatever trouble, labor, abuse, shame, suffering, and cross he may meet in the course of it. …There is so much delightful consolation for us in the fact that in this way we are showing the greatest love to our Lord Jesus, by serving him in his dear church which he has purchased with his precious blood, which is his dear spouse and his body.

Martin Bucer, Concerning the True Care of Souls, 192-3.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

You Will Not Stand Your Pulpits Sad Faced (Walther)

C. F. W. Walther was a late 19th century Lutheran theologian who is known for his book called The Proper Distinction Between Law And Gospel.  This book is actually the written version of evening lectures he gave in 1884/1885 to men preparing for the gospel ministry.  Since I’m Reformed, I don’t agree with everything Walther said in these talks.  However, there are some helpful Christian truths and admonitions in them that I’ve appreciated.  One section I enjoyed was where Walther said that the gospel must have the primary place in the preaching of the Word.

After noting 1 Corinthians 15:3, where Paul wrote that “first of all” Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, Walther explained the primary place of the gospel:

Now, do not merely listen to this statement of the apostle, but think of the time when you will be the pastor of a congregation and make a vow to God that you will adopt the apostle’s method, that you will not stand in your pulpits sad-faced, as if you were bidding men to come to a funeral, but like men that go wooing a bride or announcing a wedding.

If you do not mingle Law with the Gospel you will always mount your pulpit with joy. People will notice that you are filled with joy because you are bringing the blessed message of joy to your congregation. They will furthermore notice that wonderful things are happening among them.

Alas! Many ministers do not meet with those wonderful experiences; their hearers remain sleepy; their misers stay stingy. What is the reason? Not sufficient Gospel has been preached to them….  In accordance with God’s will it should be the preacher’s aim to proclaim the Gospel to his hearers till their hearts are melted, till they give up their resistance and confess that the Lord has been too strong for them, and hence forth they wish to abide with Jesus.

It is not sufficient for you to be conscious of your orthodoxy and your ability to present the pure doctrine correctly. These are, indeed, important matters; however, no one will be benefited by them if you confound Law and Gospel. The very finest form of confounding both occurs when the Gospel is preached along with the Law, but is not the predominating element in the sermon. The preacher may think that he has proclaimed the evangelical truth quite often. His hearers, however, remember on that on some occasions he preached quite comfortingly and told them to believe in Jesus Christ. Without telling them how to attain to faith in Christ, your hearers will be spiritually starved to death if you do not allow the Gospel to predominate in your preaching. They will be spiritually underfed because the bread of life is not the Law, but the Gospel.

As Paul said, “And woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16 HCSB).

The above quote is found on page 406 of Walther’s The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

On Searching For A Pastor

When the Word Leads Your Pastoral Search: Biblical Principles and Practices to Guide Your Search At some point, every local church will have to search for a new pastor.  Having been in a Christian church my whole life, I’ve see this happen more than a few times.  And as a Christian pastor, I’ve been part of the process.  Sometimes the process goes well, sometimes it doesn’t go so well, and sometimes it is just quite sloppy.  Although some churches have basic guidelines for calling a new pastor, many churches don’t have guidelines, so they sort of wing it.  And winging it usually makes the process very difficult and sometimes painful.

Here’s a book that will help churches (and their elders, sessions, or consistories) search for a new pastor: When the Word Leads Your Pastoral Search by Chris Brauns.  This book gives a lot of helpful details – biblical and practical – to think about when searching for a new pastor.  I do disagree with some areas of the book, since it is written from an independent baptistic point of view, but generally speaking, there is a lot of wisdom in it.  One part worth mentioning here is Brauns’ list of common mistakes churches make when searching for a pastor:

1) Not choosing the right people for the pastoral search.  The right people to choose are those who will think biblically about the candidate and calling process.

2) Prayerlessness.  Be sure you do not just talk about praying.  What your local church really needs to do is organize prayer and actually put it into practice.

3) Being people-centered rather than Word-centered.  Churches should search for a candidate who meets the biblical requirements rather than one who meets some personal pet priorities.

4) Lack of follow through and due diligence by the pastoral search committee.  No matter how busy and overwhelmed the committee may already be, the reality is they will not be successful in a pastoral search apart from a lot of really hard work.

5) Impatience that leads to the wrong decision.

6) Failure to properly administrate the pastoral search.  The committee needs to keep track of resumes, correspondence, sermons, etc.  The committee will need to hold one another accountable for completing assignments in the search.

7) Inadequate communication.  Leaders must communicate often with the congregation during the pastoral search [and, if I can add, communicate clearly with the man or men on the candidate list].

8) Failure to adequately budget for the pastoral search.  Recognize going in that there are significant costs for looking for a new pastor.  But it is worth spending the money.

9) Allowing the experience with the previous pastor to direct the calling of the next pastor.  Many if not most churches tend to hire out of a reaction to the previous pastor.  Whether it was a negative or positive, your experience with the previous pastor should not become the defining force for calling your next pastor.

10) Spending too much time trying to call pastors who are not ‘reasonably gettable.’  Look for someone who is a good fit in your church and community.

This is a helpful list to consider when calling a pastor!  Note: I did edit the list a bit by adding some commentary from other chapters of this helpful book, When the Word Leads Your Pastoral Search. 

If you are a member of a church looking for a new pastor, or part of the committee looking for a new pastor, you’ll want to read this book for helpful advice!

shane lems

Surrender and Consecration: Life and Ministry

Faith and Life Many of B. B. Warfield’s Princeton sermons are wonderful and edifying pieces to read.  One that I appreciate is from Acts 22:10 (What shall I do, Lord?) called “Surrender and Consecration.”  Here are two paragraphs from it – the second one applies to ministers of the gospel.  These words make me think of the hymn “Take My Life.”

In this latter question (“What shall I do, Lord?”) there unite the two essential elements of all [true] religion, surrender and consecration—the passive and active aspects of that faith which on the human side is the fundamental element of religion, as grace is on God’s side, when dealing with sinful men. “What shall I do, Lord?” In that simple question, as it trembled on the lips of Paul lying prostrate in the presence of the heavenly glory, there pulsated all that abnegation of self, that casting of oneself wholly on Christ, that firm entrusting of oneself in all the future to Him and His guidance,—in a word, the whole of the “assensus” and “fiducia,” which (the “notitia” being presupposed) constitute saving faith. And saving faith wherever found is sure to take this position, perhaps not purely—for what faith of man is absolutely pure?—but in direct proportion to its purity, its governing power over the life. Surrender and consecration, we may take it then, are the twin key-notes of the Christian life: “What shall I do, Lord?” the one question which echoes through all the corridors of the Christian heart.

And as our life as ministers of the Gospel is nothing else but one side of our Christian life— the flower and fruit of our Christian life—surrender and consecration must be made also its notes. It is in direct proportion as they are made its key-notes that we may hope for success in our ministry; for only in this proportion are we Christ’s ministers and not servitors of our own selves. Let us, then, approach this holy calling in this spirit, the spirit of Paul before us and of every child of Christ through all the ages. Let us now as we enter these halls to begin or to re-begin our preparation for the great work before us, have no reservations—that we will serve the Lord in this sphere, but not in that; that we will serve Him to this extent, but not to that; that we will serve Him in this mode, but not in that. Let surrender and consecration be our watch-words. “What shall I do, Lord?”—let that question be the spirit of all our lives.

B. B. Warfield, Faith and Life (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1974),155-6.

shane lems