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” in Goatland

  This quote by Scottish pastor William Still (d. 1997) is for you fellow pastors out there.  It has to do with pastoral calling as well as teaching God’s people the Word.

“It is to feed sheep on such truth [the whole counsel of God] that men are called to churches and congregations, whatever they may think they are called to do.  If you think that you are called to keep a largely worldly organisation, miscalled a church, going, with infinitesimal doses of innocuous sub-Christian drugs or stimulants, then the only help I can give you is to advise you to give up the hope of the ministry and go and be a street scavenger; a far healthier and more godly job, keeping the streets tidy, than cluttering the church with a lot of worldly claptrap in the delusion that you are doing a job for God.  The pastor is called to feed the sheep, even if they do not want to be fed.  He is certainly not to become an entertainer of goats.  Let goats entertain goats, and let them do it out in goatland.  You will certainly not turn goats into sheep by pandering to their goatishness.  Do we really believe that the Word of God, by his Spirit, changes, as well as maddens men?  If we do, to be evangelists and pastors, feeders of sheep, we must be men of the Word of God.”

This quote is found on page 23 of Still’s The Work of the Pastor.

shane lems

sunnyside wa

On the Humorous Side: Pastor, Want a Beer?

Dr. Richard Lischer is Duke Divinity School’s homiletics professor and a pastor in the ELCA.  Several years back, he wrote an autobiographical account of his first pastorate and parishioners in a small, conservative Illinois town.  He was fresh out of school with seminary training, a PhD, and a progressive liberal outlook which didn’t mesh with this old-school church and town.  Here are a few examples.

One episode find Lischer (who has been at his new pastorate for only a few days) in the house of some older parishioners.  A lull came in the conversation that he and the older men were having.

“Bertie fixed me with his cagey blue eyes and asked offhandedly, ‘Pastor, will you have a beer?’ Everyone looked at me, and with only an extra second’s hesitation – just enough to make it an unnatural response – I said, ‘Sure.'”

“Bertie went to the refrigerator filled with Budweisers.  He selected exactly one bottle, opened it, and brought it to me.  The seven old men watched me intently as I drank it.  ‘You’re not having one?’ I asked.

“‘Naw,’ Bertie replied in a tone that seemed to ask, ‘What kind of man would drink a beer at two in the afternoon?’  His eyes almost smiled as he said it.  The point of the exercise?  The new pastor is either one of the boys or a moral slacker.  I left knowing I had been tested, but unsure of my grade” (p. 56).

I can relate!  Here’s another when he reflects back on seminary.

“Some of my classmates didn’t like Greek and refused to learn it.  When called to translate in class, they kept and English Bible open at their feet and read off their translations as if producing them on the spot.  One boy translated with great, stammering concentration, “The wind bloweth where it,’ hmm, let me see, ‘where it listeth,’ I believe it is, sir, ‘and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth….’

“How dumb is it to use the King James Version as a pony?  Professor Henrichs just laughed with the rest of the class at
the boys who cheated, as if he felt sorry for them.  He probably did” (p. 29).

I can relate again – though I enjoy(ed) Greek, I didn’t always come to class 100% prepared, nor did my seminary classmates (some of whom are reading this chuckling because of deja vu!  Though we were at least smart enough to use the Good News Bible or some paraphrase like that, filled with our ummms.).

If you’re interested in a more liberal side of Lutheran pastoral life in a rural Midwestern town, you’ll want to read this book.  It is a fun read.

shane lems

sunnyside wa