Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Christian Pastor - Lecture 1

The Christian Pastor: The Office and Duty of the Gospel Minister by Stephen H. Tyng (1873)

I thought it would be helpful for my own personal growth to blog through a book on pastoral ministry this Christmas season. In an age when the corporate model of ministry prevails, the Church of Jesus Christ needs to recover the Bible’s teaching about what it actually means to “pastor.” I want to be a better pastor. Previous generations got this right, and I think we’d be wise to listen to them. I picked up this little book from Solid Ground Christian Books, and it comes recommended by Tom Nettles, who wrote, “The Christian Pastor by Stephen H Tyng is very personable and pastoral and sound.”

Lecture 1: The Personal Object of the Pastor

Tyng begins by distinguishing between a Pastor and a Preacher. A Christian pastor is a Christian preacher. While the two are not the same, they could never be safely torn apart. The preacher’s task is publicly to expound the divine truth and to set God before men. The pastor’s task is to have an affectionate and sanctified heart, deep sympathy for others, and to be able to apply God’s truth with precision to the ignorant, lost, new convert, suffering, weak, growing, and advancing Christian. The preacher must have a sound mind, rich knowledge of the Word of God, and an ability to communicate it. The pastor must know how the human heart works, be able to sort out difficult circumstances, and understand how to apply the Word of God to the consciences of men.

Tyng says he is not going to focus on the details of preaching in this lecture, but on the general duties and faithfulness of a pastor. He approvingly quotes another man as saying, “They are not the great preachers in our Church who are the most useful to us, but the faithful, earnest pastors. Our revivals come more from prayer and private exhortation than from public preaching.” What, then, is the “object” of the pastor in the Church of Jesus Christ? It is to be the authoritative bearer of the divine message. The pastor, therefore, has a twofold task and burden: (1) to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ and (2) earnestly to care for souls, to lead them to receive and live for Christ. A pastor is characterized by sincere love: love for Christ and love for men. The love of Christ constrains the pastor. A true pastor doesn’t indulge showy pretense or sanctimonious (and loveless) professionalism, but is motivated by sincere love for the honor of Christ and deep desire for the salvation and sanctification of souls. A true pastor isn’t distracted by cold unbelieving speculation, argumentation, and investigation into Christ’s being and history, but we “know whom we have believed” (2 Tim 1:12). His reality holds our hearts captive! His authority and grace are absolute and full!

First, we declare Him. No matter where we go or what we do, as pastors, we tell the same story over and over. At the sickbed, at weddings, in homes, at funerals, in the counseling room, in discipleship relationships, in the pulpit. We never weary of proclaiming the divine message: God is holy. Men are sinners. In a glorious act of mercy, Jesus Christ took on flesh to identify with miserable little sinners. And He graciously and freely pardons the chiefest of all. Repent and believe on Him. Live! Why will you die? Never be afraid to deliver this message freely. Be candid and free in your approach to all men and to every kind of man. Men will reject the message. But, the only way to have any true and lasting fruit is to declare it with authority, sincere love for Christ, and an earnest desire for the souls of men. You must set God Himself before men. Christ must be thrust before them. There will be no fruit in debating and discussing and arguing about this and that subject. Sincere thoughtful reasoned consideration has its place, but the pastor’s chief goal is declaring Christ.

Second, we are to bring all men to a living Almighty Savior. This means a pastor must not only be a student of the Scriptures, but he must be a student of the hearts of men and of his own heart. You must “take heed that you offend not one of his little ones” (Matt 18:10), nor “break the bruised reeds nor quench the smoking flax” (Matt 12:20). You must vary your applications to all sorts of men, to the immature, the strong, the suffering, the grieving, the backsliding, the ignorant and careless, the self-righteous, the false professor, the young Christian, and the confirmed and consistent Christian. Pastors must, therefore, be students of men, of the streams of sin as they run in the consciences of men, not merely students of Scripture. Pastors must understand not only the cure, but the illness itself. They must know the law of sin and death (Rom 7:23) as well as the gospel.

In a time when many think ministerial “success” depends business techniques and corporate models, we need to hear these closing words from pastor Tyng: “I pray you never forget that our success in this work is not from the wisdom, the power, the eloquence, the magnetism, as it has been called, of particular men. It is wholly from the power of the Holy Ghost. In all truly successful men, it is the power of prayer -- the power of humble, self-renouncing faith -- the power of a close, patient, loving walk with Jesus. . . . Let this glorifying of Jesus be the Sun which lights your public preaching and the outspreading light which makes clear, attractive, and effectual your private ministrations.”

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