The Church and its Pastor

The Church and its Pastor

The Church

Introduction

It is the day of the Lord. The congregation in the church stands up and worships Christ singing the traditional old hymn, “The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ our Lord”. In another country a group of worshipers meet under a shady tree to proclaim the grace of God Almighty in another, totally non-official way. Yet somewhere else, two or three persecuted Christians get together in hiding to share and celebrate their faith in the Messiah as quietly as possible. All these groups and many others have one thing in common. They consist of regenerated or born-again Christians who have been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ and transformed by the Holy Spirit. This is what the Bible refers to as THE CHURCH, the body of Christ.
Only a small part of the church is on earth. A greater number of believers has already gone to be with the Lord. Therefore, there is the “wrestling and struggling” church (Eph 6:12) here on earth and the triumphant church in heaven.
The church has no visible head on earth but an unseen Head in heaven, which is Christ.
The most important work of the triune God at this age is the gathering of the church.

Definition of the church

The Christian church is a NT institution beginning with Pentecost and ending here on earth probably with the Rapture. The church is also described as the bride of the Lamb waiting to be caught up in the clouds one day to meet her bridegroom in the air (1?Th 4:13-18).

Conditions of belonging to the church

  • Repentance (Ac 2:38)
  • Faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord (Mt 16:16-18, Ro 5:1)
  • Salvation and regeneration (Ac 2:47)
  • Uphold the teaching (doctrine) of the apostles (Ac 2:42)

Biblical symbols of the church

  • Body: Christ is the head of the body and believers are members of his body (Eph 1:22-23)
  • Temple: It is a building and dwelling place for God’s Spirit (Eph 2:20-22)
  • Bride of Christ (2?Co 11:2): Christ is the bridegroom (Jn 3:29)
    The wedding will take place in heaven (Re 19:7)

The purpose of the church

•    To worship God and to glorify him on earth (Eph 1:4-6)
•    To evangelize the whole world with the gospel (Mt 28:19,20; Eph 3:8)
•    To teach and instruct Christians (Eph 4:11-15; 1?Th 5:11; 1?Co 12:1-31)
•    To witness constantly (Ac 1:8)

Jesus prays for unity in the church

(see Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer in Jn 17)
Reasons why believers should be one:

  • we worship the same Father (v. 1-5)
  • the saved all belong to the Son (v. 6-10)
  • all true believers are indwelled by the Holy Spirit (v. 11a; Jn 16:7; Ro 8:16)
  • the Father and the Son are united. We are called to live in unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ (v. 11b)
  • we live by the same word (v. 14-17)
  • our unity will cause unbelievers to believe (v. 21,23)
  • we shall live together in heaven (v. 24)

Conclusion

At present there are many different denominations and church groups worldwide. Different groups of true believers can be compared to different vegetables, each of which should contribute something to make a nutritive vegetable garden. Another illustration is the wheel, which has many spokes to make it work.
Christ’s desire is that the church on earth (his bride and body), should be clean, glorious and holy (Eph 5:27).

THE PASTOR

As in a garden, the church needs care and attention. In the first place, the Lord himself shepherds his flock through his Word and the Holy Spirit. But he has also appointed all kinds of leaders to take responsibility in the church. The second part of this leaflet deals with the pastor, exemplifying all those in church leadership positions.

  • The pastor does not own the local church. Even if some are founders of a local church or a whole denomination, they are still not the owners of it. Who then owns the church of Christ? The apostle Paul answers this question very clearly in his last speech to the elders of the church at Ephesus (see Ac 20:28).
    The owner of the church is Jesus Christ. Why? He bought each and every member of the church by his own blood. Pastors and elders are overseers and shepherds of the flock of sheep – not the owners.
  • It is proper that a fulltime pastor should receive his regular salary. However, the pastor is not to misuse the church for financial gain. The Apostle Paul says, those who think that godliness is a means to financial gain have a corrupt mind. “But godliness with contentment is great gain” (Ti 6:5b,6).

In Old Testament times God had to address the same problem. Read in Ez 34:2-5 what Prophet Ezekiel had to tell the leaders of the nation of Israel.

The pastor and his God

It is of great importance that the pastor or any other Christian leader has an intimate relationship with Almighty God. He has a high calling.

  • The pastor is God’s representative or ambassador here on earth (2 Co 5:20).
  • The pastor is a steward of the mysteries (secrets) of God (1 Co 4:1). He is to pass on God’s word in its fullness with clarity, power and purity. A pastor who speaks the truth of God’s word also speaks prophetically of God’s plans, purposes and desires.
  • A true pastor will never be bribed to please people. He is called to please God (He 5:4).
  • A pastor is also a shepherd (1 Pt 5:2). He needs to feed and lead the flock of God with love and tenderness. A true spiritual pastor is not a hireling (a hired man) who takes off in times of danger. A godly shepherd is willing - just as Christ - to give his life for the sheep (Jn 10:11-13).
  • A pastor, as a spiritual leader, must be a servant-leader (2?Co 4:5). The Greek word used here for “servant” means “slave”. A slave is not the master. He is not arrogant, but humble and obedient to his master. However, it does not mean that a servant (slave) should be available to the congregation 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Each pastor needs to live a balanced life in terms of his ministry, his family and his time of rest and recreation.

The pastor and his spiritual life

Above all things, a pastor must have a clear, life transforming, personal relationship with God through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. No amount of training, education or even charismatic talents and gifts will make up for a lack in spiritual life. God wants his leaders to “be” and then to “do”. We all need to be renewed by God’s Spirit continually.

At an evangelistic outreach a young man turned to the Lord and was saved. In his past, he had been a very bad criminal and some of his stories were incredibly “exciting”. True, his life had been changed by God’s grace and it was good for him to give his testimony. Unfortunately the pastor in charge dragged him from congregation to congregation for speaking engagements. This stunning life-story was very good publi­city for the church. The man was also given leadership responsibilities long before he was ready for them. As a result of too much attention and praise, he started bragging about his past wretched life and was hindered in his spiritual
development. The pastor could have avoided a lot of damage if he had first taken more time and care to help this man grow in his relationship to the Saviour.

The development of a spiritual leader takes time. There are no short cuts. His heart and character need preparation and shaping by the Holy Spirit as he grows in his spiritual life.
For this reason a pastor must be a man of prayer. He needs to constantly review and watch over his motives. This question needs to be on his mind always, “Why do I want to pastor this congregation? Is it to build up God’s kingdom or do I have selfish ambitions like increasing my power among the church people and in the local community?”

The pastor and his intellectual life

A good number of pastors have attended Bible College. Others have never had the chance to do so. In either case, a deep and lasting relationship with Jesus, the living word, and with the written word, the Bible, is a must. It is important to examine the Scriptures to see if what other preachers and other ‘Christian’ speakers on TV say is true (Ac 17:11).
God’s Holy Word will transform and sanctify the Christian’s character and will enable preachers to proclaim to the congregations the whole plan and will of God (Ac 20:27).

The pastor and his pitfalls

No spiritual leader is exempt from being attacked by all kinds of temptations. The Scripture calls these temptations “the cravings of sinful man (the lust of the flesh), the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does“ (1 Jn 2:16).
Beware of dangerous pitfalls. They must be recognised and avoided because they can ruin even experienced leaders. Let me just mention the three “w’s”: wine, wealth and women. Or in other words: beer, business and women. Take special care not to be trapped in these areas.
Even Christ himself was tempted, yet without sin. What was the secret of Jesus’ victorious life? He walked closely in the will of His beloved Father.
And how can we live a victorious life? The Apostle Paul gives us good advice, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Gal 5:16). See also BBT 7+8.
We do not play with poisonous snakes. We run for our lives! Paul instructs his young co-worker Timothy, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace" (1 Ti 2:2a).

Integrity in a pastor’s life

The pastor is the representative of the kingdom of God. As such, he must always be concerned about his name and reputation in public and in private life.
The Bible says to be self-controlled and alert because the enemy prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. May God who called us (see 1 Pt 5:8-11) make us strong as we trust him in following areas of temptation.

  • The opposite sex: We must watch carefully what we say and how we say it. We should not be too familiar or close with female co-workers, e.g. secretaries, deaconesses, Sunday school teachers. God’s word exhorts us, “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (2 Th. 5:22 KJV).
    I know of churches where two non-related male and female workers are not allowed to travel by themselves in a car or work in the same office.
    I know of another church organisation which does not allow female adolescent or adult relatives (e.g. sisters) of the pastor’s wife to live in the same household with the pastor’s family for reasons of integrity.

A pastor once confided to his fellow pastors how certain women – even members of his congregation – were after him. They knew very well whenever his wife was absent at night due to women’s conferences etc.

  • Loneliness greatly increases a person’s vulnerability. An evangelist travelling during an extended outreach ministry can become easy prey to the devil in areas of loneliness. The absence of his wife and self-pity may cause the pastor’s mind to wander into areas of fantasy, and into temptation to fulfil the lust of the flesh. Satan tries very hard and uses all sorts of tricks and excuses to trap a pastor in sexual infidelity. The devil knows very well how to destroy a pastor’s reputation and render him unfruitful.
    For this reason a pastor needs to cultivate his own marriage. A pastor who takes time for everything and everybody but neglects his own wife and children goes against God’s plan and will. He is ruining his marriage. It would be no surprise if his wife lost her heart to another man who took more interest in her and met her innermost needs.
  • Money: This is another delicate matter where a pastor needs to be extremely careful and honest.
    Make sure you do not handle the offering money all by yourself. Appoint more than one faithful treasurer. Count the money together and do the accounting together.
    Never borrow any money from the church box. The intention to return the money is sincere, however much too often it never happens due to permanent money shortage in ones own pocket. It is so easy to be pressured by relatives, by a forthcoming wedding or a sudden death to borrow money from the church or from other Christians. More often than not you end up in a downward spiral of borrowing and spending money without the ability to return the money to its rightful owner. By the way, if borrowing money becomes awkward, then stealing money is the next step to “solving” financial problems.

The trap of making quick money

A retired pastor worked for a dubious loan society by collecting money from Christians and non-Christians. Usually such money institutions make ridiculous promises of huge financial gains which ordinary people readily believe. Unfortunately, the money collected by the retired pastor disappeared mysteriously and he found himself in a very awkward situation. To “solve” the problem he left his home area and settled in a far-away city. What a disgraceful way to end an otherwise blessed career as pastor and shepherd of God’s sheep.

  • Business: This can be another pitfall when pastors hope to earn some much needed money. More often than not pastoral duties are neglected. We do well to trust in God’s faithfulness, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Mt 6:33-34).
    Some pastors enter business with non-believing relatives. The Bible clearly teaches us, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2?Co 6:14).

Difficulties to avoid

A pastor opened up a trade store with his non-Christian friend. Soon his friend decided to keep the shop open on Sundays and to sell liquor and cigarettes as well. The pastor was in a fix. He was not able to reconcile his business with his conscience and his ministry. Besides that, he was being a bad example to his congregation. Now what?
Another pastor longed to have a car, which was much needed to execute his pastoral duties in the surrounding areas. However this car was owned by more than one party. It turned out to be a curse because this same car was used for many other questionable activities such as bringing people to drinking parties and transporting prostitutes from place to place.
The pastor asked himself: “How can I remind my congregation to live in holiness and righteousness when I myself am yoked together with unbelieving business partners whose lives fall short of biblical ethical standards?” Thank God this pastor terminated his partnership with unbelievers and became a trustworthy teacher of God’s word!

The pastor and his congregation

  • Looking after a church is not a one-man-show. There are some churches led by pastors who want to do and decide everything by themselves. They hesitate to delegate duties to elders, deacons or youth leaders for fear that they themselves might lose power or influence in the church. Are they too proud to admit that members with higher educational qualities or better skills would do a better job than they themselves? May the Lord grant all leaders a humble spirit so that they do not discredit others but value them above themselves. May they share their responsibilities as in one body to build up the church together (see Eph 4:12, Ro 12:3-8)
  • by gathering spiritual brothers and sisters around them,
  • by delegating more and more responsibilities and
  • by nurturing young Christians who will be the future youth leaders, Sunday school teachers, deacons, elders, evangelists, missionaries and pastors.

Closing thoughts

The ministry of a pastor is a tremendous responsibility. Truly, there isn’t a more difficult assignment with greater potential for joy – as well as problems – than God’s ministry. No pastor should forget that the ultimate focus must be the building of God’s Kingdom.
May the desire burn in every pastor’s heart to one day hear his Heavenly Master say to him, ”Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!”(Mt 25:21,23).

Robert Oppliger

Application to your personal life

Answer the questions below. You might need a separate sheet of paper for the answers. Discuss your questions with another Christian leader.

The Church

What do we mean by distinguishing between
-    the wrestling and struggling church (Eph 6:12) and the trium-
    phant church?
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    - the local church and the universal church?
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i)    What would you reply to a person who tells you, “I am a
    member of the Christian church because I was baptized as
    an infant?”
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ii)    How can a person know that he/she is a true member
    of the Church – the body of Christ?
a) Ac 2:38 ......................................................................................
b) Mt 16:16-18................................................................................
c) Ac 2:47........................................................................................
d) Ac 2:42........................................................................................
List 4 purposes of the church
a)......................................................................................................
b)......................................................................................................
c)......................................................................................................
d)......................................................................................................
The Pastor
Here on earth a businessman owns his own business. Why doesn’t a pastor own his congregation? Give a Bible reference to prove your answer.
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What sort of brothers or sisters did the Apostle Paul have in mind when he wrote 1Timothy 6:5b,6?
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What would you answer a young man who just finished his theological studies and feels that his outstanding results qualify him for taking up a position in your church?
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Sad to say, but the Christian church has lost many gifted and committed pastors due to various sins they had fallen into. Looking at your own culture and customs, which temptation(s) does Satan preferably put in the way of a pastor or church worker?
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How would you council a pastor (or any other Christian) who has fallen into sin?
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Do you know of pastors who run their own business besides pasturing their flock? What are your observations? What aims do you have for your own private life and church work?
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 Very often young pastors and church workers are better educated than older pastors. What biblical guidelines should both – the better educated and the lesser educated – observe when working together as a team?
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Bible Translation used: NIV where nothing else mentioned .
Literature used:

  • One Hundred Bible Lessons by Alban Douglas
  • Pastoral Ministry: In the Eye of the Storm, by Dr. Stan DeKoven, Vision International College