By Bob Hiller –
I’ll never forget my first day at the seminary when I sat in my first year Pastoral Ministry class. Our professor began to teach us 1 Timothy 3. He told us we aspired to a kalou ergou (“noble task” in Greek). He then held up St. Paul’s standards for a man who will be ordained:
Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. – 1 Timothy 3:2-7
After he finished working us over with the text, he proclaimed: “This is the sort of man you must be if you are going to be a pastor. I know you think the Christian life is all Gospel and this sounds like a double standard with all this Law. Well, then fine. It’s a double standard. Sorry. You must be this way!”
I remember thinking two things: First, how much I wished he stop repeating the words kalou ergou (he said it a lot) and second, how terrified I was by the standard our Lord laid down for pastors! If this is what I’m supposed to be like, I thought, I’m dead! It was then that I realized that the life of the pastor is a life under the Law.
Now, before you think that you know where I am going (ohhh, here go those Jagged Word guys decrying the Law again. How antinomian!), let me assure you: I do not see this as a bad thing. I have seen what happens to the precious flock of God when pastors thumb their holy noses at this passage and live in gross sin. It harms the flock. People have their faith damaged. The Gospel is obscured in the ears of many because of a pastor who works against Paul’s expectations. The office of the ministry, like any other vocation, is bound to certain necessary standards. After all, the man who fills the office is quite a sinner, and his old nature needs to be threatened to stay in line. In 1 Timothy, the Law necessarily hangs over the head of the pastor and guides his conduct with its threats.
But it also kills him. It kills him because it is the Law, and it always accuses. That is why your pastor needs a preacher. He needs absolution. He needs forgiveness. He needs to hear that the Lord shed His blood for pastors too. What I fear is that far too many pastors, far too many men called to free sinners from the Law’s condemnation, are never delivered themselves. Their ears are not filled with the Gospel even if their sermons are. Instead, they are simply told how they need to live as pastors, above reproach in this kalou ergou. And even if they are not guilty of any gross sins on Paul’s list in their deeds, their thoughts and words certainly hold them guilty.
What’s more, so many voices cry out for pastors to be great leaders, marketing gurus, business strategists, fund raisers, and snake charmers (you know, like the pastor down the street) that it is not hard for a depressed inferiority complex to set in. Pastors begin to look at other pastors with envy and other ministries with ecclesiastical lust thinking, “Why can’t I look like him? Why can’t my church look like that? What’s wrong with me?”
All this, along with pressure from the denomination to grow your church or be a contributing factor to the declining trends of American Christianity, or just the normal pressures of tending to a congregation filled with sin and satanic attack, is enough to drive one to drink. But of course, that’s not a good option, as drunkards are disqualified!
Now, in a system like this, only two types of pastors exist: the terrified and the proud. The results of a Gospel-less ear is always either a terrified or a proud heart. So, nearly 50% of pastors don’t retire from the ministry. The demands, even the good ones, become too overwhelming. Or what is worse, some pastors begin to think they are pulling off this kalou ergou above reproach! Well, if not above reproach, at least they aren’t as bad as those pastors over there. Pride can set into the heart of a pastor just as easily as terror.
Your pastor is under the Law, and it is killing him! So, he needs a preacher. He needs a preacher to be honest with him in his pride, to hold up 1 Timothy 3 in front of his face, and remind him of the towering heights of God’s standards! But he also needs a preacher to proclaim to him the even greater depths of God’s love in the shed blood of Jesus for him. The pastor needs a preacher to put Jesus in His ears, to tell him that Christ came for sinners, even pastoral ones! They need someone they can confess their sins to with (and in) confidence, someone who will tell them that they are not under the Law, but Grace, and are free to serve God’s flock with joy (especially when the joy is not there). Pastors who are dying need a preacher to breathe the Word of Life into their ears. They need the beautiful feet of a parishioner or fellow pastor to walk into their office and announce, “I declare you forgiven for the sake of Jesus Christ!”
Pastors need a preacher. Pastors need someone to take up this kalou ergou and give them Jesus. Otherwise, they are dead!