Monday, January 30, 2006

Pastor Matt G.P.

Ever since I became a solo pastor in 1998, I have tried to define my philosophy of pastoral ministry in terms of my three primary biblical functions as a vocational elder in God’s church: Preach the Word, Equip the Saints, and Shepherd the Flock (2 Timothy 4:2, Ephesians 4:11, 1 Peter 5:2).

Those three functions often seem to be in conflict with one another. Preparation time to preach, coaching time to lead and equip, and people time to be a shepherd all vie for my attention. It seems like many of the books out there about how to be a “good pastor” give weight to one or another of those functions, and also make it seem like one of them is the be-all-and-end-all of what it means to be a pastor. I fight to try to keep the three in balance and to feed one another. Sometimes I feel pulled by various people to do one over the others. All too often, I am personally tempted towards one to the neglect of the others–often whichever is easiest to do at the time.

The metaphor I’ve been using recently to help me think about it is that of a family doctor who is a G.P. or “General Practitioner.” I do not get to be an expert–a podiatrist, a ophthalmologist, or even a cardiologist. I get the privilege of being a “jack of all trades and master of none” (except pastoring!). I need to know a little bit about everything but won’t ever have the time to master anything. Because that’s not what my flock needs! But they do need me to love them personally, teach them the Bible, and coach them into ministry.

Most of the time, I like being a G.P., though sometimes I long to focus on just one task. I enjoy having multiple irons in the fire and a finger in every pie (to change and mix up my metaphors). And (to employ yet another metaphor) what I really enjoy is when the three tasks begin to play together in harmony, and I get a sense that I’m really caring for the flock and the Chief Shepherd is pleased with the music.

Soli Deo Gloria! (To God Alone Be the Glory)


I suppose it betrays my personal bias, but...of the three verses, only 2 Tim. 4:2 is singular. Could it be that the roles of equipper and shepherd are intended to be spread among the elders (1 Pet. 5:1) or among the "apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and (other) teachers" (Eph. 4:11), while the role of preacher is primarily (I wouldn't go so far as to say uniquely) left to the pastor? Therefore, shouldn't preaching have more weight in the pastor's ministry? Are you called to be on an equipping and shepherding team but to be the main preacher?

(Also, it seems that the command in 2 Timothy is given quite a bit of emphatic weight with the word diamarturomai ("solemnly charge," NASB).)

This may be an unfair application of the text, though. Certainly nowhere in Scripture are the various ministries of a pastor ranked against one another. Of course, the fact that nowhere are all of them listed together may indicate that Matt's three-part list is not exhaustive...

But then I am speaking as a self-acknowledged specialist, working among a team of specialists. We get the luxury of relying on one another to balance those same goals.