As I prepare for our teacher training meeting with our Sunday School teachers this Sunday, I was impressed by the depth and clarity of the lesson that we are going to study and then teach to our classes. This lesson is about the calling of a pastor and the results of a pastor living out his calling. In a specific sense, this lesson is for shepherds. All followers of Jesus Christ have been called to be leaders because we have all been given the Great Commission to “make disciples” of all the nations. Having made the above statement, I would like to clarify the fact that not everyone is a shepherd. God calls and appoints shepherds/pastors in the church to teach/lead/equip the members to make disciples. So, this lesson is profitable for every single person who calls himself or herself a follower of Jesus Christ (Christian, disciple etc.), even though these commands are given specifically to pastors, the pastor is going to use these commands to equip every man, woman, and child in the church to be discipled and to make disciples. Our previous Sunday School lesson was about Agape Love in Action.
In this article, we will examine 3 passages of Scripture that give us insight into the clear calling for every pastor and the results of answering and living out that calling. Here are the passages:
I. The Commands given to the pastor
I want to examine I Timothy 4 and II Timothy 4 to discover the direct commands that are given to Timothy, the young pastor and follower of Jesus Christ. These commands also apply to every single Christian, not just the pastor. There are 9 commands that I would like to focus on in this article. In these 14 verses, there are actually 21 commands given but we will limit our focus for the sake of space.
- Prescribe the Scriptures – This means to share a message in someone’s ear. The idea is to take the Scriptures and transmit them directly to another person. It is the idea of pouring your life into the life of another. This a beautiful picture of discipleship. The pastor/Christian has a specific goal in mind and that is to get the Word of God in the minds of people and to get people into the Word of God. I love the intimacy of the word picture. The pastor/Christian is so close to that person that he is able to whisper the message in his or her ear. A pastor/Christian has to be relational. He cannot lock himself away from the people. He has to spend much time with people, not just hanging out but injecting the Word of God into the lives of others.
- Teach the Scriptures – The idea of teaching here is the process of bringing up a child from infancy to adulthood. It involves much more than simply “teaching” a lesson. It is the picture of theory and practice. Theory is given from the Scriptures and then opportunities to apply that theory are created. Practicing the previously mentioned theory will open up more “teaching moments” so that theory can be given and then another chance to practice. Evaluation takes place, lessons learned takes place, and maturity happens, not by chance but by design.
- Let no one look down on your youthfulness – In the context, the thing that would cause people to look down on the pastor’s youthfulness would be his low understanding of the Scriptures. He has to be a man steeped in the Scriptures because the previous two commands depend on his knowledge and application of the Scriptures in his own life and in the lives of others. A pastor has to be a diligent student of the Word of God. A Christian has to be a diligent student of the Word of God. I cannot prescribe the Scriptures if I do not have an intimate relationship with Them. I cannot teach the Scriptures if I do not live in Them and by Them myself.
- Be an example – The pastor is going to teach others how to follow Christ and show them how to do it all at the same time. An intimate relationship with the Word of God will lead to exemplary speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. This command is in the middle voice. This means that, on your own, you cannot be an example in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. You need help from an outside source and that outside source is the Word of God. A pastor does not just study the Scriptures to preach a sermon Sunday to Sunday. He studies the Scriptures so that he can live out the calling that the Lord has extended to him.
- Give attention to the public reading of the Scriptures – All of the previous commands were given for individual discipleship. This command is given for the purpose of corporate discipleship. The pastor will always encourage the reading of the Word of God publicly.
- Give attention to exhortation – The verb “exhort” means both to rebuke and encourage. Like all of us, the pastor needs to be encouraged. The pastor also needs to encourage others. Encouragement is a very good thing. It is like a good coach who encourages his players who are doing well. If the coach sees a mistake that could lead to a bigger mistake, the coach would not encourage the player in his wrong ways. The coach would first point out the mistake, offer a solution, and then encourage the player to continue on the right way. This same thing needs to happen to us in the spiritual realm. We need pastors who will come along side of us and show us where we are wrong, correct us, and then encourage us in walking the right way. This is to be done both on an individual basis and a corporate basis. The rebuke, correction, and encouragement all come from the Scriptures. Without the Scriptures, the pastor will not be able to carry out his calling.
- Give attention to teaching – Not only is the pastor to teach the Word of God, he is also to entrust the teaching of the Scriptures to others in the church. Therefore, the pastor must pay very close attention to what the other teachers in the church are teaching.
- Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you – The idea here is that the pastor is to work according to the spiritual gifts that he has been given by God. The main job of the pastor is to teach. I have observed over the years that many pastors end up being glorified “managers” instead of actually practicing their spiritual gifting of teaching. They keep the ball rolling, so to speak. They end up doing way more administrative work than they do teaching. As we have seen clearly from the previous commands, the main goal of the pastor is to teach the Word of God to individuals and corporately.
- Be absorbed in the previous 8 commands – The idea is that the pastor is to be obsessed (in a good way) with studying and teaching the Scriptures in the church. He is preparing the members of the church to be great students of the Word. He is an example of what a great student looks like. The pastor then encourages the members to do as he is doing and invest the Word of God into the lives of others.
II. The need for a faithful mentor
I have noticed during the last 19 years of ministry that there are many, many pastors who do not currently have mentors pouring into their lives. I don’t just mean the seasoned pastor whose mentors have all gone to be with the Lord. I talking about young and middle aged pastors who have no one directly pouring into their lives other than podcast teachings and internet sermons. Timothy was not this way. He had a mentor who cared deeply about him, who had spent much time with him, and continued to invest in him. We all need this, not just pastors. But, pastors, especially, need this because we are leading others. I have a feeling that many do not want this because they do not want a spiritual authority figure in their life. It gives much needed accountability. A faithful mentor continues to teach. We all need to be taught continually. A mentor exhorts which means that he or she shows you where you are wrong, corrects you, and then encourages you as you walk on the correct path. Every single pastor needs this because he is going to have to do the same thing for the members of the local church that he shepherds. A mentor constantly communicates. This is huge because many, many pastors report that loneliness is the biggest struggle that they face in the ministry. When you have a mentor, you have a built in friend. A mentor will spend time, offering friendship and accountability. Pastors need a friend who will help keep them accountable. A mentor will have already spent much time equipping the pastor for ministry and he will continue to equip the pastor for ministry. Paul did all of these things for Timothy. Timothy needed it. Pastors need it. I need it. You need it. If this is the case, why do so few of us actually have mentors when it comes to spiritual things?
A mentor is not just someone who will give you the theory of ministry, he is a person who has lived and is continuing to live what he teaches. There are many who will say, “do as I say, but not as I do”. This is not the case of Paul. He told people to follow him because he was following Christ so closely that if they followed him, they would also be following Christ. Paul was at the end of his life and he took a moment to remind Timothy of the importance of starting well, continuing well, and finishing well. That is huge because we all want to start well, continue well, and end well but so many do not. Many start off well but, somewhere along the way, usually because of the lack of a spiritual mentor, they end up falling off track. Paul did not fall off track and he challenged Timothy to continue well and end well just as he, himself, had done. On the journey, it is going to be very difficult because of the fact that it is a spiritual battle and we are working with people. People, as we all know, are very complicated and difficult to deal with on a daily basis, especially in the area of interpersonal relationships. Knowing this, Paul reminds Timothy of what we are fighting for and what awaits us when it is all over. There will be a reward based on faithfulness. Paul lived his life for the coming of Christ and the establishment of His earthly kingdom. It was in the future so Paul lived for it daily. As a good mentor, he reminds Timothy of this fact. This is what got Paul out of bed every morning. This is what was supposed to get Timothy out of bed every morning. In order to live out the calling, we need spiritual mentors to invest in us and keep us on track. Before you claim that Jesus is your spiritual mentor, remember, Jesus told the people whom He mentored to go and mentor others. Unless you were one of the twelve or Paul, Jesus is not your personal mentor. He has sent another human to be your mentor.
III. The results of living out the calling
Discipleship is the result of a pastor living out his calling. People will come to faith in Jesus Christ because of the process of discipleship. People will have a teachable spirit and a servant’s heart, just like we see all through the book of Acts. Members of the church will open their lives up to spiritual mentors and have a desire to be led. This is radical for us in the Western world. We are so caught up in individualism that we miss the main teaching of the Scriptures, community. We were all created to live in community with God and with each other. We are relational beings. We are not meant to be rugged individuals picking ourselves up by our bootstraps. As people walk through the process of discipleship, Titus 2 teaches us that we will learn to deny ungodliness. The idea of “deny” in the Greek language is to stop the flow of something. Ungodliness flows out of our lives because of our sin nature. When we are being discipled, we learn to stop the flow of sin out of our lives. It is in the middle voice which means that, on my own, I cannot deny ungodliness. I need help from an outside source. From what we have seen so far, that outside source is the Word of God and a mentor equipping us with the Word of God. Without the Word and without a mentor, ungodliness WILL FLOW from your life. Not only is the sin from within denied but, the temptation from without is also denied. It’s a double edged sword. Again, you cannot deny the temptation from the outside without the Word of God and a spiritual mentor. Denying worldly desires is also used in the middle voice. You may want to do it on your own but, you cannot do it. Not only do you deny the sin within and the temptation without, you also live sensibly, righteously, and godly. What does that look like on a daily basis? You live for the coming of Christ. What do you do? You invest the Word of God into the lives of others the same way that Paul invested the Word of God into the life of Timothy. You and the people whom you serve will be zealous for good works. You will all be zealous to serve others instead of serving yourselves. Is that the predominate culture in your church today? If not, why not? What is missing? Is the pastor too busy with “ministry” that he does not have time to study the Scriptures and invest the scriptures into the lives of others? Are you opening yourself up to a spiritual mentor, or, do you have the attitude of “I got this”?
May the Lord convict our hearts to be saturated with the Word of God so that we can see the results in our own lives and in the life of our local church.