Over the next few weeks I've decided to write a manifesto of sorts about a few convictions I've picked up lately about ministry and the vocation of a pastor. Each one of these is an attempt to concretely state what I believe about being a pastor and how I will approach the ministry of the gospel God has called me to. Some could call it a "philosophy of ministry" and if that's the case, fine, they are what I believe and how I will live and labor. I will arrange each of these "articles" of my manifesto theologically. I think you will see why in time.
Article I: God
The pastorate is no place to play around, no place to be glib or trite or foolish about God or what the stakes are in eternity or people's souls. There is no room to waste time, goof off or seek to entertain people with my winsome personality or self-inflated ego. The pastorate is first and foremost about God. If I read my Bible right that means I stand before a God who is absolute in His holiness. I minister on behalf of a God who is a "consuming fire," a "warrior... majestic in battle," one who "comes in fire and His chariots like the whirlwind." I display to the world the glory of God by my life and by my words. I cannot be trite about God.
And yet there is a pressure and preoccupation (or distraction as I prefer to think of it) in many people's minds not to treat ministry as that serious. I'm not saying that because of God's transcendent and all-powerful glory that I should never have any fun or enjoy a good laugh with God's people or be lighthearted and joyful. What I am saying however, is that I can't represent God as a goof-off. I can't by the way I speak of Him, the way I minister, or the focus I have push Him to the peripheral in my work. And yet that is the temptation that swings my way almost daily. People want a pastor who first and foremost puts the people at the center. Many people have the idea that the pastor is paid to meet their social or spiritual needs. How many in our churches act like it is the pastor's job to keep their people happy and entertained and engaged and enthused? We act as if the pastor is the one who should make sure we have something to do midweek, and of course on the weekends. Oh, and the pastors have to keep our kids coming back... otherwise....
Yet the pastoral vocation first and foremost isn't about people; it's about God. It's a man declaring with his words and displaying with his life and directing with his time people to God. It's one who is made in the image of God, gifted by the Holy Spirit of God, called by the Word of God and burdened with the gospel of God to show and say who God is. And if this is the case concerning pastoral ministry then the pastor, then I, must be attentive to and knowing God first and foremost. My time should be with God. My words from God. My counsel, God's counsel. My worship unto God. My life fixed and devoted to God. The pastorate is about God. Any other center or focus is an idol, and God doesn't share glory.