I was struck by the sweetness of Phil Newton’s word to young pastors (although applicable to old as well). May God fill His churches with pastors devoted to the good of the people and not their own gain.
I was discussing this subject with one of our pastoral interns who recently preached at a church that may be considering him as a pastoral candidate. I asked simply, “You have to discern whether you are looking for a place to preach or whether you are committed to shepherding that congregation.” There is a difference. In the former one might polish his sermons, add oratorical flash, and expect compliments that he has preached a solid sermon. In the latter, he feels the weight of that congregation’s needs as he approaches the pulpit with the Word of God.
He’s conscious that from his trembling lips comes life for that man he’s counseled over and over for habitual sin;
hope for the lady recently diagnosed with terminal cancer;
a vision of the sufficiency of the gospel for the one struggling to put one foot in front of the other;
and the call to serve Christ internationally in the Spirit’s power for that young couple burdened for unreached people groups.
That kind of preaching takes place when a pastor lives with, prays for, loves, invests in, and faithfully shepherds his flock in all of the ups and downs of pastoral ministry. Is it just a preaching point? No, but rather a people entrusted to him by the Lord of the church to pastorally preach week after week after week, even when things get difficult, even when those very people rise up in rebellion, and even when the preacher is no longer popular—that’s the call to pastoral preaching. And so he preaches until Christ is formed in that congregation.
So, my pastor brothers, preach the Word whenever the opportunity arises. Take advantage of filling a pulpit. But don’t accept a church’s call as pastor to simply have a place to preach. Don’t use the people of God for your own gain, but shepherd them with Christ’s heart.