Editor’s note: This is an opinion column.
I’d been at the church for about two weeks when Bill (not his real name) came to see me. We exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes, then he got to the purpose of his visit.
“We have some wealthy members who’ve helped the church over the years,” he said. “They’ve brought us through some lean times. Our pastors have always tried to be their friends, so I want you to work hard to be their friend, too.”
I smiled sweetly and assured Bill I’ll try to be a friend to these men I’d not yet met, but I thought in my heart, “Pshaw! I want to be a friend to everyone. How would I know or why would I care the size of their bank account?”
Bill had an unusual concept of the pastor’s job. But he wasn’t alone. One of our denominational officials used to joke about pastors being summoned to pray “at chicken fights on”—the “on” being everything else. I never prayed at a chicken fight but used to pray frequently at high school football games when this was allowed. I never minded asking God to help us be good sportsmen and to protect the boys on the field, but praying at football games isn’t the major thing a pastor is to do.
The Apostle Paul wrote succinctly about the pastor’s role in the letter to the Ephesians: “And he gave some . . . pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,” (Ephesians 4: 11-12, KJV).
The writer was discussing the concept of spiritual gifts, and the pastor being a “person gift.” Some commentators say “pastors and teachers” should be a hyphenated “pastor-teacher,” designating one office. Whatever the case, the pastor, at least in the King James Version, apparently has three jobs. He is to perfect or mature the saints (all Christians), do the work or ministry and edify, or build up, the church.
But the late Ray Stedman popularized the “heretical comma” after the word “saints.” There was no punctuation in the original manuscripts, so it was added by translators. In this case, they did a disservice. When this errant comma is removed, the exhortation is clear: the pastor is to mature the saints so that they–the saints–do the work of ministry. Newer translations communicate this concept more clearly.
The point is the pastor does ministry, to be sure, but not all ministry. He must encourage everyone to discover and use their spiritual gifts. There’s too much ministry to be done for the pastor to be the only minister. In effect, he’s to share this job with others. -30-
Reflections is a weekly devotional feature written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster, Alabama. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.