Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pastoring Pastors

For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; that is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. 
Romans 1:11-12
Someone recently said to me, "Pastor, I didn't want to bother you with my problems even though I needed to talk to you.  You have so many other things to do and problems to take care of, I didn't want to burden you."  Perhaps you have thought or said this yourself.  Let me explain from my pastoral perspective why I think this attitude is misguided.

One of the chief struggles of the pastor is being pastored.  We spend most of our time pastoring others.  We explain to them the doctrines of grace; we apply these doctrines and precepts to their lives; we make remind people of what they already know and show them how it impacts life.  We do all this with an outward look.  "How can I help others live in Christ?"

All this activity is profitable and praiseworthy, but the pastor struggles finding time to ask himself, "How do I get help living in Christ?"  We struggle applying the gospel to ourselves.  Of course, the most important part of this inward focus is our personal time in God's word.  We need to have times of reading the Bible for our own personal edification rather than for the purpose of constructing sermons and Bible studies.  But even those moments may prove stale.  We may acquire greater familiarity with the text, but still struggle to apply it personally.

Let me explain my approach to preaching.  When I preach to people, the first person I preach to is myself.  Although consecutive expository preaching takes away my personal bias from entering into the sermon topic selection, going through a book limits the series to the topics particular to that book.  For instance, you cannot preach Ephesians the same way you would preach Timothy.  As you spend time in these books, the pastor tends to leave gaping holes of practical Bible living that go unexamined.  Naturally, there are no essential gaps in the Word of God, however, no single book tells the whole story.  Unless you plan to exposit the whole Bible for every sermon, gaps will inevitably occur.

This is where you can help.  When you bring your problems, you require a special application of scripture.  The power of topic selection is removed from my hands and I must confront areas I had not considered or even might prefer not to address.  This gives me the opportunity of preaching the gospel to you and myself in a different context.  As I help you, I am examining the gospel and analyzing it not only in the context of your life, but also how it applies to mine.

This may constitute a different approach than one popular in a clinical vision of counseling.  As a pastor, I think it is a golden opportunity missed if I do not apply the gospel to myself.  If I spend time developing an application of the gospel to an actual life experience, how could I not ask myself how this application operates in my own life?  Not doing so assumes that I have no need of the gospel that I commend to others.

Now, this is not the only reason we are encouraged to share our lives with each other.  After all, how are we to pray with and for one another unless we know what we are to pray for?  Even so, I am addressing the hesitation with coming to the minister of God's Word for that for which God has sent him.  I am here because God sent me to help you live in Christ.  Unless you bring your problem to me, you are robbing yourself of that provision sent by God.

You are also robbing me of an opportunity to preach the gospel to myself.  When you ask to meet with me, I look forward to it.  I appreciate the opportunity not because I need some affirmation of my spiritual authority or superiority.  I do not need to make myself feel better by being the great healer of spiritual maladjustment.  I am as much a victim of spiritual deformity as any other sinner.  I need to progress in sanctification as much as you.  You are giving me that opportunity to increase in my personal sanctification as I help you.  We are helping each other.  It is the greatest spiritual win-win.

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