The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. – 1 Timothy 3:1
Note what that verse doesn’t say. It doesn’t say “if anyone desires to preach sermons, he desires a noble task.”
It doesn’t say “if anyone wants to speak at conferences, he desires a noble task.”
Paul here is speaking of what it means to be an elder – a pastor – a shepherd of God’s sheep. And, although that includes preaching the word from a pulpit, it encompasses much more than that!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that preaching ISN’T a noble task – it certainly is! The preaching of the word, and especially the steady exposition of the word, as applied to a local church, over the course of years, is a primary means of God’s grace to the life of his people. There is no doubt that God has used the preaching of his word from the pulpit to powerfully affect change in this world. No, preaching is most certainly a noble task! But, that’s not what I’m wanting to address here.
I’ve been increasingly concerned with what I’ve seen from young men who’ve come into the reformed faith watching “celebrity pastors” and attending conferences.
Again, don’t get me wrong, neither being famous for preaching God’s word faithfully, nor attending conferences, are problems in and of themselves, but when our young men begin to think that being famous or speaking at conferences is that which they should attain to in their ministries, then something is violently off!
What I’ve been noticing among many young men is a desire to preach that is divorced from a desire to shepherd God’s flock among them. I’ve noticed that many young men who are wanting to “go into ministry” really mean by that – “I want to preach lots and lots”. And there is nothing wrong with that, again, in and of itself. It is good to want to preach, but it seems that many men who think they want to be pastors, really only want to be preachers, and I’ll just say – we don’t need preachers, we need pastors!
There is no shortage of wonderful preaching in our world, especially with the growth of online media and distribution of sermons. You can ALWAYS access the latest RC Sproul, or John Piper, or Matt Chandler, or James White….and on the list goes. But, what there IS a shortage of is pastors who will shepherd the same flock, for years, even if their sermons never get published, even if they never write a book, even if they never speak at a conference. Again, none of those things are wrong, and it can be good and right to want to speak the truth to more and more people. But what is wrong is that I see young men idolizing preaching to the point where they begin to look at pastoring as something that simply “gets in the way” of preaching.
And this is wickedness.
To say you desire to be a pastor, when all you want is to be a preacher, is actually to despise the office of pastor. And that is something I am seeing far too often from many young men. I see young men who, as a product of this “give it to me now” mentality, want all the glory that’s found in preaching, without the gutters of pastoring.
But I want to explain something – the glory of preaching isn’t “glorying” in preaching. The glory of preaching isn’t even “glorying” in the bible (though that is much of what true preaching is). No, the glory of preaching is God’s changing the hearts of the hearers.
The word glory means “the display of something’s value and worth” – so the question is “what displays preaching as the treasure that it is?” Well, the answer is – “preaching is shown to be valuable when God uses preaching to further his kingdom in the hearts and minds and souls and bodies of his people.” This means then, that the glory of preaching is seen most when it is connected to the glory of pastoring (which is the same as the glory of preaching – God changing the hearts of his people).
What does all this mean? It means that we need more pastors. We need men who will lay down their lives for the sheep the way their great shepherd did. We need men who will pastor on Mondays, not just on Sundays. And we need men who will preach the word one on one, not only from the pulpit. We need men who will glory in preaching for the reasons that preaching is actually glorious, and we need men who will see the nobility of pastoring, even when it doesn’t come with book deals and conference gigs.
Here’s a simple test for whether or not you are called to be a pastor:
If you could be content to preach 52 times a year, in 52 different locations, then you aren’t called to be a pastor.
If you would be happy if you could JUST preach, and not have to do counseling, then you aren’t called to be a pastor.
If you would be prefer to never deal with church conflict, because it gets in the way of sermon prep, then you aren’t called to be a pastor.
A pastor wants to help his church walk with God through pain and suffering. A pastor wants to help each and every member in their individual walks with the Lord. A pastor wants to shepherd the flock of God AMONG him. A pastor wants to see hurting members healed, angry members calmed, tired members refreshed, depressed members encouraged, and oppressed members set free. And a pastor knows that he MUST preach the word in order to see this happen, but a pastor also knows that he must NEVER divorce his preaching on Sundays from his pastoring on Mondays.
If all you want to do is preach, then that’s totally ok (as long as you aren’t glorying in preaching for wrong reasons). But, if all you want to do is preach, then don’t call yourself a pastor.
We need more pastors, because being a pastor, not simply a preacher, is one of the most glorious and noble things that a man could ever do.