13 Minute Read
TODAY’S BIBLE READING:
1 Kings 3:3–4:34
TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE(S):
Acts 6:4 (CSB): “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
REFLECTIONS ON TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE(S):
If you were to ask the average Christian in our churches what a pastor’s responsibilities are, the list would be very long! In fact, if you were to poll an average congregation, the compiled list would require a superhuman to fill the role.
- Preach and teach up to 3 (or more) times a week. If you want your pastor to have something to say every time he stands before you, and if he prepares three sermons a week, he essentially needs time to study and prepare three research papers every week (Ecclesiastes 12:12).
- Pray for any and every request that is sent his way.
- Counsel anyone in the congregation or community who needs help.
- Faithfully attend and participate in the visitation program.
- Visit all of the church’s shut-ins.
- Visit every church member or attender who is in the hospital.
- Be available to help families in crisis.
- Be available to perform all funerals and weddings of church members and anyone related to them.
- Be present at all church Deacon and committee meetings, influence the decisions that are made, and be held responsible for every decision that is made.
- Oversee the staff and be responsible for every decision they make.
- Set the direction of the church and oversee the implementation of that vision.
- Oversee the formation and implementation of the policies and procedures of the church.
- Represent the church well in community gatherings.
- Be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (even when he is taking a necessary ‘day off’).
Honestly, I could keep going.
And this doesn’t include the family time that the pastor must have with his wife and children. After all, if he’s not doing well at home, he is at least temporarily disqualified from being a pastor (1 Timothy 3:4-5).
The list is massive and is often determined by church members who have never experienced the pressures that rest upon the shoulders of a conscientious pastor. Sometimes, the pastor even puts pressures upon himself because he is afraid to tell church members “no” when he is already overwhelmed with other responsibilities.
Some pastors are running themselves ragged. Many congregations are running their pastor ragged because they don’t know what it feels like to be the pastor.
And I’ll say it again: The health (physical, spiritual, emotional, etc.) of the pastor is directly tied to the church. If he is running on empty, the church will suffer.
We really need to get back to Acts 6! We need to sit at the feet of the Holy Spirit as He reveals the truth found in the first 7 verses of that chapter.
Let’s look at those verses and try to get back to a very healthy understanding of what a pastor’s duties are. Let’s try to get back to a place where the pastor can find great happiness in doing his duties (Hebrews 13:17) rather than facing burnout as he pops pills to fight off his anxiety and depression.
(Maybe my last sentence surprised you. Maybe you don’t realize that depression and anxiety are a problem for pastors. Simply Google, “pastor depression and anxiety.” You’ll realize that it provides over 12 million results. Pastors and their wives, all around us, are struggling. Some of them are “hanging by a thread.” We desperately need to get back to a biblical view of what it means to be a pastor so that the pastor can do his job with joy and the church can benefit.)
Acts 6:1 (CSB): “In those days, as the disciples were increasing in number, there arose a complaint by the Hellenistic Jews against the Hebraic Jews that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution.”
We read in the previous verses that people were getting saved and baptized. That’s what it means when it says that “the disciples were increasing in number.” The Jerusalem church was growing!
But it is to be expected that when God sets out to do something wonderful, Satan will do whatever he can to undermine it.
The church was growing so Satan stirred up disunity. Specifically, the Jews (who were ‘Greek’ in culture) claimed that their widows weren’t being treated as well as the Jewish widows (who were ‘Hebrew’ in culture). Essentially, there were allegations of injustice because of racism.
This was a major church problem. If the disunity didn’t get resolved, the Holy Spirit’s work would be quenched. Unbelievers would not be attracted to Jesus and they would spend eternity in Hell. The church desperately needed to fix the problem.
But who should fix it? The pastors.
Acts 6:2 (CSB): “The Twelve summoned the whole company of the disciples and said, ‘It would not be right for us to give up preaching the word of God to wait on tables.'”
“The Twelve” refers to the Apostles who were acting as the pastors of the Jerusalem church.
They called for a church meeting. This is a very important lesson! They realized that communication was important so they gathered the church together for an informational meeting.
It has been my observation that disunity is often the result of a lack of communication. When people don’t know what’s going on, they get unsettled. The pastors of the first church communicated to remedy the disunity.
Also, notice that the pastors presented a solution to the problem. I have discovered that one of the worst things a pastor, a deacon body, or a committee can do is show up to a church business meeting, present a problem, and then open the floor for solutions. It has been my observation that the loudest voice gets his/her way … and it is an idea that took only moments to formulate. Competent leadership that loves the church and wants the best for the church will come to church meetings with a thorough knowledge of the problem but they will also come with well-thought-out solutions to present to the church. That’s what the Jerusalem pastors did.
Notice in the previous verse that the pastors begin with what would not be a good idea. The pastors said it would not be a good idea for the pastors to give up their primary tasks to fix the problem. They said: “It would not be right for us to give up preaching the word of God to wait on tables.”
The pastors didn’t say they were too good to “wait on tables.” They simply said that waiting on tables would require them to give up something else – “preaching the word of God.” Clearly, the pastors believed that proclaiming God’s Word was one of their highest priorities and nothing should get in their way of doing it.
Acts 6:3 (CSB): “Brothers and sisters, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom, whom we can appoint to this duty.”
The Jerusalem church pastors continued to provide instruction for how they believed the problem could be fixed.
But, notice that they weren’t dictators. In fact, they affirmed their trust in the congregation. The pastors didn’t pick the 7 men. They entrusted that responsibility to the congregation.
This is beautiful! The congregation trusted their pastors to lead them and the pastors trusted their congregation, too! Mutual trust!
One more thing – notice that the pastors set forth some requirements for the 7 men that the congregation would select. The 7 men needed to be “of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom,”. This is of utmost importance. If you want a ministry to fail, put someone in charge who lacks character or competence. If you want a ministry to succeed, put someone in charge who has character and competence. Don’t just put a ‘warm body’ at the helm. That is a recipe for disaster.
Acts 6:4 (CSB): “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
Clearly, the pastors believed their priorities were prayer and proclaiming the Word of God. They knew that if the church was to thrive, it would be led by men who spent much time in prayer, much time in the Word, and much time getting to Word into others through preaching, teaching, writing, discipling, counseling, and any other form of relating to others.
Friend, if you want your church to thrive, you had better make sure that you don’t require so much of your pastor that he doesn’t have time to pray, time to study, and time to proclaim God’s Word. Certainly, he has many other responsibilities but “prayer and the ministry of the Word” are his primary tasks.
In fact, demand that the deacons and others in the church come alongside him to help him lead and care for the church. This is, after all, the way things are supposed to be done. The pastor’s job is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:11-13). While the pastor engages in the work of ministry, he is supposed to equip the people in the church so that they can eventually do the work of ministry, too.
Acts 6:5-6 (CSB): “This proposal pleased the whole company. So they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a convert from Antioch. They had them stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.”
This is the way things should work in a church. Competent leaders address a problem and propose a good solution. The church sees the wisdom in what the pastors (leaders) have said and recognize that the work of ministry is really a partnership between the pastor and congregation.
As the pastors and congregation worked together, the problem was resolved and Satan was sent packing.
What was the observable result?
Acts 6:7 (CSB): “So the word of God spread, the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly in number, and a large group of priests became obedient to the faith.”
The pastors were getting God’s Word out, people were getting saved and baptized, and even unlikely people (Jewish priests) were getting saved.
Friend, do you want to see God do some incredible things in your church? I sure hope you do! Life is too short to waste it with a bunch of lifeless church meetings.
But, to see the Holy Spirit move powerfully among us, it will mean that:
- The pastors must be allowed to study, preach, teach, write, and pray (and while there are many other necessary pastoral responsibilities, they are seen as secondary).
- The pastors must trust the church and observe that true biblical authority rests in the congregation. Any authority that the pastor has derives from the church.
- The pastor and congregation must have a mutual trust for each other.
- Competent people of character are put into positions of leadership and help the pastor to do the work of ministry.
- Unity is to be one of the main goals of the leadership (John 17:21-23).
- Our desire must be that we are becoming a much healthier church, knowing that God entrusts new believers to those kinds of churches. We desperately want to win the lost and help them grow in Christlikeness.
In order for the church to be the church, the pastor must be allowed to be the pastor. If the pastor is stretched to the point of burnout and frustration, the church will suffer the consequences.
So, to strive for a healthy church, work for the health of your pastor and let your Bible determine how you do that. It may simply mean that you get 7 guys (deacons?) to share some of his responsibilities.