what is a pastor?

14Oct09

Today is the 30 year anniversary of the day that John Piper sensed an irresistible call to pastoral ministry.  Justin Taylor puts together an incredible testimony of Piper’s journey to the pastorate.

This testimony served not only to give insight into the calling of John Piper, but also to answer the question:  what is a pastor?  Here are two excerpts from Justin Taylor’s blog post that inform us about true pastoral ministry.

1.  Bill Piper, John Piper’s dad and a long time itinerant evangelist, wrote a letter to his son concerning the call he was sensing.  In this excerpt, he paints a compelling picture of true pastoral ministry:

Now I want you to remember a few things about the pastorate. Being a pastor today involves more than merely teaching and preaching. You’ll be the comforter of the fatherless and the widow. You’ll counsel constantly with those whose homes and hearts are broken. You’ll have to handle divorce problems and a thousand marital situations. You’ll have to exhort and advise young people involved in sordid and illicit sex, with drugs and violence. You’ll have to visit the hospitals, the shut-ins, the elderly. A mountain of problems will be laid on your shoulders and at your doorstep.

And then there’s the heartache of ministering to a weak and carnal and worldly, apathetic group of professing Christians, very few of whom will be found trustworthy and dependable.

Then there a hundred administrative responsibilities as pastor. You’re the generator and sometimes the janitor. The church will look to you for guidance in building programs, church growth, youth activities, outreach, extra services, etc. You’ll be called upon to arbitrate all kinds of problems. At times you will feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. Many pastors have broken under the strain.

If the Lord has called you, these things will not deter nor dismay you. But I wanted you to know the whole picture. As in all of our Lord’s work there will be a thousand compensations. You’ll see that people trust Christ as Savior and Lord. You’ll see these grow in the knowledge of Christ and his Word. You’ll witness saints enabled by your preaching to face all manner of tests. You’ll see God at work in human lives, and there is no joy comparable to this. Just ask yourself, son, if you are prepared not only to preach and teach, but also to weep over men’s souls, to care for the sick and dying, and to bear the burdens carried today by the saints of God.

No matter what, I’ll back you all the way with my encouragement and prayers.

2.  In the closing of the first sermon he preached at Bethlehem, as a candidate, John Piper expresses his intentions as future pastor:

When I become a pastor, I am going to have one all-encompassing goal, a very simple goal, that in nothing I might be ashamed but that in everything I might magnify Christ whether by life or by death. To that end, I aim at three things.

  1. I will aim to love Christ with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my strength. Because when I die in the midst of my ministry and say farewell to a beloved flock and a cherished family, I want to be able to believe that it is gain. And in my dying I want to be able to bear witness to a church that Christ is great indeed and worthy of all our trust.
  2. While I live and minister, my goal is going to be to make the people glad in God. Woe to the pastor who uses his position to hammer year after year in chiseling out a hard sour people! He has forgotten his calling. “I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your advancement and your joy of faith.”
  3. Since joy comes from faith, and faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of God, it will have to be my main goal–my tremendously fulfilling and joyful goal–to feed that flock the Word of God every week, week in and week out. I will pray that Jesus’ words will become fulfilled in my words. The banner of every sermon I preach will be this: “My words I have spoken to you in order that my joy might be in you and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11).

6 days left to enter the drawing for a free copy of Calvin’s Institutes!



One Response to “what is a pastor?”

  1. Thanks for sharing. Very succinct and insightful. Thanking God for men like the Pipers who share not only the Word but their very lives. God help us all to follow them as they follow Christ.


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