T4G - Session One - Mark Dever
The first session features Dr. Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C. The message, which has the theme of “The Pastor’s Understanding of His Own Role” is titled “Three Marks of a Faithful Pastor.” It is drawn from 1 Corinthians 4 which contains a striking contrast between the real ministers of Christ and the imposters. This passage shows us three marks of a real minister.
A cross-centered message (verses 1-7) - In this passage we see the phrase “the mysteries of God.” Paul tells the Corinthians that they should not be dividing among themselves over unimportant divisions. There should be no division between ministers of that same gospel. Ministers of the gospel are the stewards of mysteries. A steward is not an owner but someone who has been entrusted with something else. A church is given to a pastor in trust.
Even Apostles were fundamentally servants, for they had no authority to spread anything other than the gospel of Christ. Pastors are called only in so far that they give God’s message to His people. It is God who owns the church and He has a message to His people. He will, through his kindness and mercy and grace, entrust that message to mere men. Mark encouraged pastors to know and understand and believe that God’s Word makes God’s people. Thus pastors are called to humbly minister to others with and through this Word. In verse two we read that the pastor must prove faithful to the charge given him. “We are not called to be original, but to be reliable,” he said. He also quoted D.A. Carson who says “What matters most in God’s universe is what God thinks of us.” Pastors must remember that they cannot please God if they live to please men.
The recurring theme of these verses is that the pastor is a steward who will be called to give an account for the message that has been entrusted to his care.
A cross-centered life (verses 8-13) - Paul turns to sarcasm in the next verses, mocking to godly effect the Corinthians’ prosperity (whether it was real or imagined). Many of them were feeling confident and fulfilled, yet regardless of how they felt, Paul pulled them back to reality and showed them that they really don’t “rank.” Paul rejects the type of “reigning” that the Corinthians advocated. He remarked on how different the Christian life is than the imposters had taught the people. Despite what the Corinthians believe and despite what so many people within evangelicalism believe, there is a better way than the wisdom of the world. Pastors must preach Christ and Him crucified. If Christ was pierced and punished and crushed and wounded, and if Paul was also scorned and rejected, how can today’s pastor expect any different if he is to be faithful to the One he serves? True ministers are happy to be despised if, somehow through this, Christ can be proclaimed. This was the experience of Paul, even as he wrote this letter to the church at Corinth.
Dever challenged pastors to inconvenience themselves in order to serve others. He taught that a pastor’s own comfort is a danger to his own soul. We all have a bias towards our own comfort and pastors need to be active in identifying and fighting against that.
Cross-centered followers (verses 14 to the end) - Pastors have a difficult time putting themselves forward as examples, but this is something they are called to do. Disciples learn from other disciples just as children live within families to learn from others. Pastors are to be examples of people who love Christ and their congregations more than they love themselves. A Christian minister should live out a Christ-like life and lead others to do the same. Paul loved the people of Corinth in such a deep, pure way and so he urged them to imitate him as children imitate a father. A pastor puts upon himself the right kind of pastor when he calls upon others to imitate him. He does a good thing when he makes himself an example of godliness. A pastor is called to teach better than he can live. A pastor can do this. But he is called to live in such a way that he illustrates the great truths that he preaches from God’s Word. The example of the pastor should be followed in the church.
Paul effectively orders the Corinthians to humble themselves. We don’t often think of humility as a duty, but it is a crucial Christian virtue. It is a confession that we are not always right but that God is! We cannot claim to be Christians if we do not have a desire to be humble. That virtue is a handmaid of all the other virtues. Of all people, pastors need to be pastors.
Paul finishes the chapter by saying that he will come to Corinth (Lord willing) and says that he will investigate these things. Paul challenges the Corinthians to ask whether these false teachers are bearing fruit—if people are being saved by their ministry. He warns that if necessary he will come with a whip of sharp, devastating reproof. Paul shows that a congregation is a proof of a pastor’s ministry. There is a certain necessity of Christian church growth; not necessarily numerical growth but spiritual growth. God has left us a visible representation of Himself in His church, in each congregation He has called pastors to serve. We will see more of the image of Jesus in the local church than we ever could in a picture of His likeness.
What Paul is saying is what we need to hear. The important issue of recovering churches is putting the Word at the center and this happens most notably through preaching. The men who will speak this week are men who are bold in challenging men to grow in Christ. They are men who have placed preaching at the center of their ministries.
Dever concluded with an exhortation to watch for false teachers in our day—teachers who proclaim a worldly message that removes the cross as the center of the church. These men masquerade as sheep while all the while sowing a deadly seed through the body of Christ.
Following this session, Bob Kauflin led us in singing “There Is A Fountain.”