God is good to give us pastors. The very fact that God calls certain men to “care for the church of God” (Acts 20:28) proves that the church is in need of care. God gives us pastors because we need pastoring. But what is this ministry? How does a pastor minister to his people in a way that expresses due care and concern for them? Last week I spent some time studying Paul’s charge to the elders/pastors in Ephesus (see Acts 20) and saw him lay out a series of marks of a faithful ministry.
The pastor’s ministry is a humble ministry. Paul reminded these church leaders, “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility…” Paul could humbly say he had served them with humility. He had always desired their good and God’s glory rather than his good and his own glory. He had served them as a slave under the rule of God, faithfully carrying out his ministry. He was an example of selflessness, of esteeming others higher than himself. The pastor is to serve humbly, to serve just like Jesus served. An arrogant ministry is the most destructive kind of ministry.
The pastor’s ministry is a bold ministry. Paul was humble, and his humility allowed him to be bold. “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable.” Paul didn’t just whisper or suggest what was true. He declared it. He declared anything and everything that would be beneficial to his congregation. He held back nothing that would be good for the state of their souls. A few verses later he says “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” This church got all of it. They got the whole Bible, not just the parts that are easy or the parts that play nice with the surrounding culture. His confidence was in God, so he boldly declared the whole counsel of God. Pastors aren’t called to be popular, but to be heralds of the truth.
The pastor’s ministry is a teaching ministry. Paul reminds this church that he was “teaching you in public and from house to house.” There were both public and private dimensions to his ministry. There was a preaching component to it as well as a teaching or counseling component. He would preach before the entire congregation and he would meet with an individual or a small group. The pastor is first and foremost a minister of the Word of God and he is called to take the Word to the people by preaching it or by teaching it. Wherever they are is exactly where he will bring the Word.
The pastor’s ministry is a wide ministry. The pastor’s ministry goes out to all kinds of people and does not deliberately exclude any group. Paul reminds the church that he testified to both Jews and Greeks. He preached to anyone and everyone who would listen. He even actively sought out different kinds of people. Whoever was in his neighborhood would hear his gospel. He knew that the gospel is good news for everyone and he wanted everyone to worship together in one church, as one body. The news was too good to hold back from anyone.
The pastor’s ministry is a gospel ministry. What was the content of Paul’s message? When he spoke humbly and boldly, when he taught publicly and privately, when he went before Jews and Gentiles, what was it that he taught? “Repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is the gospel, the gospel of repenting of sin and putting faith in Jesus Christ. Paul’s gospel was not a social gospel or a prosperity gospel or any other misaligned or flat-out false gospel. It was the true gospel. The whole gospel. The saving gospel. It was the good news that declares “Repent and believe and you will be saved.” The pastor’s ministry is a ministry that is all about the gospel.
The pastor’s ministry is a pure ministry. This one is so important in an age where the prosperity gospel has risen to such prominence. “I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Paul’s ministry was not about personal enrichment. It was not about ego or status. It was about serving God by caring for God’s people. He served as a living, breathing illustration of Jesus’ words, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” If his church ever wanted to know what that looked like in real life, they just needed to think about him. Paul was not opposed to paying a pastor for his work, but in this context he wanted to demonstrate to these people the value of hard work and the beauty of a pure and selfless ministry. Paul could look these people in the eye and say, “I only ever gave. I never took.” The pastor’s ministry is a pure ministry that cares about souls, not self. The pastor who loves your money hates your soul.
The pastor’s ministry is humble and bold and pure. It is concerned with all kinds of teaching before all kinds of people. Its content is the gospel. This is the kind of ministry that fulfills the pastor’s duty to care for the church of God which he purchased with his own blood.