No matter whom the pastor, he is going to be imperfect. He will both say and do the wrong things from time to time. That is just reality. He forgives many of much and mature believers should also be willing to exercise biblical forgiveness in return.
There is one area through where pastors should be held to a very high standard and that is in the pulpit. All the other things modern ministry now involves have come much later. Preaching has been central from the beginning. Some may naturally deliver messages better than others, but all should prepare with equal fervor and intensity to the best of their ability. We live in a day where sermon manuscripts and outlines can be found in books and even on the internet. While some hearers may still receive something positive by hearing such a message, the reality is that it reflects laziness and apathy on the part of the preacher.
One thing that struck me several years ago, as my own kids got a little bigger was that, I am their pastor too. On one hand it is obvious, but I am not so sure the reality resonates with all preachers. The unmistakable truth hit home to me in this form: I am not just preparing messages for this congregation, some of whom I barely know, but I am feeding my kids the Word as well. If I starved in my preparation to preach, I would be starving my congregation, and I would also be significantly short-changing, my own kids! When a Christian family is looking for a church home, they look for a place where they and their kids will be fed the spiritual truths of Scripture. If I am the pastor, then I am the one who determines what they hear by way of my own preparation and sensitivity to God’s direction.
I have heard stories of pastors preaching, word for word, sermons they got from someone else; sometimes on a regular basis. This is tragic because they are the one that bares the responsibility of inspiring others. If they are borrowing or stealing messages then they are falling down on the job. Books and resource materials abound to help a pastor understand the Word and prepare a message, but there are no short-cuts. It simply takes work!
About ten years ago, while attending the Southern Baptist Convention, the widow of the late Adrien Rogers was there and spoke to the Pastor’s Conference about her husband’s death. She also talked of how much he loved the convention, pastors, and speaking the truth in love. But, as she went on to say, his earthy ministry was done. The baton was now being passed. Each pastor that night, received an actual baton, to commemorate the occasion, similar to what would be used by a relay team in a track meet. What was really being passed on? The manuscripts of his thousands of sermons? Some inspiring/gripping quotes? His incomparable ability to preach? No, to all of these things. Being passed on that evening, symbolically, was the force that drove Adrien Rogers. He was committed to unfolding and unpacking the Word of God to the hearts and minds of individuals; to inspire them, to motivate them, to help them come face to face with the living God. What was being passed on that night was “responsibility” and “faithfulness.” Many in this generation of pastors have dropped the baton and they are sadly in no hurry to pick it up again. In contrast through, The Apostle Paul admonished young Timothy “Preach the Word!”
Whether it be my own kids, the kids of others, people with kids, or adults who were once kids – all need the Word of God which is “Living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword.” (Heb. 4:12) People do not need more worldly wisdom, a few quips or quotes, or funny lines. They do not need pastors hurriedly printing out a manuscript from the internet, or blowing the dust off an old message, or throwing together a few clever ideas at the last minute. They need the truth. Country music has jokingly been called “3 chords and the truth.” Should not our sermons be, at a minimum, “3 points and the truth?”
Pastors are human beings and they fail sometimes in many different areas, but that is no excuse to keep on failing. There are too many spiritual lives at stake to treat responsibility lightly. Pastor’s, perhaps your own kids or grandkids are listening to you preach. In this day and time, we need the Word of God preached boldly and passionately like never before. People should choose churches based on the Word. Search committees should choose pastoral candidates based on the Word. All preachers’ ministries should be based upon the Word. When the Word is not in the center, everything else is literally off balance.
Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor