Of the dozens of blogs that I read regularly, there only a few that I actually spend time digesting. Most of the others are quick reads or the title shows I don’t need or want to read it at all.
Bill Mounce has one of those blogs that is worth reading. Although many of his posts have to do with the Greek New Testament (his Basics of Biblical Greek is one of the most widely used teaching tools right now), he has a lot of good thoughts about other things as well.
A couple of days ago, Mounce shared an essay he wrote in For the Fame of God’s Name, a book in honor of John Piper’s long, faithful ministry. As part of his essay, Mounce tackles the argument that a “pastor” (who spends more time with his people) loves his church more than a “preacher” (who spends more time in his study).
I found this especially appropriate, since I struggle trying to balance these, even when it goes against my personality and preference.
You can read the whole post on his blog, but here is the quote from his essay. I emphasized one part that I agree with very strongly.
We often characterize a person as being a “pastor” (warm, friendly, relational, available), a “rancher” (a successful pastor who now has too many people to spend time with), or a “preacher” (speaker, powerful, teacher, removed). How many times have you asked somebody about their pastor; their response is something like, “He’s a great guy, we love him, but he’s not much of a speaker.” Or, “He’s a dynamic speaker, challenging, but removed from most people.” As the stereotypes often go, the “pastor” is viewed as a friendly person and the “preacher” as not friendly.
After seven years in pulpit ministry I understand how this happens. There is so much to do, staff to manage and encourage, elders to train, people to visit, parking lots to plow, and lawns to mow. The pastor spends his energies loving people one-on-one, and come Saturday night he takes long hot baths trying to think of something to speak on the next day (true story I heard).
The “preacher” on the other hand is committed to his craft, spends time in his study, rehearsing Greek paradigms, reading generally, staying up on culture, pushing his way through exegesis, crafting the sermon, and trying to determine how he is going to be misunderstood so he can massage the message and avoid foreseen pitfalls. But then the assault on his time comes. He’s not available as much for counseling. He is focused on his sermon between services, and so he is criticized for not being friendly. He wouldn’t sit by the bedside of a person nursing the latest hangnail. And he doesn’t have time to argue about the color selection for the bathroom. And when he suggests that a person go to his or her small-group leader for support and encouragement, the preacher is labeled uncaring and the gossip starts.
But I would like to suggest that the preacher is as loving as the pastor, and my hope is that this will encourage you to study. What is the most important thing you can do? What are the most significant obstacles that need to be overcome in people’s lives? I submit that regardless of the size of a church, the mission of the pastor-preacher is to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). Nothing is as important as that. Not the territorial thinking in the missions committee, not the latest disagreements among parishioners, and not the latest board controversy.
Some of these may be (or may not be) important, but when the music has led people to take their eyes off themselves and train on God, when the responsive reading has drawn people into dialogue, when the announcements have reminded people that they are family, and when you stand before your people to preach, there is nothing more important than what you did in the quiet of your study. All of the preparation, from the first day in Greek class to your rehearsing the sermon to an empty room Saturday morning, all your hard work comes to the forefront, and with confidence and humility you stand before the expectant people and proclaim the glory of God. At that moment, you aren’t the church’s plumber. You aren’t the person who has to go to the store to buy more paper for the copier. You are the herald of the king, proclaiming clearly and truthfully the wonders of God. If you have done your work, and if God’s Spirit is so inclined to move, your words will encourage the downtrodden and chasten the sinners. If you are faithful to your king’s decree, you will love your people the most important way, because there is nothing more important than the clear, powerful, rooted-in-truth, Spirit-inspired proclamation of a vision of the glory of God. Nothing. Preachers love their people every bit as much as do pastors. Their love is just shown differently, but it is just as real and just as powerful.
Have you thought about this before? Do you prefer one type over the other? Or would you like both to be available in your church?