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The Pastor and Church’s Test Results

By SHAYNE PHILANDER
PUBLISHED 30 MARCH 2020

As Christians find themselves inside their homes – in ‘lockdown’, one of the most valuable church components that is lost is Christian fellowship. Slowly, one realizes the importance and necessity of face-to-face fellowship with believers. However, fellowship is not the only Christian component missing. There is also the preaching of the word which is central to a church’s fellowship. Not the livestream or pre-recorded kind of word ministry, where the pastor made sure he doesn’t cough on screen while recording. And the kind where the member at home could choose to participate in the online church or not. Rather, the sort of word ministry where God’s people gather in one place listening to their ordinary pastor preach.

Unsurprisingly, the absence of word-ministry should be on the pastor’s mind the most. During this time, he should be hoping church members have taken ministry matters into their own hands. Meaning, being confident they are reading their Bibles, teaching their children and caring for others in need. In other words, he should trust that Ephesians 4:11-12, is at work in his people. That he has done a great deal of “…pastor-teacher” work. “To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body for Christ”. Which is not to say that, he sits around doing nothing while his people defend for themselves. More to say that, he is confident in the quantity of word ministry he provided over the years.

However, this expectation is only reasonable if it is the case that the pastor’s church has been equipped to manage without him. Possessing the independent desire and skill for the word? In other words, how much word-ministry has he put into his people for times like these? Are they trained, moved and able to take care of their own spiritual sustenance?

Not to say that, the believer has a lesser part to play in their own spiritual growth than their leader’s ministry to them. Hebrews 5:11-12 rebukes the believers’ lack of spiritual growth. The verse says, “…You have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God”. This means that, any believer should aim for spiritual maturity on their own. No longer should the pastor repeat to them the basic truths he already explained. In 1 Corinthians 3:1, Paul expects to find in the church spiritual adults not babies. He thus expresses his disappointment when he did not, saying “I address you…as infants. I fed you milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it”. This means that, it is right to expect believers to act as spiritual adults without their pastor babysitting them.

Nonetheless, despite the believer’s own responsibility to toil their way through the Bible. One must admit that, a church waiting to be spoon-fed is partly a failed word-ministry of the leader. Not even the separation between a pastor and his church should jeopardize the church’s commitment to the word. Paul’s separation from the Philippians showed exactly that. The believers carried on with word ministry despite his imprisonment. “Most of the brothers became confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, and [were] much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Phil 1:14). Paul commends the Thessalonian church saying, “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord”. He explains their “imitation”. Saying, for you received the word…”. It is verse 8b that, stresses what a powerful word ministry does within people. “So that we need not say anything (anymore)”. A healthy word ministry not only makes people capable in the word; they are also capable in the word independently. What they are on their own is what the pastor was when he was among them.

For this reason, Paul in verse 7 labels them saying, “So that you became an example”. This means that, a pastor’s Word-ministry can be measured as a failure or success based on his people’s imitation of his own word ministry. As J.C Ryle puts it, “Like pastors like people”. Therefore, Bible-loving pastors must produce independent Bible-craving people. Them as a people, who can take hold of the word, not only for themselves, but by themselves and for others as well.

Thus, the answer to the lockdown or the lack of Christian fellowship is not only whether people are taking care of their own devotional lives. Rather it’s whether they even think they should. And this can only be measured and determined based on the word-ministry they are usually exposed to. Therefore, the verdict is out and will be revealed whether pastors have pricked their people’s taste buds to be self-sufficient word-hungry people or not.

As Christians find themselves inside their homes – in ‘lockdown’, one of the most valuable church components that is lost is Christian fellowship. Slowly, one realizes the importance and necessity of face-to-face fellowship with believers. However, fellowship is not the only Christian component missing. There is also the preaching of the word which is central to a church’s fellowship. Not the livestream or pre-recorded kind of word ministry, where the pastor made sure he doesn’t cough on screen while recording. And the kind where the member at home could choose to participate in the online church or not. Rather, the sort of word ministry where God’s people gather in one place listening to their ordinary pastor preach.

Unsurprisingly, the absence of word-ministry should be on the pastor’s mind the most. During this time, he should be hoping church members have taken ministry matters into their own hands. Meaning, being confident they are reading their Bibles, teaching their children and caring for others in need. In other words, he should trust that Ephesians 4:11-12, is at work in his people. That he has done a great deal of “…pastor-teacher” work. “To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body for Christ”. Which is not to say that, he sits around doing nothing while his people defend for themselves. More to say that, he is confident in the quantity of word ministry he provided over the years.

However, this expectation is only reasonable if it is the case that the pastor’s church has been equipped to manage without him. Possessing the independent desire and skill for the word? In other words, how much word-ministry has he put into his people for times like these? Are they trained, moved and able to take care of their own spiritual sustenance?

Not to say that, the believer has a lesser part to play in their own spiritual growth than their leader’s ministry to them. Hebrews 5:11-12 rebukes the believers’ lack of spiritual growth. The verse says, “…You have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God”. This means that, any believer should aim for spiritual maturity on their own. No longer should the pastor repeat to them the basic truths he already explained. In 1 Corinthians 3:1, Paul expects to find in the church spiritual adults not babies. He thus expresses his disappointment when he did not, saying “I address you…as infants. I fed you milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it”. This means that, it is right to expect believers to act as spiritual adults without their pastor babysitting them.

Nonetheless, despite the believer’s own responsibility to toil their way through the Bible. One must admit that, a church waiting to be spoon-fed is partly a failed word-ministry of the leader. Not even the separation between a pastor and his church should jeopardize the church’s commitment to the word. Paul’s separation from the Philippians showed exactly that. The believers carried on with word ministry despite his imprisonment. “Most of the brothers became confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, and [were] much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Phil 1:14). Paul commends the Thessalonian church saying, “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord”. He explains their “imitation”. Saying, for you received the word…”. It is verse 8b that, stresses what a powerful word ministry does within people. “So that we need not say anything (anymore)”. A healthy word ministry not only makes people capable in the word; they are also capable in the word independently. What they are on their own is what the pastor was when he was among them.

For this reason, Paul in verse 7 labels them saying, “So that you became an example”. This means that, a pastor’s Word-ministry can be measured as a failure or success based on his people’s imitation of his own word ministry. As J.C Ryle puts it, “Like pastors like people”. Therefore, Bible-loving pastors must produce independent Bible-craving people. Them as a people, who can take hold of the word, not only for themselves, but by themselves and for others as well.

Thus, the answer to the lockdown or the lack of Christian fellowship is not only whether people are taking care of their own devotional lives. Rather it’s whether they even think they should. And this can only be measured and determined based on the word-ministry they are usually exposed to. Therefore, the verdict is out and will be revealed whether pastors have pricked their people’s taste buds to be self-sufficient word-hungry people or not.

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