My Dear Friend,
As we quietly and unceremoniously pass through this sad, dark world, many people work hard to serve our temporal needs. But only one serves our eternal needs: our pastor!
Yet, strangely, many Christians feel their pastor's labor is not real work. I believe an enemy - yes, the mischievous master of misinformation himself, Satan - has done this. Let's review some true information to destroy his twisted misinformation.
Doctors bring us into this world and take care of our many bodily needs - illnesses, injuries, and the infirmities of old age - till we leave it. Government officials provide us with required certificates and services. Educators instruct us in many fields of knowledge so we may live, labor, and pay our bills. Lawyers help us with wills, closings, contracts, legal questions and, God forbid, trials and lawsuits.
Mechanics repair our automobiles, trucks, and motorcycles, so we can maintain our amazingly mobile, modern lifestyles. Real estate agents help us buy, sell, or lease homes, offices, and land. Legislators make the laws that make our society orderly, safe, and prosperous. Investment managers study markets and financial products to help us use money to make money.
Electricians, plumbers, and HVAC technicians service our homes, keeping them fully operable, comfortable, and safe. Physical trainers help us work out to firm up our flab and boost our vitality. Merchants, whether in brick and mortar or online stores, select and offer products that enhance our lives - or at least spend our money!
Musicians write, record, and perform songs that elevate our moods and enrich our lives. Poets compose lines that prompt us to stop and think about life, love, pain, and this imperfect world. Authors write books and articles that inform, inspire, or incite us. And artists sketch, sculpt, paint, and create pottery to please our eyes and adorn our homes.
But note this: all these various human servers, though they bless us, render only a temporary service. The benefits of their labors stop the instant we stop breathing. Then what?
You better have had a good pastor! Why? The benefits of his services continue. Not a day, or a year, or even a lifetime, but forever! Why?
The pastor's work zone is not your mortal body, dwelling, finances, or society. It is your immortal soul! Your soul is your essential non-material self, consisting of your spirit, mind, will, and emotions. It is the real "you" that resides for a brief time in your earthly body. When you pass, your soul is the only earthly thing that passes with you into the eternal world (till the resurrection). It will never cease to exist, but will continue to consciously exist forever in one of two places, heaven or hell.
After death, it will be too late to change the state of your soul. The writer to the Hebrews reveals, "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). So, let me present two vitally important suggestions.
If you are not saved, you desperately need to believe in Jesus, that He died for your sins, rose for your justification, and is the only way to God the Father and eternal life (John 14:6). Turn from your sins, surrender your life to Jesus, and receive Him into your heart, asking Him to give you a new spiritual birth (John 1:12; 3:1-8) and redeem your life from destruction.
If, on the other hand, you are already a born-again Christian, you are undergoing a continuous soul-cleansing work in this world - sanctification, or entire separation unto God. The Holy Spirit is working in you day and night to "conform" you into Christ's character image (Romans 8:29) - a formidable task indeed! Primarily, He is using your pastor to accomplish this crucial soul-cleansing, soul-shaping work. How?
Good pastors are not only called and gifted but also committed. They put your spiritual care first, not their comfort. They seek Christ daily, and prayerfully study Scripture and related materials, to show themselves approved unto God to serve your soul-needs. They seek, receive, and deliver biblical messages that feed your faith, stir your devotion to Christ, and keep you in the way of life. They faithfully point out sin's disastrous consequences and obedience's rich rewards.
They keep a steady, loving prayer-watch over your life, and step in with godly counsel when any ungodliness threatens to entrap you. With rhythmic precision they direct and redirect you to God's Word - the only absolute truth in this falsehood-filled world - knowing well Christ will evaluate your life in the end by your faithfulness to His Word.
When you trust and obey, they commend you and urge you onward. When you sin or fail, they remind you to confess, receive forgiveness, and resume your holy love-walk with Holy Love Incarnate (1 John 1:7, 9). When they discern trouble brewing, they faithfully step in to warn you before you stumble. And if you go astray, they pursue you with intercession and, whenever possible, loving calls to repent and return from your old, dead way to your new, living way.
On call 24-7, pastors are ready to help you, or refer you to other Spirit-led counselors, whenever you are overwhelmed, confused, or discouraged. As Christian officials, they baptize, marry, and bury you. As human comforters, they visit you when you are sick or grieving. As Christ's hands extended, they anoint you and pray for your healing.
Earnest, habitual practitioners of God's Word, they preach with their lips and lives. They teach you charity and show it, giving freely. They live in awe of God and lead you to find peace and joy under Him, your one and only Covering. They teach you the imperative of self-examination, including quick discernment, frank confession, and full abandonment of all sins (1 John 1:5 - 2:2). They identify false teachings and foolish fads circulating in your culture to keep you undeceived, undistracted, and unbound.
Above all, wise pastors focus on one great goal: keeping you close to Jesus! That is, in sweet, sustaining fellowship with Jesus. In full union with His will. In childlike obedience to His Word. In constant, vital, prayerful connection with Him, the Vine. In faithful pursuit of your calling. In incessant thanksgiving, praise, and worship. In wonder-filled, thoughtful meditation in His Word. In eager watchfulness for His hand working in your life. In alert response to His still, small voice speaking in your heart. In humble compliance with His corrections. In unwavering faith in His unchangeably faithful nature and promises. In patient, enduring hope in His inspired, infallible prophecies.
Whenever you go astray, good shepherds lead you back to the Great Shepherd, again and again. Whenever they see something or someone separating you from Him, they immediately inform you. And daily their exemplary lifestyle leads you on, showing you the way to go further, deeper, and higher in the Way. And these pastors don't work?
Here is a bit of advice. If you have a good-hearted pastor, thank God for him (or her), pray for him every day, assist him any way you can, and respond to his teaching and counsel. With the Spirit's amazing aid, though a flawed mortal, he will keep you close to Jesus and ready for His soon-coming appearing.
If, however, your pastor is prideful, heretical, worldly, covetous, ignorant, callous, openly sinful, doesn't teach God's Word, denies its inerrancy and authority, or is a spiritual novice with little understanding of Christianity, and is impenitently entrenched in these errors, immediately seek another. Why? We are not dealing with the condition of your car, home, finances, business, or even your body. The care of your eternal soul is at stake! Invariably, objections arise.
Some want to stay and pray until their unchristlike pastor repents, or nurse along their novice pastor until he matures spiritually. That's kind-hearted, but contradictory. How can he lead you when you acknowledge you need to lead him? Others don't want to hurt their pastor's feelings. This, too, is well-intended, but tragically unwise. What's more important, the temporary feelings of an unfit pastor or your eternal soul and kingdom fruitfulness?
In short, there are too many good pastors available for you to waste your life sitting under a bad one. So, if needed, prayerfully seek a good one and faithfully follow his ways in Christ.
Thankful for good pastors,
Dr. Greg Hinnant
GREG HINNANT MINISTRIES