Sermons

Pastoral Ministry - A Noble Calling

August 1, 2021 Speaker: Josh DeGroote Series: First Timothy - Guard the Deposit

Topic: Pastoral Ministry Passage: 1 Timothy 3:1–3:7

God’s church needs life and it needs good order. It needs the life and energy of the Holy Spirit and it needs the structure and order according to God’s design in his word. A church that has all kinds of structure and order without life is like a corpse lying on the ground, everything in place, but no life. However, a church that has life without the structure and order according to God’s design, is like a jellyfish, floating around in the sea, largely carried wherever the currents of the water take them. We need both life and structure. 1 Timothy, along with 2 Timothy and Titus are often called the “pastoral epistles”, and one thing that is emphasized in these books is God’s good design and order for the church. 

And so last week’s text addressed women, and in pretty clear and unambiguous language what God forbids for women to do, namely teaching and exercising authority. As we move into our text this morning, it becomes clear that last week’s text and this week’s go together hand and glove. Today we are going to look at the office of overseer or pastor in the church and it is clear that his role is reserved for qualified men. And so what God forbids women to do is to serve or function in the role of pastor of a church. Teaching doctrine and exercising authority is within the purview of the pastor. Without revisiting everything from last week’s text, I just want to say by way of reminder that the differing roles that God has assigned to men and women in the home and church is not a result of the fall and sin, but is owed to God’s good design from the beginning. This is an unpopular teaching in our culture, but Jesus prepared us for being out of step with the world.

God calls men to certain things and he calls women to certain things. He calls men to take sacrificial, responsible leadership in the home and church. And he calls women to respond to that leadership with glad and gentle submission, which is precious in God’s sight.

Now, although our passage this morning is addressing men directly it is most certainly addressing the entire church indirectly and very potently, because we are all part of the body of Christ, and to the degree that we order our lives, our families, and our church according to the good order and design of God, to that degree, we will in the well-worn path of mercy. We will bask underneath the waterfalls of his rich grace. 

We need to remember that all of God’s word is good for us. And all of it is aimed at equipping us for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says,

All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. 

It is all good for us! Last week’s text is good for us. This week’s text is too - as we talk about the governmental structure of the church. I want to say something to all the men here this morning. Men, though God does not call every one of you to be a pastor, you should strive to grow in the qualities laid out for us here, because you are called to be the shepherd of your family. You are called to lead and take responsibility for the spiritual well-being of your family or future family - and you will be held accountable for that (Adam and Eve in garden). So you should desire to meet these qualifications, for the good of your family (present/future) and this church!

So let’s jump in! There are newly invented ways that church leaders are viewed today - either by the church members or the leaders or both - new ways that are alien to the NT. It is popular today to think of the leadership team of a church as a sort of board of directors of a corporation with the lead pastor being the CEO. Some view the leader as a sort of chief communicator - someone who is really savvy and slick with words and messaging. And some view the leader as a sort of head coach laying out gameplans for how we can win in life.

The problem with these views (though we can learn from all these people) is that we are not selling a product, we are not called to do the public relations work for the kingdom of God, God’s people don’t mainly need inspirational pep-talks. According to God’s design and wisdom, the church needs shepherds (pastors). The church needs overseers. The church needs elders. And I do believe Paul uses the words pastor, overseer, and elder somewhat interchangeably - with slightly different meanings they all help to fill out and describe the title and function of a pastor. 

Paul communicates to Titus that a church without elders, overseers, pastors is lacking something vital. In Titus 1:5 Paul says,

I left you in Crete, so that you may put what remained in order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you. 

Here Paul says that a church without elders (pastors, etc.) is a church destitute of something really important. And this for good reason. Not only is it clearly taught in the scriptures, but the Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church is called the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls. One of the chief ways he cares for and shepherds us is through qualified men who serve as shepherds and overseers in the church. 

Here is the big idea from this text: The work of pastor/shepherd, overseer is a noble task and therefore it comes with noble qualifications.

  1. A Noble Work
  2. Noble Qualifications

 

A Noble Work

The saying is trustworthy: if anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. (v. 1)

Paul begins this section in discussing the nobility of the work of a pastor with the announcement: “The saying is trustworthy…” He did this earlier in 1 Timothy when he wanted to highlight something extremely important. Do you remember? 

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

Paul says, “What I am about to say is trustworthy; you can take it to the bank.” What is such a trustworthy statement? If someone aspires to be a pastor, it is a noble task that he aspires to. The word translated noble literally means “beautiful, excellent, eminent or precious”. This kind of aspiration in a man is a precious thing.

** There are many things the world considers noble and worthy of your aspiration and your passion. God considers this to be a worthy endeavor! Why is this such a noble calling? Because of the duties connected to the calling. Because of what it demands. 

What are the duties placed upon a pastor? What is demanded of them? What according to God’s word should you and other churches expect from your pastors? Let me mention a handful. 

 

A faithful pastor is called to feed the church healthy, spiritual food

Spiritual nourishment through teaching and preaching the word of God. I read a sermon from John Owen based on this verse a couple years ago and it has helped to form my understanding of what I am to do. It is out of Jeremiah 3:15, God is speaking:

And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. ~ Jeremiah 3:15

You are not to be filled with inspirational platitudes. You don’t need to be fed flattering self-talk. You don’t need good vibes. You need to be fed with knowledge and understanding in the form of sound doctrine from God’s word, applied to your life. God has promised shepherds after his heart to do that very thing!

 

A faithful pastor is called to spiritually protect the flock

A pastor and overseer is called to be on the lookout for danger. They are called to protect the church from harm - specifically spiritual harm from wolves and twisted teaching. Paul exhorts the elders in Ephesus:

28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert… ~ Acts 20:28-30

 

A faithful pastor is called to watch over souls

Hebrews 13:7 says,

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. 

Charles Spurgeon said, “the soul is a thing worth ten thousand worlds…” The soul is a precious thing and the pastor is called to keep watch over souls. We (Reid, David, and I) are called to watch over your souls. I try to remember this with my kids at home and I hope they would tell you that even when we need to have a tough talk or discipline is needed, I communicate and show that I care mostly about their souls. 

This watching over souls is so important that pastors will give an account to God for it. Pastors will stand before the One whose eyes are a flame of fire and answer: How did you care for the souls entrusted to you? 

A faithful pastor is called to exercise oversight for the church as a whole

1 Peter 5:1 says, “shepherd the flock of God, exercising oversight.”  The duty is for the entire flock to be shepherded and cared for. The word oversight (the activity of an overseer) means to look after and care for, beware, to inspect, to make sure that the flock as a whole is doing well. A pastor will make sure that things are being done in good order such that it is conducive for the entire body to be strengthened and built up into our Head Jesus Christ. 

This would include encouragement, exhortation, even correction or rebuke when needed. And a pastor, overseer that takes his calling seriously will do this.

 

A faithful pastor is called to lead by example

1 Peter 5:3 says that oversight is to be exercised in such a way it is not “domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” So the leadership of a pastor is not one of lording it over others, but leading by example. Saying, “Hey, follow me as I follow Christ.” Later in this letter to Timothy, Paul lays out a pretty good list of things pastors ought to lead by example in:

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. ~ 1 Timothy 4:12

 

The faithful pastor is called to pray for the flock and especially those who are suffering.

Pastors are called to intercede for those they are caring for, often by name. One way that I do this is I will come into the sanctuary, stand up here and begin to pray for you as I see you standing or sitting where you usually are. But there is also to be special attention in pray for those who are suffering. James 5:14-15 says, 

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 

 

The faithful pastor is called to help his people die well. Listen to Paul:

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Colossians 1:28-29)

To present someone mature or complete in Christ is the goal. To help someone be ready to stand before Christ when they die. I think this is so important!!

[This is indeed a noble work. Because of the nobility of the calling, it has noble qualifications attached to it. ]

 

Noble Qualifications

Notice in verses 2-7, the word “must” is used four times. Someone who desires to be a pastor:

 

1) A Pastor MUST have certain character qualities (verses 2-3):

2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach,the husband of one wife,sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.

There are several things here revealing the sort of character or moral qualities for a pastor. A pastor MUST be:

  • Above reproach → as under-shepherds of Christ, pastors must seek to live a life that would never bring sinful contempt upon the name of Christ. 
  • husband of one wife → without belaboring the point, this shows the office of pastor is for men - it is not generically saying “the spouse of one spouse…”, but literally “a one woman man”. (two extreme positions), two more likely meanings.
  • sober-minded → temperate, having a sound mind, thinking. Not given to wild mood swings or erratic emotions. 
  • self-controlled → to rule over your desires, passions, and impulses rather than being ruled by them.
  • respectable → well-arranged, well-ordered, or to have things together. The word (Kosmios which is related to kosmos - the harmonious, well-ordered arrangement of the created order). The opposite is a life that is full of discord and chaos - this should not characterize a pastor’s life.
  • hospitable → lover of strangers (Philoxenos). A pastor must open his heart and home to strangers. 
  • able to teach → Of course, this is a non-negotiable. 2 Timothy 2:15 (READ). The idea here is teaching sound doctrine. A pastor is not just someone who can talk well, keep people’s attention, tell spiritual stories, or even communicate vague spiritual truths. They must handle God’s word faithfully. 
  • not a drunkard → not given to excess wine, addicted to wine. Though the bible does not condemn drinking wine in the absolute sense, it universally condemns drunkenness - which is always sinful!
  • not violent but gentle → the word violent here means to be a “bruiser” or “ready to fight”. To be sure a pastor will be called on to fight for the truth, but we are not looking for a fight - he’s not looking to beat people up, rather the pastor is to seek to gently instruct, even opponents. 
  • not quarrelsome → not contentious. 
  • not a lover of money → 1 Timothy 6:9-10. I can’t think of anything that brings more reproach on the name of Christ in our day, than the money-hungry hustlers on Christian television who don’t even try to hide their love for money! And unfortunately there are many without the discernment to reject them - and so those at the top of the ponzi scheme are getting rich hand over fist. The pastor must not be mastered by money, but by the Lord Jesus Christ. 

These are character qualities that a pastor must exhibit. Next Paul says:

 

2) A Pastor MUST have his own home in order (verses 4-5):

He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?

So a pastor or overseer must manage his house well. Of course this is not saying that a pastor must have the kind of kids that never need to be disciplined - you know, like the kind of kids that don’t exist! No, the idea here is that a pastor’s children are not hellions or out of control and without discipline. And this is not talking about 9 month olds, but 9 year olds and 12 year olds and 15 year olds. For Paul the reason for this is obvious. If a man’s house is in shambles and disarray, how can he be expected to faithfully care for God’s house? 

 

3) A Pastor MUST be spiritually mature (verse 6):

He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.

Have you ever known someone who as a new believer was pretty full of himself? Maybe you!?!? Perhaps he or she had a powerful, dynamic, sudden conversion. And you just thought, he is kind of full of himself, he thinks he knows everything. He is eager to argue and prove his great spirituality. It’s a sign of immaturity. But imagine that man being appointed to a place of authority. It could be (and has been in many cases) disastrous. Lonnie Frisbee. 

 

4) A Pastor MUST have a good reputation (verse 7): 

Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

This can be misunderstood. You cannot absolutize the first part of the verse - he must be well thought of by outsiders. Paul wasn’t always. Neither was Timothy. In fact, both of them were martyred largely because they were viewed as trouble-makers. And Jesus even said, “blessed are you when others revile you and utter all kinds of evil against you for my sake…” The good reputation is so that the pastor won’t fall into disgrace and bring reproach on the name of Christ because of sin.

These are noble qualifications for the noble calling of pastor, overseer. And all of this out of reverent love for Christ. Remember when Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. Three times to correspond to the three times Peter denied Christ. The second time Peter responded, “Lord you know I love you”. And Jesus said, “Tend (shepherd, pastor) my sheep.” This must not be done out of a desire for power or to satisfy a desire to feel significant or for self-importance. But out of a love for Christ. 

My prayer is that this church would be a fertile ground for godly men to be raised up in for this noble calling. Let’s pray.

More in First Timothy - Guard the Deposit

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November 7, 2021

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