A Divine Commission
We cannot understand that some of the most overworked people in the world today
are those who attend to the basic and urgent needs of mankind.
I am thinking especially about those in the ministry, and particularly the pastors of churches.
The demand placed upon their strength, both physically and emotionally,
often brings them close to the breaking point.
This message is about your pastor and you.
I am not so much concerned with the amount of the preacher's work as I am with the nature of his activities.
Somewhere I read an article in which the pastor of a church described his activities during a certain day.
It was considered typical of his usual routine.
It read something like this:
"Arriving in the church office at eight o'clock in the morning, he had intended to spend
at least two hours in preparation for his Sunday sermons, a noonday talk to a local service club,
and five radio talks during the coming week.
However, he was reminded by his secretary that he had agreed to write an article for the church bulletin
which was scheduled to go to press at noon.
He was also obligated to make three telephone calls.
After finishing with these duties, only 30 minutes were left for the preparation of his messages,
since at 10 o'clock he was to meet with the Program Committee of the Ministerial Association.
Just as he began to study again, he received word that the mother of the president
of one of the Women's Societies in the church had passed away,
and his presence was needed in their home at once.
This, of course, caused him to miss his meeting with the Ministerial Association;
but he was able to attend the noon luncheon of the Women's meeting.
Following this, he spoke to a study class.
At 2 PM, he officiated at a wedding ceremony.
At three o'clock he began his regular visit to the city hospitals, and finished just in time
to make the Men's Supper where he gave the invocation.
The supper lasted until 7:30, allowing the pastor to get away to attend a meeting
of the Every Member Canvas Committee.
He was on hand simply to make suggestions and to boost the committee morale.
Having done this, his day of service was finally ended and he arrived home
about 9:30 PM that evening."
This was a pastors account of the way he spent an entire day.
Now without intending to be critical of this man, since I don't know the circumstances
which may have caused him to keep such a schedule, I would ask, was he fulfilling his obligation
as pastor of his church?
Is this the way the Lord expects a minister to occupy his day?
When a man assumes a pastorate, is he justified in spending most of his time
in administrative meetings, board meetings, committee meetings, budget planning meetings,
building program meetings, luncheons, dinners, and banquets?
The answer to these questions is suggested by the Scripture in John 1: 6-8:
"There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light."
John came with a divine calling.
Verse 7 reveals that John's primary mission which was "to bear witness of the Light."
Verse 8 repeats this emphasis: "He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light."
John the Baptist was a man with human limitations.
He was a man sent from God with a divine mission.
This man sent from God was commissioned to bear witness of the Light.
He was to preach Christ.
These three things are also true of all genuine ministers of the Gospel today.
As men they are subject to human weaknesses and failings, and therefore need our prayers.
As men "sent from God," they deserve our respect and should be esteemed
because of their divine calling.
And like John, their mission should be "to bear witness of the Light."
It is this third point that needs to be emphasized.
Even as John the Baptist's mission was to preach Christ, it is true today the ministry of the Holy Scriptures,
must take priority over all other demands in the life and activities of those called
"to bear witness of the Light."
Anything which hinders a pastor from so doing or which detracts the pastor from his effectiveness
in presenting this message -- I repeat anything which draws him away from that work
is not in keeping with his special appointment.
God has ordained men to minister the Word, and it should be done whenever
they visit someone in the hospital, visit the home, speak at a meeting, or preach from their own pulpit.
Board and committee meetings should never interfere with his primary task of preaching
the messages of the Scriptures to needy hearts.
The high priority that should be given to the ministry of the Word by those called of God
to preach is made very clear in the book of Acts, chapter 6.
In this passage we discover that a situation developed in the early church that if it was ignored
would have caused the apostles to depart from their primary function.
For we see in the Book of Acts 6:1: "And in those days"
According to this verse, the complaint was made in the Jerusalem church that
certain widows were being "neglected in the daily ministration."
This could have had reference to the distribution of money and food.
In answering this complaint, the apostles "
called the multitude of the disciples unto them,
and said, it is not fitting that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables." (Acts 6:2)
As conscientious men they could not ignore the plight of these poor widows
who were dependent upon their brothers and sisters in Christ.
On the other hand, the apostles concluded and here are their exact words:
"It is not fitting that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables."
We might paraphrase it like this: "Serving tables isn't our calling;
that isn't what we have been commissioned of the Lord to do.
We have been chosen to give ourselves to the ministry of the Word."
It wasn't that they considered themselves too good or important for such service,
but simply that they recognized this was not the specific ministry to which God had called them.
Now, you'll notice carefully what they did, and we can learn from them.
They said, "Wherefore, brethren, look among you for seven men of honest report,
full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.
But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word." (Acts 6:3, 4)
Several spiritual men who could be trusted were appointed to oversee the needs of these widows,
so that the teaching elders (and particularly noticed these words) might
"give themselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word."
The success of this program was apparent, for we read that
"the word of God increased,
and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly;
and a great company of the priests were obedient to the truth." (Acts 6:7)
Having properly delegated the responsibility of meeting the physical needs of people
to a group of deacons, the apostles as men "sent from God" to "bear witness
of the Light" gave themselves completely
to their commission from God.
As a result, the "Word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied
The very same thing will work for us today.
Wherever you find a church with a pastor who gives himself faithfully to prayer
and to the study and ministry of the Word, you will find a spiritual assembly.
But when a church puts such exacting demands upon the pastor that he must officiate
at every church committee meeting, attend every social function, and be active
in a multitude of civic organizations to the extent that his life of prayer and Bible study is interrupted,
you will find a spiritual, lifeless church.
Though it may be filled with activity and have a full "program," that doesn't necessarily
produce fruit for eternity.
It is possible for church to have many organizations, endless activity, meetings, clubs, projects,
and banquets, and many "wheels going around" without really doing anything
as far as its divine mission from God is concerned.
Many churches are like that a machine with hundreds of wheels, cogs, gears, pulleys,
and belts which operated smoothly and swiftly at the touch of a button.
Once someone asked the inventor about the function of the machine, he replied,
"Oh, it doesn't do anything, but doesn't it run beautifully?"
Therefore, put first things first.
Make sure you do not load your pastor with administrative, social, and civic obligations
to the extent that his spiritual life suffers and that the ministry of the Word
does not remain central in your church.
John the Baptist, a man sent from God, came to bear witness of the Light;
and your pastor also, above anything else, should be occupied in preaching and teaching
the Word of our great God.
If he is to do this effectively, don't expect him to be the church errand boy,
to drive the Sunday school bus, to do the church bulletins, to do the janitor work,
to drive the members of the Ladies Aid to all their monthly meetings,
to preside at every service and organizational session, to be out on visitation
every afternoon and evening, etc.
All of these things may be well and good in themselves, and every pastor who is genuinely sent of God
would be glad to perform whatever services he can to assist in their successful operation,
but both you and he must be on guard lest these activities prevent him from being a man of prayer
and a man of the Word, and causes him not to fulfill his main mission.
Not only will he slip spiritually, but the entire church will go down with him.
Remember, the spiritual home of the church is keyed to that of its pastor.
When asked to do something for which you are qualified and have the time,
don't say, "Let the pastor do it; that's what he's getting paid for."
Rather, do your part in "serving tables" and in the command "sent from God"
so that he can more effectively "bear witness of the Light."
Every Christian is responsible to help his pastor as together they try to fulfill the duties
that God has placed upon the church.
There are elderly people who need to be visited, spiritually indifferent ones that need
prayer and visitations, the poor need to be helped, the lonely to be given friendship,
and the sorrowing need word of encouragement and comfort.
In addition, activities for children and young people must be provided, and a program
for calling on the unsaved should be a priority.
Your pastor cannot do all of this.
Therefore, your pastor and your church need you.
So, I would repeat that whenever you are asked to do anything for which you are qualified,
you should give it serious consideration.
It may mean sacrificing a few hours you would like to spend watching television,
but God hasn't saved you that you might serve your carnal desires.
Do whatever you can to help in the program of the church so that your pastor may be free
to perform his spiritual ministry in the manner God has decreed.
So, I would like to remind you again of the three lessons suggested in John 1:6-8.
Your pastor is a man -- he needs your prayers.
As a man sent from God -- he deserves your respect.
As one commissioned to bear witness of the Light -- he requires your help.
If these things are recognized and acted upon, then it can also be said of your pastor
when he stands before you with the open Bible:
"He hailed the lamp of truth that day
So low that none could miss the way,
And yet so high to bring in sight
That picture fair -- the world's great Light.
He held the pitchers, stooping low
To lips of little ones below,
And him drink when sick and faint.
He blew the trumpet soft and clear,
That trembling sinners all might hear;
And then, with the latter note and bold,
He razed the walls of Satan's hold.
Then when the Captain says, "Well done,
Thou good and faithful servant -- come!
Lay down the picture and the lamp,
Lay down the trumpet -- leave the camp!"
His weary hands will then be seen
Clasped in those pierced ones -- naught between.
"These studies were greatly influenced by a booklet entitled, "Your Pastor And You,"
which was written by Richard W. DeHaan of RBC Ministries from 1964 to 1984.
I gave away the booklet some years ago, and these studies are from my written notes.
I recently found my notes from many years ago, and felt that these studies
and by Dr. Dehaan needed to be seen and heard.
If you can ever find the complete booklet, you would be wise to acquire it."
-- Dr. Harold L. White