Pastors and people

OPINION


After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

-- Acts 18:1, 11

Hot Springs has some fine pastors, but none finer than the Apostle Paul. In Acts 18, for the first time, Paul stays in one place for a long time. As an Apostle, missionary, and church planter, his calling was usually to cut and run. But there was something about Corinth that captured his attention and kept him there for a year and a half. I guess you could say this was Paul's first pastorate.

While most of what happens in church is not reflected in this chapter, the role of the pastor is put on display. And in a clear case of what's good for the goose is good for the gander, what is required and expected of the pastor is largely the same for every member. So what does God expect of your pastor, and you?

Pastors must be called and equipped, and so must members. Paul's conversion and commission are as plain as the pages of Acts 9 in your Bible. He wasn't looking for God, but God made him an apple of His eye. He wasn't saved, but God's grace furnished him with repentance and faith. He wasn't fit to speak for God and shepherd God's people, but God's Spirit equipped him for every assignment, including this one.

Like any good pastor, every good member needs to have a clear testimony of conversion to Christ, followed by baptism and responsible membership in a church to which they feel called. Every member needs some kind of (Sunday) schooling or other form of discipleship, and every member should exercise their spiritual gifts to edify and multiply the church.

Pastors must be evangelistic, and so must members. In Corinth, Paul hit the ground running. He followed his normal pattern of witnessing to Jews first, then Gentiles, until enough were persuaded by the Gospel to form a church. Pastoral duties are multiple, but Paul never forsook his responsibility to share the Gospel.

Everyone who believes the Gospel has a responsibility to share the Gospel. Pastors spend an inordinate amount of their time shepherding the saints. It is the saints who still have the most contact with the sinners. So make a list, check it twice, spend time with the naughty and not just the nice. They're the ones who need the Gospel most and give you the best opportunity to be evangelistic.

Pastors must be devoted to the word of God, and so must members. Paul was "occupied with the word," meaning his occupation became solely the preaching and teaching of the word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A high bar is set by him for all future pastors, as well.

But what good does it do for the pastor to preach his heart out, if the people do not come and listen? And, what good is it to listen, if one does not weigh and obey? A pastor and people who share a high view of Scripture can, in the words of William Carey, "Attempt great things for God and expect great things from God."

Pastors need help, and so do members. Paul saw great things happen, but he did not do it alone. His greatest help came from the God who bought him and brought him, comforted and sustained him. Help came from the members of the church, too.

Members help through prayer, offerings, and many other ways. Paul knew what John Donne famously penned, "No man is an island." Members need to be the island around their pastors, protecting and supporting.

Pastors will come and go, and so will members. Paul left Corinth, and the great preacher Apollos became the pastor. Then he left, then other pastors came, and went.

You are a member of your church by the sovereign will of God and your own free will. I hope you will never leave unless those two are congruent again. Some of us will leave in a box, and I'm finally getting to the age when one of those could be me. Pastors and members will come and go.

Right now, in your church, you have a moment. How long it lasts is known only to God. I hope you keep the same pastor for a good while longer, and I hope many new members join. As long as you are together, learn and practice these lessons from Paul's first pastorate. Make sure of your salvation, share it with others, live the Bible, and love one another. And do it until God calls you to the next mission, or home to be with Him.

Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected].

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