The Ordinary Christian Pastor
by Erik Raymond
When you read the word ordinary, what do you think of? Common synonyms include unimpressive, typical, normal, and common. As soon as you attach these synonyms to a noun, you will draw conclusions: My day was typical. The movie was unimpressive. The show was average. When we think about pastoral ministry we are tempted to do the same thing: My pastor is unimpressive; rather average actually, nothing special—he does not speak at conferences and has not written any books. He is just—well, ordinary.
Here is the reality: an ordinary pastor is not likely to be esteemed in a society that gauges success in terms of church size, book sales, and social media influence. However, the biblical perception of success is bound up in the pastor’s faithfulness. In other words, a faithful pastor is never less than an ordinary pastor.
THEY ARE PILGRIMS
Faithful pastors are never less than faithful Christians. The Apostle Paul modeled this as he exhorts the Corinthians to “follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Peter writes that pastors are to be an example to the flock (1 Peter 5:4). But what is he an example of? Being gripped by the transcendent message of the gospel and the immanence of the kingdom experience, the pastor realizes that he is a pilgrim passing through this land on his way to the Celestial City. He persistently recalibrates his heart, mind, and life to the reality of his union with Christ (Col. 3:1- 4). He beholds the glory of Christ, leading to the mortification of the flesh and vivification of the spirit (Col. 3:5-17). He presses on in sanctification while leading the flock to do the same.
THEY ARE MISSIONARIES
Paul reminds Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). Part of this work is obviously the intentional engagement of unbelievers with the gospel. But the pastor must also equip the congregation to think and act like missionaries. After all, the Great Commission is a command that followers of Jesus reorient their lives around the making of disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19-21). Pastors can do the work of an evangelist by training the congregation to faithfully, winsomely, and zealously proclaim Christ to the nations and their neighbors. Ordinary pastoral work includes helping people see the importance, privilege, and priority of living as a missionary.
THEY PRIORITIZE THE LOCAL CHURCH
Peter specifically reminds his hearers that they are to be concerned with the flock to which God has called them (1 Peter 5:2). The pastor’s first calling is to his local church. As a result, the pastor remembers that while writing and speaking can certainly serve the broader church, these things will never eclipse the substance and sphere of his calling to his local church.
THEY KNOW THE SHEEP
Jesus, the model and motivation for all shepherds, reminds us that He knows His sheep and His sheep know Him (John 10:14). As pastors consider the responsibilities of their ministerial calling, they must remember that the sheep are right at the center of it. He must know their strengths and weaknesses. After all, he is going to give an account for this flock (Heb. 13:17). The ordinary pastor knows that he is more than just filling the pulpit in the church; he is there to care for the sheep.
THEY LOVE THE SHEEP
Ordinary Christianity consists of loving one another (John 13:34-35); certainly, an ordinary pastor does the same. We pray for the sheep often, counsel them when they are straying, encourage them when they are weak, visit them when they are sick, cry with them when they are hurting, and rejoice with them when they are happy. We joyfully, willingly, and sacrificially serve the flock in view of their holiness. This is what it means to model the love of Christ (Mark 10:45; Heb. 12:1-2; 1 John 3:16). After all, Jesus loved us when we were unlovely; therefore, we joyfully respond by loving others.
THEY FEED AND GUARD THE SHEEP
When Jesus restored Peter, He commissioned him to model ordinary shepherding. Part of this was Peter’s calling to feed and guard the sheep (John 21:15-17). Pastors do this by faithfully preaching the Bible week after week and establishing a culture of discipleship and training. In this, the ministry of the pastor shows a great love for Christ and His sheep by faithfully tending to the flock’s growth and care. The shepherd’s crook has two ends. With one, he gathers and feeds them, and with the other, he protects them from the wolves. This is the ordinary work of the shepherd.
When pastors lift their heads from the daily grind and see men speaking at conferences, writing books, and conducting interviews, they may get discouraged. However, the pastor needs to remember that while writing, speaking, and other activities done outside the realm of his local church can certainly serve God’s people, these things will never eclipse the substance and sphere of his calling to his local church. He must keep plugging away at being ordinary. He does this by tending to his own heart, doing the work of a missionary, and shepherding the flock. Through this ordinary work, he fulfills his extraordinary calling.