In our day, there are a host of roles Christians expect their pastors to fill. Many people think the pastor should be an entertainer. Others ask their pastor to be the pragmatist extraordinaire who only delivers “relevant” messages. Some want a life coach to help them attain their best life now, while others seek the corporate magnate who can quickly increase the church’s membership and campus size. There are even those who want their pastor to ignore biblical teaching the culture finds objectionable so that he can join whatever cause is currently in vogue.
God’s Word, however, gives pastors a far different calling, as we see in 1 Timothy 4:13. Paul, the “senior pastor” of the Ephesian church, has appointed Timothy to stand in for him in his absence and do the work for which he would otherwise be responsible. So, what he tells Timothy to do while he is away serves as a good description of a pastor’s calling — indeed, the calling of all elders — which is the public reading of Scripture, exhortation, and teaching.
Feeding the Lord’s people a steady diet of truth through the faithful proclamation of His Word is the pastor’s chief job. All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for the Christian’s spiritual health (2 Tim. 3:14–17), and so the pastor is to make sure his flock learns to hear the Word rightly and apply it practically. This involves the public reading of Scripture in worship as well as exhortation (1 Tim. 4:13), which is the process of explaining the sense of the text and drawing practical applications for the people. Customarily, this is done through the preaching of expository sermons, a practice with a biblical precedent (Neh. 8:8). Finally, pastors are to engage in teaching how the diverse portions of Scripture fit together into one stream of unified doctrine (1 Tim. 4:13).
We will be headed for disaster if we ever think biblical teaching is insufficient for our sanctification. Let us never tire of the meat of God’s Word, and let our pastors never think that they are able to plumb fully the depths of the Scriptures. John Chrysostom says, “It is not possible…ever to exhaust the mind of the Scriptures. It is a well which has no bottom” (ACCNT, vol. 9, p. 193).
Without even knowing it, our expectations can be part of the problem in the church’s lack of focus on teaching in our day. When we choose churches based simply on the extent of their youth activities or the style of music, we are implicitly saying that the quality of the teaching and the faithfulness of the pastor to biblical preaching are not all that important. Whatever we expect of our preacher, let us expect him first of all to feed us the Word of God.