So What's a Pastor Good For Anyway?

August 21, 2005

While training to become a minister, I worked part-time at Sears and Roebuck. One of my co-workers made a not-so-funny joke when he said, "I wouldn't mind being a preacher myself. All you have to do is preach two or three sermons a week, and you can spend the rest of the time playing golf." I'm sure he knew that a minister puts in more time than just the stated hours of the church service, but in all seriousness I doubt if most people have that understanding. The church needs instruction in this area from an objective source.

I personally have never been the pastor of a regular congregation, at least not for very long, and the two congregations over which I did preside were both connected with my missionary work. Therefore in writing to you about the role of pastor I am not talking about myself or my particular ministry.

Almost everyone knows that pastors preach, pray for people and preside over weddings and funerals, but few people appreciate all that a pastor can give them by way of guidance. Consequently many never benefit from what a pastor does best. Most ministers prefer to be called "pastor" because the title represents the role and relationship that God intended between them and their congregations.

Pastors are given to the church by God Himself as a gift for guidance. Some pastors are great orators and bring very inspiring messages. They use the pulpit to guide the whole flock. However, for the most part a pastor's work is not that which is seen by the entire congregation. Some of a pastor's most dedicated service is given to members of his congregation on a one-to-one basis. Here are a few examples of how your pastor can probably help you.

AT A TIME OF DEATH in the family call your minister before you call anyone else. He can not only help you by presiding at the funeral, but he can furnish a great deal more. For example, many pastors are willing to help the bereaved in making funeral arrangements. They know the funeral directors, and they usually know what you can afford and what would be appropriate. Your pastor can also tell you how to inform the other members of the family and he will know how to help you deal with your grief.

WHEN IT COMES TO MARRIAGE, the best time to get in touch with the pastor is not after you've settled everything about your wedding, but even before, when you are merely contemplating the commitment of becoming engaged. Your pastor can help you sort out your thinking to know what you really want from life and whether or not marriage to a certain individual is likely to provide it. At such a time the pastor can help you to seek God's will.

YOUR PASTOR CAN HELP YOU UNDERSTAND YOURSELF, your aspirations and your spiritual desires, because pastors generally know people and understand human behavior. While the chief tools of a minister are Scripture and prayer, most pastors are extremely practical and can combine these tools with some good, earthly advice.

* Need a doctor? Call your pastor. He is in and out of hospitals all the time visiting the sick. He sees how physicians work with patients and can usually help you find a good one.

* Need a job? Your minister often knows of appropriate openings. And if he doesn't, he can usually advise you of the procedure to seek the best possible employment.

* What about education? Your pastor is not only an educated man, but through his connections he knows a great deal about colleges, their strengths and weaknesses. Often he can help a bright, needy young person obtain a scholarship through the auspices of the denomination or the church.

* Lonely and you don't know how to reach out to others? Tell your pastor. He can't spend hours each week relating to you, but he can put you in touch with other individuals and groups he knows are seeking to welcome someone just like you.

* Marital problems? Family disruptions? Uncertainties? Most ministers schooled in the last three decades have received formal training on how to help people cope with such problems. Even those who did not receive this formal training but have been in the pastorate for a while have gained valuable life experience. Don't be fearful of telling your pastor about your deepest problems. The ethical minister will not condemn you or violate your confidence. Many individuals are surprised to find that once they have told their pastor some of the deep dark things they wouldn't want anyone to know, the minister, instead of being repelled, will come alongside with more patience and commitment. This is because he can relate much better to a person who displays trust in him. God gave you a pastor to strengthen you when you are weak, to help you find direction when you are restless, and to help you know the Lord and discover His will for your life.

* Want to serve God and don't know how? Perhaps one of the ways in which your pastor can help you the most is to give you something worthwhile to do in serving God. It might be helping in the church office or visiting a shut-in or ministering in a practical way to other people in the congregation with specific needs you can fill. Even if you are a substantial donor to your church, there is something more you can give—your time and energy. Why not pray about writing your pastor a note to announce that you are willing to give three, six or twelve hours a month for the next year to help advance the cause of Christ?

Now that you've found out some of the things that your pastor can do for you, perhaps you ought to read The Proper Care and Feeding of a Pastor so you can learn how you can best help your pastor. If you can realize that your pastor is God's gift to you and your church and can accept your role in relationship to him, then he will be more effective in his ministry to you, the church and the entire community.

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