Our culture is inundated with “talking heads” who analyze every aspect of our lives. We have specialists for everything, and radio and television shows to talk about it. For instance, if you watch football, you will find that former NFL and college players often return as analysts to talk about the politics, plays, and players of the game. In the world of politics, there are entire networks devoted to “talking” about the politicians, policies, and problems of our political administration. In the realm of home decor, there are people who are known in that industry who talk and analyze the pros and cons of chosen design themes. When it comes to the church, we should not view it through the same lens. Your pastor is not a “talking head” on Sunday.
One of the titles for the office of pastor in the Scripture is ποιμήν – pronounced = poimēn. This is a word often translated – shepherd. In fact, you may be surprised to know that the office of pastor is most commonly referred to as the office of elder or overseer as opposed to pastor. However, in one verse in Ephesians 4:11, the office of pastor is referred to by the actual term – pastor. The purpose for using this word most commonly known as shepherd in reference to the office of the elder in the church is to spotlight the shepherding aspect of the job. The point is clear – your pastor is not a “talking head” on Sunday.
Recently, a man came to me regarding a very important decision he was considering. He had met with me in private and asked me to pray for him. This particular decision would lead him away from his church and it would have direct impact upon his entire family and church family. In our meeting, he said something that greatly encouraged me. He said, “I have met with one of the elders in our church for spiritual counsel and clarity as I pray about this decision. He and the other elders have given their blessing upon my decision.” Although we talked about much in our conversation, I emphasized how rare and biblical his decision to meet with his elders to think through, seek counsel, and make a decision is in our present day. Most of the time, people treat their pastor as if he is a “talking head” who provides spiritual analysis and is not intended to go beyond a surface level interaction with their family decisions.
As a pastor, I have found out about major life decisions that shape, impact, and alter families after the final decision has been made. No attempt was ever made regarding prayer for this decision. No pastoral counsel was sought in these decisions. The decision was presented as a “matter-of-fact” and final. In some cases these decisions have proven to be the right call, but in other situations I have witnessed these decisions bring harm to the family as a whole.
It seems clear from the Bible that God designed His church to operate with great organization. He gave specific gifts to the church, and when major life altering decisions are made – the gift of a pastor to oversee spiritually and guide the family in God’s Word should be utilized. This is true when it comes to big life decisions, but especially doctrinal issues. Simply put, your pastor should not find out you have decided to be a Methodist and this week is your final week with your church family when he arrives for worship on Sunday morning. There should be careful guidance, prayer, counsel, and submission to pastoral leadership through this process. Just as a shepherd is pictured guiding a flock of sheep through the hill country in the middle east, a pastor is to guide God’s flock with God’s Word through life. Below are specific areas you may want to receive some pastoral counsel prior to making your decision.
- Are you considering marriage , divorce, or re-marriage?
- Are you praying about joining the church or leaving the church?
- Are you considering taking a job that requires a massive change of schedule, travel, or relocation?
- Are you rethinking doctrinal convictions (sovereignty of God, denominational positions, church polity, missions, gender related issues) that could change the way you serve or cause you to leave the church to pursue a different type of congregation?
- Are you praying about homeschooling your child or not homeschooling your child?
While this isn’t intended to be an exhaustive list, it is intended to be a reminder that the pastor is a gift by God to the local church and he should be used for more than a spiritual commentator. As we read Scripture, we see that God intends for the people within the church to submit to the leadership and oversight of pastoral authority. In Hebrews 13:17, we see the following words, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” The words “obey” and “submit” should be obvious indicators regarding biblical submission, but notice the phrase, “for they are keeping watch over your souls.” That specific phrase says much about the responsibility of pastors as shepherds over God’s flock. Therefore, before making quick decisions that reshape your theological positions or lead your family to a new town, a new church, and a new neighborhood – you should prayerfully and carefully seek pastoral counsel in order to follow God’s will for your life.
Mark Dever writes, “It cannot be emphasized enough that once a congregation votes a man in as an elder, they should cooperate with and submit to his leadership joyfully. Without a sincere intention and effort to cooperate with the leadership of the church, there is no point in electing elders to lead the congregation.”1
Soli Deo Gloria,
Pastor Josh Buice
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The Deliberate Church, 159.