A Pastor Lives and Breathes . . .
Oh the humanity!
Pastors are flesh and blood men. You probably think this is leading to comments about the humanness, and therefore lack of perfection, of pastors. I suppose I will indulge you there for a few moments but that is not the real point.
Pastors are not perfect and that means a couple of important things for the people subject to their pastoral practice. For one, they are prone to mistakes. I don’t mean scandalous and sinfully disqualifying mistakes, though some make those too. I mean gaffes, misspeak, wrong choices, etc. They make fallibly human mistakes, just like you. So don’t be harsh, overcritical, or too quick to condemn them for it. After all, they are still being sanctified. Even Paul said, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect” (Philippians 3:12).
The other consequence of their humanity is that they are not complete. I mean they are not omni-competent in every area. The Spirit gifts men “severally as He will” (1 Corinthians 12:11). Therefore, not all men have the same gifts, nor does any man have a complete set. All pastors have areas of strength and weakness. They should be improving the gifts they have (1 Timothy 4:15), but there are some things they will never be able to do. That’s okay as long as you both know it.
For the main point, I need to finish what I started in the title.
A pastor lives and breathes . . . and one day he won’t.
Excepting those who are alive and remain at the coming of Jesus, pastor’s die. Pastor’s should number their days and apply their hearts to wisdom today (Psalm 90:12). Mortality lends a sense of urgency to our business. But, what does pastoral mortality mean to you?
God has designed for Christians to be gathered into a body and have pastors (Ephesians 4:11-12). The pastors He gives are living, breathing men. They know you, live with you, and work with you (1 Thessalonians 5:12). Their hearts pump and they breathe on you. They share your joys and sorrows and watch sleeplessly over your souls (Hebrews 13:17).
Per God’s design, pastors are real men and just like other real men, the bounds of their habitation are before appointed (Acts 17:26). David, though a great man, was a real man who served his own generation and departed (Acts 13:36). As mighty in the ministry as Paul was, he himself said, “I have finished my course” (2 Timothy 4:7). A part of finishing his course was preparing other men to finish their course after he departed (2 Timothy 2:2).
God has designed pastors to be real men with a real life span. This means that God has designed you a pastor who is living and breathing with you. Charles Spurgeon may be your favorite preacher of all time, but he is not your pastor. You may benefit greatly from reading his sermons and other writings. You may even be shocked at how relevant his thoughts still are, but he is not your pastor.
The same goes for any beloved, departed pastor. You may still learn from them, but not one of them is your pastor. Your pastor, by God’s design, lives and breathes today. You know him, can call him, and eat with him. You can call him in the middle of the night if need be and he can pray with you. If he’s sick, you know and if you’re sick, he knows.
This principle applies also to the voice on the radio, television, or internet. That voice may come from a currently breathing real man, but if you don’t know him because he is not living among you and admonishing you, he is not over you in the Lord and he is not your pastor (1 Thessalonians 5:12).
I do not suggest that we cannot or should not learn from others whether living or dead. We benefit greatly from the learning and thoughts of others. I have libraries, both physical and digital, of the writings and preaching of men. I am thankful for them and certainly learn from them. But, according to God’s design, your pastor lives and breathes with you.