by James W. Bryant and Mac Brunson
Some years ago one of the authors was invited by the Lutheran bishop of Dusseldorf to come to Germany and speak to his new pastors. The bishop had been converted to Christ long after he had become a Lutheran minister. When asked what he saw as the greatest need of his young, beginning pastors, he replied, “They need to be saved.”
In a private conversation with one of the young men, the author asked how he decided to become a minister. He shared that he was working in a trucking company and the work was very hard. He did not think he wanted to work that hard the rest of his life. He looked around at the various professions and decided that being a pastor in Germany would be easy.
German Lutheran pastors have their salaries guaranteed by the government, whether or not anyone attends the churches they serve. So this young man decided to become a pastor. He had no personal conversion experience and no sense of a divine call. There is nothing in the Bible that even approaches such an idea of the pastorate.
Richard Baxter challenged the pastors to whom he wrote, “See that the work of grace be thoroughly wrought in your own souls.” One might think that being a pastor means that he is automatically a Christian. Such is just not the case. Jesus said very clearly that there will be many surprised preachers in the day of judgment who will say, “‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ Then [Jesus] will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’” (Matt. 7:22–23).
Every pastor should ask himself, “Am I really saved?” There are too many true stories of pastors who were spiritually lost and needed to be saved. John Wesley was an Anglican missionary to America before he returned to England and was saved in his famous Aldersgate experience.
It is not only essential that the pastor be a genuine, regenerated, born-again Christian, but that he also be a godly man. Richard Baxter pleaded with the pastors who read his book,
O, brethren, watch therefore over your own hearts; keep out lusts and passions and worldly inclinations; keep up the life of faith and love and zeal; be much at home, and be much with God . . . . Above all, be much in secret prayer and meditation.
You must be a Christian before doing anything for Christ. You must be a holy person before you can do holy works. You must be a pastor first, and then do the pastoring. Pastoral ministry should be a deeply spiritual ministry, involving who you are and not just what you do. The first item in a pastor’s job description should be a spiritual item.
The pastor cannot lead his people any higher or any deeper than he has gone himself. This author’s younger son asked him several years ago if he had a life-mission statement. I don’t think I had ever been asked that question before. From the top of my head, but from the bottom of my heart, I blurted out the slogan that appeared on every church bulletin of the church I attended as a teenage boy: “To Know Christ and to Make Him Known.”
The pastor’s first goal should be to know Christ. Only as you know Him can you make Him known.