If you haven’t read the previous posting, I would encourage you to do so. If nothing else, this one may not make sense unless you do…and yes I hear the question “do any of them make sense?”
First, keep in mind with the questions I pose here, that I am asking these on a deep level. It isn’t that I don’t know the common or popular answers to these questions. I do, however, believe that sometimes we need to slip beneath the surface to reacquaint ourselves with the foundations of the Christian faith, and in particular, the foundations of ministry.
To carry on from the last post…what is it that I bring to the local church? What do I bring as a pastor? What does it mean to be a pastor?
In the later part of the first century, the Apostle John appointed Polycarp the Bishop of Smyrna. Like his teacher, Polycarp took on the battle against Gnosticism in the church.
Polycarp was also a notable leader in the early church who offers pastors today a cautionary word of advice. In a letter to the Church in Philippi (likely written a century after the Apostle Paul’s letter) he wrote, “I am greatly grieved for Valens, who was once a presbyter among you, because he so little understands the place that was given him in the Church” (Polycarp’s letter to the Phillipians 11:1).
What is the place that was given to Valens? What is the place that has been given to me? Valen’s downfall was covetousness. What do I covet? What struggles do I face? What “rights,” expectations and desires must I joyfully set aside for the sake of the Church? Do I understand what it means to be “the pastor”?
These are not trite questions. The place of the pastor is within the church community. It is the place where who the pastor is will speak far louder than what he says. It is the place of being who God intends us to be.
It would seem to me that who I am, being who God intends me to be, is vastly more important than my ability to preach or do the “tasks” of ministry. Not that preaching and other tasks of ministry are not important, they are, but they must grow out of being who God intends me to be.
In other words, my place in the church is one of being who God intends me to be in the community that is the local church. My “place” is that of a shepherd and teacher built on a foundation of being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.
It seems simple enough, yet God is persistently working on conforming me to the image of Jesus Christ. I’m not a finished work. Sometimes the “working” is not as pleasant as I would like, but I am thankful for it. I find Paul’s words to Phillippians comforting and encouraging. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).