"Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers" (I Tim. 4:16).
This is the text the Lord used to stir me at T4G. C.J.'s sermon was a wonderful exhortation to watch our lives as pastor and deserves repeated listening. In fact, you should probably stop reading this post and go ahead to the link and listen (or here to read).
C.J. makes the point that, especially among Reformed types, we're better at watching our doctrine than our lives. I think that's probably correct. But a good pastor wears bi-focals--he sees both his life and his doctrine.
And the two are connected. Right living will not impress Jesus if it's accompany by wrong doctrine, especially on the crucial matters. Right doctrine should lead to right living. It doesn't always do so, but that is evidence that we need our eyes on both. If I could make a sweeping generalization (very sweeping), this might be one shorthand way of distinguishing the primary concerns of historically African-American and White views of Christianity. My white brothers have been rightly concerned with right teaching while at times wholely inadequate in their concern for right living. My kinsmen according to the flesh have been rightly concerned with right living, especially with regard to social ethics and justice, while inadequate in their concern for right doctrine. We need both. And this is partly why I think these two streams of Christian tradition and thought need to be in more intimate conversation. But I digress....
A good pastor watches life and doctrine. He sees the connection and gets it. Some thoughts... nothing new. Just basic reminders.
1. A good pastor surrounds himself with A-quality men who help him in watching his life. Accountability is essential. And not just passive, reactionary "accountability," but searching, probing, initiative-taking accountability. We need people to ask us that tough question that we're avoiding in conversation, to pursue us rather than merely listen to us. We need others with an agenda for our holiness that is at times more zealous than our own agenda for holiness. This accountability should be one place where the following are also carried out.
2. A good pastor maintains a healthy interest, participation in, and love for his family. Not everyone will agree with my application of that principle. It seems to me that the priority in life is God first, family second, and ministry third. I can't make idols of either family or ministry such that they rival my affection for God. And if my affection for the Savior and my obedience to Him are strong, I should display high affection for my family. And I take 1 Timothy 3:4-5 to be prerequisites for ministry, and therefore to establish family as a priority over ministry. So, a good pastor will watch his life by watching the ordering of his priorities when it comes to his family. He will develop the ability and habit of saying "no" to that worthy ministry aim in order to say "yes" to that worthy set of relationships called family.
3. A good pastor keeps close watch on his thought life. He fights against anger, jealousy, censoriousness, lust, and the like. And he works to think about those things that are lovely, true, of good report, etc. Too often we listen to ourselves rather than speak to ourselves. And if we're not careful, what we listen to will be worldly, fleshly, poorly thought out, foolish ideas that lead to wrong conclusions and worldly, fleshly actions. A good pastor watches his life by fighting at the level of thoughts and desires, planting godly seeds and plucking out thorns and weeds before they choke his life.
4. A good pastor protects himself, his family, and his church from sexual immorality and the appearance of evil. A good pastor knows not to make any provision for his flesh or to leave his life open in such a way that invites unwanted attention, advances, or confusion. He doesn't meet or travel alone with women. He is not a shoulder to cry on for vulnerable women. His office is open or within view, avoiding the cloak of secrecy. At least his administrative asistant, and probably his admin. asst. and his wife, are aware of when he is meeting with women and what is generally the nature of the meeting. Speaking of his wife, he actively and joyfully gives himself to his wife in intimacy. He gouges out his eyes, cuts off his arms, and whatever else is necessary to protect himself, his family and his church from immoral acts. And again, he humbly and eagerly involves others in this protection and accountability.
5. A good pastor watches his life for rest and recreation. There should be adequate rest in the calendar and appropriate recreation. And a good pastor invites feedback on both, especially where there are questions about the appropriateness of some recreational pursuit. Eventually, pastors will lose the battle and the war if they don't rest. If Jesus doesn't return soon, and I pray that He would, a life of pastoral ministry will be a long haul and we'd better take care of our physical selves.
Next time, Lord willing, watching our doctrine.
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