This morning I’m listening to John MacArthur as he’s preaching a sermon to pastors at a conference. A Baptist preacher friend shared it. MacArthur was talking about the middle of Ephesians 4 when Paul says that God has put some people in positions as pastors in the church. The Scripture says the pastors primary job, explained as simply and basically as possible, is actually two jobs that go hand in hand:
- to equip the people in the church to do the works of Jesus Christ
- to help them continue to grow to be more like Him.
As the church people do the ministry/works to which they’re called, they become more like Jesus; and as they become more like Jesus they continue to answer the call to perform His works.
MacArthur said the measure of a pastor’s ministry is not measured by how many people are stuffed in the building, but instead by how Christlike the people in the building are (and I would add especially when they go outside of the building). While this may sound like something a pastor says to explain declining attendance, keep in mind MacArthur pastors a large church. He has a radio ministry, he’s a conference speaker, and has a large national following. He’s not explaining away the declining attendance in his church. But I do think he’s trying to encourage pastors who preach orthodox Biblical truth and are finding that there are people leaving the church because the sermons are too hard. It’s like the disciples said to Jesus in John 6:60: “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” And like the warning Paul gives to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:3: “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
MacArthur says the only way to teach people to be like Christ and to inspire them to do His works, is to preach the Word of God and it’s a long term proposition. He said with an average pastor’s stay of 2 1/2 years at a church, that it’s not possible. It takes time.
He says the pastor’s responsibility is not to make sure that non-believers or marginal Christians (as if there is such a thing) “liked” church. The job is not to suck people in through soft-peddling the Gospel or tricks and gimmicks or even music. He said the pastor’s responsibility is to follow the Great Shepherd and sanctify (sanctify means to become more holy) the flock through the Word.
And there are a lot of people who won’t appreciate a pastor who is doing that. Too many people like their lukewarm, non-sacrificial, non-demanding, anything goes, don’t call me out Christianity. And this blog is too hard for some people. But I’ll tell you what it’s not: it’s not un-Biblical. And it’s not un-loving. But it is hard.