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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Who's Responsible for the Pulpit?

From Feed My Sheep, chapter one (The Primacy of Preaching), Al Mohler says:
Secondly, if we are genuinely servants of the Word, it means that our congregations are aware of this priority and honor it. The congregation needs to understand that preaching is not merely the preacher's responsibility; it is the congregation's responsibility. It is the congregations responsibility to see that it is fed. It is the congregation's responsibility to see to it that it calls a preacher who will preach the Word. Then, it is the congregation's responsibility to hold him accountable for that preaching and to measure his effectiveness and his faithfulness to, of all things, the pulpit ministry.
A couple of thoughts this quote (and even the whole chapter) brought to my mind:

A) I am thankful for a church that cares about the preaching, and holds me accountable.
B) Once a church has let that go, how hard is it for the congregation to notice the void, let alone correct it?
C) Do most congregants really believe preaching should be the pastor's primary task?
D) Do most pastors believe it is his primary task?
E) Would most of the pastors' conferences go bankrupt if preachers would just return to this concept?


  • At 9:49 PM, Blogger BReformed said…

    The quote you highlighted is an area where I think I could mildly disagree with Dr. Mohler.

    The progression seems almost unbiblical to me:

    How do we arrive at a conclusion, supported biblically, which suggests the sheep can properly choose their shepherd, hold that shepherd accountable, measure his effectiveness, and ultimately ensure that it is being fed by the shepherd?

    Consdering your queries:

    A) Wouldn't elders be more conducive to the accountability of a shepherd than the sheep?
    B) Isn't that the natural inclination of the sheep, to let go and pursue other things? (i.e., "assemble for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires")
    C) Not if B is true
    D) Evidence of the present Church indicates otherwise
    E) Depends on the focus of the conference

  • At 10:28 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    i'm wrestling through these as well...

    i guess a couple thoughts that just muddy the water even more.

    i don't believe "a sheep" will be able to deflect responsibility for his walk toward his pastor. we are certainly expected to be like the bereans, especially in this age when the Word is so easily accessible to us.

    i was going to work through your list but noticed one continual theme. the shepherd/sheep illustration always gets difficult when one considers that the shepherd IS one of the sheep. therefore, your statement in "B" applies to the congregation and the elders as well.

    i think one area where this becomes visible is in the congregation's and shepherd's degradation of the necessity of preaching. this is visible by the number of conferences that exalt leadership, management, creativity, and programs over the teaching of the Word of God.

    i guess i have to hope the church congregation is somehow responsible as well. otherwise, is there no hope for churches where the pastor and elders have bought into all these strategies?

  • At 10:57 PM, Blogger fisher said…

    Who's responsible? The pastors.

    I, frankly, have always had trouble with a congregation "choosing their shepherd", especially from outside of its own. It seems that the mandate in Scripture is:

    1) Pastors appointing pastors. (2 Timothy 2:2; Titus 1:5)
    2) "Replacement" pastors rising from within the existing congregation, by virtue of a healthy and continuous older-younger teaching activity (Titus 2:1-10)

    This requires a plurality of preaching/teaching pastors that sharpen and hold each other accountable, are equally able (as God gives ability) to accurately handle the Word of truth, and also mentor young'ns to become like they are. And when one elder dies or leaves, the church is not thrown into turmoil nor at risk for being led astray by a wolf.

    When the time comes (it is more the recognizing of ability and utilizing the God given gifts within the church, rather than urgently needing to fill a "position") they either 1)bring someone up from the "ranks" or, IF they MUST 2)call someone from outside. In either case, there will be several others, who are PREACHERS there, intimately involved with him and the preaching of the Word. It is unlikely the new and less influential guy is going to steer the church toward heresy.

  • At 7:22 AM, Blogger BReformed said…

    The Berean angle makes it clear that people are responsible. The Bereans questioned the accuracy of apostolic teaching and were commended for doing so. And I can see where this would produce a healthy environment of "accountability" for the shepherd. Would that our people would always be studying their Bibles to that end.

    But we know that is not the case, and we know pastors who have grown weary goading their people to be students of the Word. There is the slippery slope that leads to 2 Timothy 4.

    Certainly, the shepherd is one of the sheep when it comes to the collective body of Christ and, like a sheep, he wanders into error when he starts to accomodate the eventual desire of fellow sheep to let their guard down and just "play" church: "Let's do outreach through a church softball team! Let's do the gospel according to Barney Fife! Let's do stuff!!" Pastors can be pusillanimous when it comes to telling their congregations "No" to wood, hay and stubble.

    In the context of preaching, i.e., in the local, congregational sense, the shepherd is the one who we are told is held to the higher standard (James 3:1; Ezek. 33).

    It occurs to me that Jesus was both a Sheep and a Shepherd, too.

  • At 7:29 PM, Blogger barabbas said…

    Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers...

    No doubt you are aware that the Greek word poimen appears only three times in the New Testament outside of the context of Jesus' teaching. One reference is in Hebrews and another in 1 Peter referencing Him as the good Shepherd. The third reference is in the above quoted verse.

    From that verse, I ask this...how could the conclusion be drawn that 'preaching' is the pastor's main occupation? This 'position' of pastor/shepherd is listed with evangelists, teachers and prophets, which seems to me to be differentiating between their 'offices'. If this word, poimen, defines as shepherding, then it seems to me like there's an obvious difference between a pastor and an evangelist, or a teacher, or a prophet (all active speaking offices). I am not attempting to downplay a pastor's responsibility to the Word, but just wondering if the evangelist or the teacher isn't more responsible for preaching while the pastor is more responsible for patient leadership?

  • At 11:00 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    We cannot overestimate the effects of the entire Body gathered together. If they hear loose, inaccurate, man-centered, weak preaching...the church will be greatly effected by it.

    No great shepherding pastor finds it easy to counsel a person if their counsel has to go in direct contradiction to the words expressed from the pulpit. No private meetings over lunch, when disagreement over the content of the message is expressed, can set the entire congregation on the right course. In our context, no LIFE Group discussion, no matter how robust, can set the entire church back on the course it strayed from during a sloppy sermon.

    however, i have found myself in counseling situations, unsure what exactly to say, and found myself buoyed up by the strength from a powerful sermon i had heard. i have sat at lunch with a person who had strayed, and found myself able to call them back to Biblical truth by referencing a sermon we both had heard. i have found myself in a LIFE Group before, with a room full of people unsure exactly what the text was about, who all gathered together the next week to talk about how the sermon helped open their eyes to the point of the text.

    i'm not talking about being a great orator or entertainer (anyone who has heard me knows i'm neither), but i am talking about strong, biblical exposition.

    for example, in the nouthetic classes i recently took. the entire class is directed at how to give people biblical counsel. however, jay adams makes the point that a church cannot do nouthetic counseling if the pulpit doesn't match. if the preacher does not believe God's Word is powerful, effective, and yes...even relevant, then forget trying to organize a counseling ministry on those facts.

    certainly, preaching is not the full sum of what a pastor does. however, i cannot comfort a person in a moment of tragedy by reminding them of the sovereignty of God, if i have not been willing to preach that same issue to them earlier.

    in that way, i don't think preaching is all that a pastor should focus on...but i do think it is foundational.


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