Ephesians 2:14-17 describes Jesus as a unifier who broke down walls of separation and brought us all near to God. One of the most amazing things about being a Christian is that we share equality in the eyes of our creator (Gal.3:28). Still, in our human imperfection, we have built all sorts of divisions that fly in the face of the unity that we should share as God’s children. This is the fifth in a series of posts about “bridging the gaps” between us with the goal of figuring out how to achieve the unity that Jesus himself prayed for before he was crucified (John 17:20-21).
In our last post, we talked about things that the preacher needs from his members. Today, we are going to discuss things that the members need from their minister. This, certainly isn’t an exhaustive list (the preacher’s job description and relationship dynamics certainly vary from place to place), but it serves as a starting point for members to know what to expect from their minister. It also serves as a reminder for those of us actively serving churches in a ministerial capacity that we have certain expectations to live up to!
1) The Preacher’s Love
Love is a foundational element in all Christian relationships, especially from those tasked with serving the members. While all of us naturally gravitate towards certain people based on age, interests, etc., the preacher can only effectively minister to those he knows and loves. We won’t always “like” every member of our Christian family, but we are divinely obligated to love them. Furthermore, the preacher should try and establish close friendships with every member of the congregation. This comes from spending time with them, being in their homes, and learning about what makes them tick. The preacher needs to love the members of the church!
2) The Preacher’s Teaching
In 2 Timothy 4:1-2 Paul very famously says, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (NIV).
The second, and equally important, thing that the members need from the preacher is teaching! While Ephesians 6 calls the Bible the “Sword of the Spirit” and Hebrews 4:12 says that it is “sharper than any two-edged sword,” God’s Word should not be used as a weapon against the brethren! It is a tool to be used with precision to convict the hearts of believers and non-believers alike. Notice Paul’s reminder to teach with plainness and correction while balancing those elements with patience and instruction! The preacher’s PRIMARY responsibility is to teach the Bible. He should be given ample time to prepare to do so, but any preacher worth his salt should be able to teach the scriptures with depth and persuasion!
3) The Preacher’s Ear
While I, personally, have never been guilty of this – some preachers have a hard time listening to feedback. In all seriousness, whether it is from the church’s leadership or even members who care enough to share, preachers need to be sensitive to feedback. While we may not always agree with what it is said, we must care enough to listen and at least place weight on what should be constructive criticism. In addition to listening to feedback, it’s also enormously important that preachers are willing to listen when members need someone to talk to. While this can be time-consuming, we will get to that shortly, listening helps build relationships. We can never preach to someone we have no relationship with!
4) The Preacher’s Time
Without a doubt, the preacher’s most valuable commodity is time! He must balance family, study time, administrative duties, visits to homes and hospitals, and some semblance of a personal life. Unfortunately, things often get out of balance and relationships with the members get pushed down the ever-growing list of priorities. We must all remember that any preacher is only one man, and he works in conjunction with other church leaders. However, as ministers, we must be diligent in realizing that members are not just people we know. They are our brethren – the people that we will spend eternity with! Time must be made if we are going to love, teach, and listen!
Next week, we will conclude this series of posts which a discussion of giving and taking as brothers and sisters in Christ!