Reformed Baptist Fellowship

So, Who’s Your Pastor?

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on September 24, 2013 at 11:28 am

ipod earbuds

The question of the identity of your pastor may seem strange.  You say, he is the man I hear preach every Lord’s Day.  His name is on our church’s web site or letterhead.  That is an easy question to answer!  But is it really?

For hundreds of years the average Christian could easily and readily identity that person appointed by Christ to shepherd and overseer their souls.  By the 1600’s many Christians however were able to read the sermons of a multitude of other people’s pastors that were being printed.  They could also read the writings of well respected theologians whose writings were beginning to be placed into print.   In the 1900’s writings were supplemented with radio and eventually television and cassette recordings.   By the dawn of the 21st century one would be able to add to their spiritual diet, the teaching and preaching of  hundreds of thousands of  other pastors and theologians and conferences speakers by means of the internet and MP3’s.  I imagine that there are more than a few of us with hundreds of sermons by many different preachers on our Ipods or similar devices.

Some years ago I realized that there were some folks in our church who were listening every day to sermons from a pastor in a another city.  There is nothing in and of itself wrong with that, but I soon realized that it was this man and not our own eldership that was truly guiding and pastoring this family.   By simple virtue of the hours spent under this man and others ministry his perspectives and theology were being shaped to such an extent that they eventually moved to sit under this man’s ministry.    I also began to notice this with numerous seminary students who would visit our assembly.  For them, their professors were the main source of spiritual food-the students were under the professor’s ministry for hours upon hours every week and I was with them only on the Lord’s Day.  I found that they were more drawn to, more receptive of, and had far more confidence in seminary professors than in their own elders.

Now, I want to make it clear that the problem I see in this is not personal.  I am glad to have God’s people read widely and to have their souls well fed by a multitude of faithful men.  But I do see a biblical problem in all of this.   The writer to the Hebrews wrote in Hebrews Hebrews 13:17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

There are numerous points that can be made here.  The first is in regard to the word translated as, ‘obey’.  The word means far more than simply listen to and follow instructions.  It’s primary meaning has to do with trust or persuasion.  It speaks of one who has your confidence and your heart.  It can be translated as, ‘be induced to believe’.  Note that this text has reference to a specific group of men-those charged with the oversight of your souls.  Though I may gain much help from numerous authors and preachers contemporary and dead, none of those men will give an account for my soul.  That is the task of my four elders.    When Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica, he said to them 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.

My question is, do these men have this special esteem and this unique place in your affections.  Your elders are most likely very ordinary men (unless you are a member of a church like Bethlehem Baptist or Grace Community!), whose sermons don’t travel far outside the doors of your church.  Their words are not listened to by thousands, but they do have a unique role in your life and a unique accountability for your soul.   They may not possess the gifts of others, but they, and they alone are your true shepherds.  As much as you love and esteem other men, allow your elders to have a special and God appointed place in your heart.

James Savastio
Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville
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  1. Amen! I think it’s safe for me to say that…

  2. [...] Who’s Your Pastor? Here’s an excellent post by James Savastio on fact that for many today, some pastor across the country or [...]

  3. Interesting thoughts.

    I agree with what you say in principle. The problem though is that many are being fed outside of their own congregation because those that have the rule over them are not doing the job of a minister of the Word.

    It is a blessing that things like sermon audio and Banner of Truth make it possible that people have a pastor, when in fact, the one that they are paying to be the minister over them is not shepherding.

    This was the case in Puritanism as well, as you mentioned. Many of the Anglicans stayed in their parish out of cultural disapproval to ‘cross-parish’, when in fact they were being shepherded by the sermons of the greats.

    As one who labors in word and doctrine, it should be a call to self-examination (and I speak for me as well). We have a great responsibility to feed the sheep; and if we are not, then the sheep will, in some ways, seek out greener pastures.

  4. I will assume that Pastor Savastio intends us to understand by “our pastor” a man, or men who are scripturally qualified for the office and the work. That being understood I would whole-heartedly agree with him both in “principal” as well as in practice. As a christian man who both needs and desires the oversight of my soul I readily place myself under the faithful shepherding of that soul to my pastors.

  5. I appreciate the subtlety of this post. I do have a few fellows I listen to, but I recognize that they are men who are shepherding their own flocks dealing with issues that most often times particular to their “congregational season.” It is impossible for a “cyber-pastor” to shepherd my soul effectively.

    Nothing can take the place of my current pastor who has his hands in the “wool” so to speak. Not submitting myself to my pastor’s leadership, God’s appointed man, reflects poorly on my view and commitment to the local church & larger issues are at stake.

    An interesting observation I have noticed: Whenever I have run into a brother or a sister who struggles with/rails against church membership, church leadership, and RPW I have found that they listen to many, many pulpiteers and read everything under the sun without discernment.

    A man occupying the pulpit who is not qualified to do so is a difficult situation not unrelated to the original post. As I was reminded recently, it is the responsibility to plant oneself in a church where your soul will be shepherded faithfully, as it needs to be.

    What more precious thing do we have besides our soul?

  6. But the fact that some people are being fed by ‘cyber pastors’ needs to be taken into account. Under normal circumstances I would say that this is correct, hence, ‘I agree in principle’.

    As for what we have that is more precious than our soul… we have the Lord Jesus’ Spirit. That is precious. ;)

  7. I think I should change my “cyber-pastor” label to “iPastor.” It seems more fitting…

  8. And what if trust is lost between sheep and their would-be pastor? There are those who, in the name of jealousy for “biblical authority and proper church order”, manipulate their congregations into subtle but slavish dependence upon themselves while marking out any who dare to challenge the leadership as “rebellious and divisive”. This is sadly the case in some Reformed Baptist churches; it is neither healthy for the sheep nor pleasing to the Chief Shepherd.

    Indeed, the Bible teaches us to “obey our leaders and submit to them”, but it also warns us about Diotrephes (3 Jn 1:9) and those like him, who “lord it over” those allotted to their charge.

  9. You ask, ‘And what if trust is lost between sheep and their would-be pastor? There are those who, in the name of jealousy for “biblical authority and proper church order”, manipulate their congregations into subtle but slavish dependence upon themselves while marking out any who dare to challenge the leadership as “rebellious and divisive”. This is sadly the case in some Reformed Baptist churches; it is neither healthy for the sheep nor pleasing to the Chief Shepherd’
    Such men are not shepherds. No one ought to go to or support such false ministries. Such men shall be judged. It is evil, pure and simple. The only RB men that I have known who fit your description have been put out of the ministry! The article has in view, biblically qualified men who are not ‘superstars’, who nonetheless faithfully shepherd the sheep–not wolves in sheep’s clothing, and not unfaithful men who do not feed their flocks.
    Jim

  10. Thank you for such a well-written piece. Sadly, trust and confidence in elders can sometimes break down. What happens, for example when the pastor / elders no longer place real emphasis on the Word but appear to regard it as just part of the service? Equally, congregations can get so used to poor ministry that the members accept it and get their food from elsewhere despite still being attached to that same church.

    Warm Christian regards

    Simon

  11. […] So, Who’s Your Pastor? | Reformed Baptist Fellowship […]

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