Scot McKnight pointed out this blog post on his "Weekly Meanderings" this past weekend. I read it and said to myself, "man, I've thought about some of these things before." There is something refreshing about proclaiming the obvious – there is excellent, God-honoring, Kingdom-building, Disciple-making, Jesus glorifying ministry going on everywhere even when the "spotlight" is not on it. We are a celebrity driven culture…you know that! I don't have to remind you about the fact that our culture is OBSESSED with the apparently popular and outwardly successful. So, book deals, video series, and cultural "buzz" happens frequently regarding the so-called "successful/popular" ministries…now, let me state here what should be something that all of us realize – God is the One who makes His Body what it is…if God chooses to bring a larger "crowd" or bigger sphere of influence into a local ministry, that is His call. We are called to be faithful with the gifts and abilities that God has given us in our sphere of influence and to trust that the Lord will "bring the increase" as He wills. Remember, our responsibility? Faithfulness, obedience, humility, openness, and a willingness to track with the leading of the Spirit. What is honored in the sight of God is the "seemingly unseemly"…you can read about THAT in 1 Corinithians 12.
So, when this pastor shares what he does, it makes sense to me – praise God for servants like this! You've heard it said before about the "level" ground around the cross? Let me tell you – it's true!
"If I were to list what I believe to be the top three habits of a life well lived, one of them would certainly be the practice of being a life- long- learner. If you draw from that statement that I value good teaching very highly, you are quite correct. And this past weekend I heard some of the best teaching I have ever heard.
It got me thinking about the difference between a “teaching pastor” and, well, a “pastor pastor”. I think one could probably make a pretty good case that in many instances, a teaching pastor is not a pastor at all in the sense that most people understand the word. They are what in the secular world would be called public speakers. Hired by churches that are big enough that they can do just one thing—teach!— they can create their message in an office according to the principles of good communication. And there are no two ways about it—they do communicate very well, as the thousands of people who gather to hear them each week would enthusiastically attest.
But then there is the “pastor pastor.” I don’t know what else to call her, because a pastor is chiefly what she is. A pastor spends his time going to the hospital and visiting the sick; he goes to the nursing home and spends time with people everyone else has forgot. She spends long hours with those in crisis; sitting with them, crying with them, giving no gift so much as her presence. He spends time most every day with the poor and the needy, listening to their sad stories, giving them money when he has it, and prayers even if he doesn’t. She walks with people who are struggling in their marriages, or who never got married, or who are having a tough time with their kids, or a tough time with their parents.
He listens and ponders and prays, reflecting on the Scriptures he is reading as he tries to make sense of it all, turning it over and over as he goes to sleep, and sometimes even after that as he dreams. It is his or her whole life.
The pastor pastor is not looking for something to wow the crowds; she is looking for something to give to Sally or Sue; to Jack or to John, who she knows desperately needs it. He is looking for something for himself as well, becomes sometimes it is his own head he needs to keep above water. She does not craft her sermon with her mind alone but also with her heart.
It is not likely to be polished in terms of practiced delivery, but it will be polished through long years spent loving God in the lives of the people who come to him. It will not be good enough to get written up in a book, to attract great crowds of people she doesn’t even know, or even to keep the people he does know coming back each week solely on the strength of the sermon. But for those who do choose to listen, there will be a wisdom here that they will not find anywhere else.
I do not write this about myself, though this is what I aspire to. I write it as I think about the teaching we heard this past weekend by a man who has been a pastor pastor for 42 years. I have heard people who are widely regarded as some of the best speakers in the world, and for good reason. I have benefited immensely from what they have said. But I don’t know that I have ever heard better teaching than this.
And I guess if I am completely honest, I am a little bit saddened by the way so many of the masses will flock to the glamour of the one, failing to appreciate the real treasure that may be found in the small, aging building just down the street."