Studies in I Thessalonians: Marks of a Faithful Pastor, Part 2
Jesus is the good and great shepherd of the sheep, the faithful, model, exemplary and perfect pastor. Christ is the Teacher, Leader, Visionary and true Senior Pastor. Jesus and Jesus alone is the perfect Head of all true churches. Even on our best day, every poor pastor is but a dim reflection of the Sun, a faint echo of the Voice.
We are mining out from I Thess. 2:1-12 marks of a faithful pastor as modeled in Paul’s ministry as he sought to echo Christ. So far we have seen that he shows up armed with the gospel, not empty handed (vv.1,2); he’s God-tested and approved (v.3-4a); and third, he seeks to please God, not man (v.4b). You can see how Christ exemplified all three.
Fourth, he’s all about giving, not getting.
“For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed – God is witness – nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others … (2:5-6a, NASB).
Flattery is exaggerated compliments or outright lies to take advantage of another by manipulation. Flattery especially works on the proud and insecure. It’s a favorite tool of false teachers. It also gains traction among the ignorant and biblically illiterate. It’s that well-known motivational speaker telling unconverted people to “discover the champion within.” The right response to such drivel? “My Champion is in heaven.”
Flattery works because it appeals to the flesh and the flesh is weak and corrupt. Flattery must be forsaken by all Christians, but especially pastors and preachers who are charged with telling the truth. Paul never once puffed them up by calling them good people. Instead, he pointed out their idolatry (cf. 1:9). He never once sweet talked the ladies to manipulate sexual favors. Instead, he preached that Christians should be pure by abstaining from sexual immorality in the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. 4:1-8).
To be the victim of flattery is to be poisoned with honey and then perfumed for your own burial. It leaves you feeling sick and angry and stupid. No matter the context, audience or outcome, a faithful man of God forsakes flattery and instead “speaks the truth in love.”
When you seek to give not receive then greed is grounded in your life. A faithful pastor doesn’t play poor so others feel sorry for him and give him more. With God as his witness, he is no huckster, charlatan or peddler of God’s word. The gospel is not a product to sell but a gift to give away. As Jesus said to the apostles, “Freely you received, freely give.”
That’s why there’s no admission fee to church. After a pastoral visit, you don’t receive a bill for services rendered. This is why at our church all biblical counseling is free.
If Paul wanted to be rich, he would have remained a rising Pharisee on the religious career ladder. Instead, like Jesus, he became poor and made others rich, working for an eternal reward from God.
This doesn’t mean a pastor or missionary shouldn’t be adequately supported so they can devote themselves to the work of ministry. As Paul says in another place, do not muzzle the ox while he is threshing. How far this is applied in ministry contexts takes great wisdom and humility.
Finally the faithful pastor should reject glory from man. “Riches I heed not nor man’s empty praise, Thou mine inheritance, now and always” says the great hymn “Be Thou My Vision.” He’s not hungry for earthly position, worldly fame or human honors. He shouldn’t lust for attention, applause or accolades!
He’s not like a budding actor or actress who sells body and soul to gain a part in a movie. Or an Olympic sprinter who dopes to stand draped in gold and washed in applause. When people seek glory from men and not God, they compromise their integrity to get there.
They also settle for a pathetic substitute. Man’s glory is nothing compared to what only God can give! Pastors not close to God will constantly need praise heaped upon them to stay propped up. Every pastor needs to start each day with “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” This carnal glory seeking resides in all our fallen flesh and thus is a constant temptation pastors face.
Flattery. Greed. Glory seeking. All three have one thing in common – all about getting vs giving and so must be rooted out of our lives. As Jesus taught, it is more blessed to give than receive.
Will you take a moment to thank God for your pastors and to pray for them, that God would keep them far from flattery, greed and human glory seeking?
Unless otherwise noted, all posts are written by Pastor Chris McKnight