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The Most Responsibility

Are you a young person pondering a career? Have you considered becoming a pastor or a Christian day school teacher? This twelve-part series is meant to coincide with the work of the President’s Committee on Partners in the Public Ministry (CPPM). Its aim is to help you think more deeply about the great importance—and many blessings—of the public teaching and preaching ministry.

To point out the heavy responsibility that comes with the public ministry might, at first, seem to accomplish the opposite of our goal in this series. After all, who wants more responsibility? With responsibility comes much agonizing, wrestling, and often conflict. No pastor or Christian teacher who seeks to serve the Lord faithfully is unfamiliar with sleepless nights or a guilty conscience precisely because we all know that we, like the Apostles, are insufficient to carry out perfectly the responsibilities to which we are called (see 2 Corinthians 2:16).
It has been said, quite accurately, that a pastor or Christian teacher must wear many hats. Called servants of Christ often find themselves needing to handle minor building repairs, provide taxi services, learn and apply new technologies, maintain lawns, recognize both health and mental disorders, and wear a myriad of other “hats” in the course of their work—all of which add more responsibility. Some of these might sound appealing to you, and you may be tempted to think that the ministry sounds enjoyable and so you should pursue it. A word of caution is in order, though: the public ministry is not for the enjoyment of those in it. It is rather for the purpose of “equipping the saints for the work of ministry for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12), “to care for the Church of God which He obtained with His own blood” (Acts 20:28), and to “watch out for your (individual believers’) souls as those who will have to give an account” (Hebrews 13:17). This is the true responsibility of the called servant, and it is the most responsibility anyone can have.
There are, of course, others who also have that same responsibility—parents immediately come to mind. So when we say that those in the public ministry have the most responsibility, we aren’t comparing their responsibility to a father’s responsibility to instruct and train up his children in the fear of the Lord or to a mother’s responsibility to nurture and, from childhood, to make known to her children the Holy Scriptures which are able to make them wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Instead, all we mean is that there is no higher responsibility than to provide for the spiritual instruction, discipline, and care of Jesus’ saints.
This heavy responsibility is fulfilled in one way only, which is by teaching and preaching the Word of Jesus. It is fulfilled by exposing sin through the right teaching of the Law and by proclaiming also the Gospel of God’s grace and forgiveness through Christ to those who repent. In that sense, it is a simple responsibility—but simple does not mean easy or light. It is still a heavy responsibility that the Lord desires we take seriously for the sake of those to whom we minister. Paul reminds us pointedly, “It is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” (1 Cor. 4:2)
It is the corruption of sin at work in us that would lead us to shirk such a responsibility. This is a constant danger and a constant temptation for all of us in the ministry. This is why the pastor and Christian teacher also have to apply that Law and Gospel to themselves. And when we fail and then repent of our irresponsible behavior or attitudes, we find a forgiving Savior Who, as He did with Peter, encourages us again, “Feed My sheep” (John 21:17), and assures us that in doing so we will save both ourselves and our hearers (see 1 Timothy 4:16).
Frank Gantt is pastor of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Loganville, Georgia.