Pastoring comes with restrictions. We’ve been entrusted with responsibilities, and our job is to stay faithful to the task God has given us to do.
Paul uses the image of a household steward to describe what Christian ministry. “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God,” he writes in 1 Corinthians 4:1-20. ”Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.”
Paul’s image packs a punch. He refers to a household steward, a servant entrusted with the job of managing an estate for an absentee landlord. This position came with a lot of responsibility, a high degree of trust, but no ownership. The greatest requirement was faithfulness: because the landlord was far away, the steward needed to be reliable even when the landlord was far away.
It’s not hard to see the parallel. Pastors: God has entrusted you with oversight of his church, bought with the blood of Christ. You don’t own it, but you have a responsibility to manage it well. Jesus will return and evaluate how well you’ve managed it on his behalf. You’ve been placed in an important position, but your first responsibility is to God. You will be judged on how well you’ve managed his affairs on his behalf.
We’re servants. We have lots of responsibility but very few freedoms. We’re not managing our own affairs. We’re managing God’s. God’s entrusted his truth and his people to us, and we dare not mess it up. Our job is to stay dependent, remain faithful, and to give an account of our activities for when our Master returns.
In other words, God’s given us a job to do. We don’t have the luxury of writing our own job descriptions or shaping the job to suit us. Our only job is faithfulness.
The problem in pastoring is that it’s easy to get sidetracked. We can easily get distracted and begin to adopt other metaphors that shape how we conduct ourselves. Rather than adopting the image of steward, under-shepherd, or other biblical images, we can adopt images of entrepeneur, life coach, or political activist and get distracted from the work God has called us to do.
Mark Dever pastors near Capitol Hill in the States. Some in his church work in politics. They sometimes come to him for advice on what to do. If you know Dever, you know that he has opinions on the questions they ask. But I’ve heard him say that he refuses to offer his opinions. If Scripture clearly addresses their questions, he will show them what Scripture says. Otherwise, he holds his tongue. Dever knows how to stay in his lane. He’s not a political advisor; he’s a steward of the mysteries of God.
I understand the temptation to get distracted. I’ve faced this temptation myself, and I haven’t always succeeded in staying in my lane. I know how easy it is to pursue our passions or become seduced by the opportunity to use our positions to speak to issues about which we have opinions.
But that’s not our job. Our job is stewards, faithfully sticking to the people and the message he’s entrusted to us until he returns.
Someone — either Philip Brooks, Charles Spurgeon, or Thomas Carlyle — once said, “Who, having been called to be a preacher, would stoop to be a king?” Indeed.
Only pastors and elders have been entrusted with management of God’s household. Only preachers have been entrusted with the responsibility of standing before God’s people and proclaiming the mysteries of God. Trading that to offer our opinions on lesser matters is like trading our birthright for a mess of pottage. You can do it, but you’ll regret it later.
Pastors: don’t get distracted from the work God has given you to do. Your one job is to faithfully manage God’s household and proclaim his message. One day your Master will return, and he will demand an accounting. Until that day, let’s manage what he’s entrusted to us faithfully. I promise you it’s better than anything else you could do.