Three connected tasks demand the time of a pastor-teacher: preaching/teaching; people-work; and leading/admin. A wise pastor, it was recommended, gives a third of his time to each of these tasks, each task relating to and serving the others. To preach effectively involves knowing the people to whom we are preaching. Knowing the people fuels our love for them and shapes our prayers and our preaching to them.
What does it mean to be a good teacher?
I read recently that a good teacher is not just someone who knows and communicates their subject but who genuinely cares about their students, knows their students, and seeks to make what they teach accessible and helpful to the individuals they teach.
So it is with a wise pastor. A wise pastor-teacher doesn’t see their role as simply teaching the Bible. Rather, they teach God’s living Word to the flock entrusted to their care; those with whom they share their lives and take time to get to know.
Wisdom from Proverbs
There is wisdom for shepherd-leaders in Proverbs 27:23: “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds.”
The given reason for this instruction is future-focussed; a well-cared-for flock will provide resources needed in the future.
For pastor-teachers, the reason for knowing the condition of the flock is also future-focussed; to best prepare them for their eternal future. In eternity they will be our joy.
Writing to those with whom he had shared both God’s Word and his life, Paul wrote, “For what will be our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when He comes? Is it not you? Indeed you are our glory and joy.” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20)
Literally, Proverbs 27:23 says “Know well the face of your flock; set your heart on the herds.”
In the Bible, to know someone’s face is to really know them, their characters, their temperament, conditions, quirks and so on. This takes time. It will be costly. It involves prioritising spending time with them. It means getting up from our desks and deliberately engaging with them.
Pastors in a former generation tended to spend their mornings in the study and the afternoons/evenings with people. Spending time with people in their homes seems to be less common now. There may be understandable reasons why that is so, but a wise pastor finds ways to “know well the face of their flock.”
Loving the flock
Spending time getting to know those entrusted to our care is an act of love.
It fuels our prayers as we prepare to preach. It shapes how we teach as we adapt and apply our teaching to their needs.