The pulpit is only part of a pastor’s ministry. Of course, it is a major and central part of the ministry, but the pulpit is not the only part. A pastor also has pastoral work to do; this too is an essential part of his ministry. I appreciate how Charles Bridges explained this. It’s also convicting for me, and a good reminder for myself:
“Let us not think that all our work is done in the study and in the pulpit. Preaching …derives much of its power from connection with the pastoral work; and its too frequent disjunction from it is a main cause of our inefficiency.”
In other words, a major cause of a minister’s inefficiency is a separation of the pulpit and day-to-day pastoring/shepherding. Bridges continues,
“The Pastor and the Preacher combine to form the completeness of the sacred office, as expounded in our Ordination services and in Scriptural illustrations.”
As a rightly called and ordained minister, my goal then (with God’s help) is not just to be a good preacher, but to be a good pastor as well. As he goes on to explain, Bridges notes the biblical pattern for this balance and he gives some positive effects of the joining of the pulpit and the pastoral work.
One positive effect is how the joining of the pulpit and pastoral work preserves the church from schism and builds up Christian unity. When the pulpit and the pastoral work are both flourishing, it will help keep a congregation united.
Another blessing from a balanced preaching and pastoral ministry is gaining the confidence and love of the flock:
A pulpit ministration may command attention and respect; but except the preacher convert himself into a Pastor, descending from the pulpit to the cottage, and in Christian simplicity ‘becoming all things to all people,’ there will be nothing that fastens on the affections – no ‘bands of love.’ The people cannot love an unknown and untried friend, and confidence without love is an anomaly. …We must constantly aim at nearer contact, and closer interest with them; winning their hearts as the way to win their souls….”
These are helpful notes for pastors! It’s a good reminder for us to pray for this kind of balanced ministry, that we would be good preachers and good pastors. This will bring God much glory and bring much good to his people.
The above quotes are found in part 5, chapter 1 of Charles Bridges, The Christian Ministry.
Rev. Shane Lems is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and serves as pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Hammond, Wis. This article appeared on his blog and is used with permission.