The Pastor as a Parent


The biblical way: The minister as mother and father

I want to talk to you about the pastor as a parent–the pastor as a mother, the pastor as a father. To do that, I want to draw you to 1 Thessalonians chapter 2, 1 Thessalonians chapter 2. We’re going to look at verse 7 and following. Let me read it to you. We’ll read down to verse 12.

“But we proved to be gentle among you as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children, having so fond an affection for you. We were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives because you had become very dear to us. For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You were witnesses and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers. Just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.”

The unbiblical way: Throwing you under a bus

There was a recent conference of pastors led by one who is prominent, a young man, and who is influential in speaking to young pastors, planting churches. This is what he said at the conference to a young generation of men.

“Here’s what I’ve learned. You cast vision for your mission, and if people don’t sign up, you move on. You move on. There are people that are going to die in the wilderness, that’s just how it is. Too many guys waste too much time trying to move stiff-necked, stubborn, obstinate people. I’m all about blessed subtraction. There’s a pile of dead bodies behind our church bus and by God’s grace it will be a mountain by the time we’re done. You either get on the bus, or you get run over by the bus. Those are the options, but the bus ain’t going to stop. There’s people who get in the way of the bus; they’ve got to get run over. The people who want to take turns driving the bus, they’ve got to get thrown off.

There’s nice people who sit on the bus and shut up, they’re not helping or hurting, just let them ride along. You know what I’m saying. I’ll tell you guys what, you don’t do this just for your church planting or replanting. I’m doing it right now; I’m doing it right now. We just took certain guys and rearranged the seats on the bus and yesterday we fired two pastors. They’re off the bus; they’re under the bus; they’re unemployed. I mean you, this will be the defining issue as to whether or not you succeed or fail.”

Another one of these young pastors with an influence was being asked by some people in his meetings if he would go a little deeper into the Word, to which he responded, quote: “The jackass in the church is the person who always screams, ‘I want to go deeper!’” End quote.

The DNA of leadership

Verses 1 to 6 of chapter 2 give us a little bit of an x-ray of a leader. He talks about tenacity, integrity, authority, accountability, humility–the kind of things that you talk about when you talk about leadership.

That’s kind of the x-ray, kind of looking down into the DNA of his leadership. But what you have in 7 to 12 is a photograph, not an x-ray but a photograph. You can look at him and see by way of analogy the very image that leadership takes so that things like tenacity, integrity, authority, accountability, humility, and you could add affection and love–the things that are on the inside show up on the outside.

The prosperity gospel

….just finished up the book Strange Fire. One of the most compelling statements that is in there is a statistic, a survey done of the 500 million people in the charismatic movement around the world. Ninety percent of those 500 million people believe the prosperity gospel, that if you give money, you’ll get health and wealth–90 percent; 87 percent of the people in the movement are below the poverty line. This is a scam to divest the weakest, and those who have the least of what they have for the wealth of the people at the top. That’s what false teachers always do. They operate on that basis.

Paul’s credibility amongst his flock

How does he defend himself? Well, he calls on the Thessalonians to be his defense. And every pastor should be able to do this. Let me show you how he did it. See, he writes this defense of his integrity in chapter 2, and it runs from verse 1 to 12 if you took the whole thing. As he writes this defense I want you to notice what he appeals to: verse 1, “For you yourselves know”; verse 2, middle of the verse, “As you know.” Verse 5, middle of the verse, “As you know”; verse 9, “For you recall.” Verse 10, “You are witnesses”; verse 11, “Just as you know.” They don’t need second-hand testimony as to the integrity of his ministry. His credibility is known to them first hand, first hand. They are living illustrations of his credibility.

Paul’s view of himself

Paul viewed himself as a mother;Galatians 4:19, he said…well, he viewed himself like a pregnant mother. He said, “I am in birth pains until Christ is fully formed in you.” I’m in birth pains; it’s like bringing you to birth; it’s like a long pregnancy to bring to birth and the pains and agonies of that…

He was anything but a greedy, carnal, licentious flatterer, consumed with his own self-importance, power, control, manipulation, and abuse to make himself rich and to fulfill his desires, anything but that. So he says, back in verse 3, “Our exhortation doesn’t come from error, or impurity or by way of deceit.” We’re not like false teachers. We’ve been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts. So we never came with flattering speech. We were never motivated by greed–“God is witness”–we didn’t seek glory from men from you or anybody else. We didn’t even assert our authority as though as apostles of Christ we could have.

He gives acceptance, respect, kindness, compassion, tolerance of imperfections, patience, loyalty, tender-heartedness. To what degree do you do that? To what degree do you do that? Here it comes, “as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.” That’s about as tender as it gets. That is the most intimate, sweet, compassionate, affectionate relationship in all of humanity–“as a nursing mother,” trophos. It literally means that; it means “one who nurses.”

It says there, “tenderly cares.” It’s a verb, thalpo. It actually is literally “to warm with body heat,” “to warm with body heat,” “to pull to oneself.” This is just a beautiful picture here. That same word is used in the Septuagint version of Deuteronomy 22:6 to speak of a mother bird sitting on the little ones in the nest.

In fact, he stretches the analogy in verse 8, “Having so fond an affection for you, so deep a love, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives because you’ve become very dear to us.”

Pay the preacher

What God means there is that he got a job. He did this when he went to pagan places. Look, Paul is the first one to say, “Pay the preacher.” In 1 Corinthians he says, “Whoever lives”…whoever preaches the gospel…“should live of the gospel.” And he writes to Timothy and tells him, “Instruct the church this way. The elder who rules well and labors in the word and doctrine is worthy of double pay.” That’s a principle. The church is to care for the pastor. That’s in the Word of God. But when you go into a pagan place and you bring the gospel, you don’t want to make the gospel chargeable and so…I mean, we’ve pretty much followed that, haven’t we, through the history of missions? Don’t we support the missionaries who go so that they’re not asking the pagans to give the money like the false teachers do? You recall our labor and hardship, like a mother who works and works hard, like the Proverbs 31 woman. In ancient times, mothers had a lot of hard work to do.

Balance in authority in order for you to walk worthy of your calling

So on the one hand, the pastor is to be a mother with all the tenderness, compassion, patience, love, affection. On the other hand, a father who sets the model and the example and exhorts and encourages and implores. This is a picture of authority. This is the picture that balances off the mother.

And what’s the goal of these things? Verse 12, what do you want out of your children? That they “would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” What do you want out of your children in your life?

And so spiritually that’s why we parent, because we’re dealing with children. We’ve birthed children. We’ve taken adopted children in that have come from somebody else, and that’s our flock and that’s our church, and we treat them like a mother and a father. We want them to grow up in Christ, to be fully formed into His likeness. That’s how Paul viewed ministry. That’s how we have to view the responsibility of spiritual leadership. It’s a balancing act, it really is.

That’s not easy to do. But that’s the standard that Paul sets and so my response to this is, “Who is adequate for those things? Who is going to be able to do this?” Well, Paul asked that question in 2 Corinthians, didn’t he? In chapter 3 when he said, “Who is adequate for these things?” No man is adequate for these things. Then he said this, “But our adequacy comes from God,”

It is by God’s grace and God’s power that we are able to even approximate this kind of leadership.

Throw people off the bus? Run over people? Treat them with disdain? I don’t think you could get away with that as a parental approach. Then you can’t get away with it in ministry. You’re not a pastor. You’re not a shepherd.

What pastoral ministry is really all about

Do you remember in Hebrews 13, verse 17, where the writer of Hebrews says to people in the church, “Submit to your leaders for they watch for your souls?” Submit to them so they can do it with joy and not with grief. When leaders are parents, faithful parents, a mother and a father, the children grow, flourish, mature, those children become the joy of the parents, right? That’s the picture.

You’re our joy. What is my greatest joy as a parent humanly speaking? To see my children in the presence of the Lord, to one day see my children in the presence of the Lord. That’s the same as a pastor–to see my children in the presence of the Lord; that’s the greatest joy. It isn’t just the success of the church, it’s the eternal fellowship of people you love. That’s what pastoral ministry is really all about.

The full sermon originally appeared at Grace to you

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