Over the past six months, Darrell Harrison and I have had the great fortune of speaking with pastors and traveling to churches across the country. I never cease to be amazed at what so many of these incredible men have in common. If I could paint a picture of the men serving in churches, both large and small, they possess similar characteristics. In addition to their love for God’s people and their passion for the church, the three key components that each man possessed in abundance are also evident. These pastors, faithfully preach, faithfully care, and are faithful in persecution.
While Darrell and I were guests at their churches, each faithful pastor ensured we had everything we needed as they demonstrated a high degree of hospitality. All were kind and expressed excitement to host us at their church. While humbled by their kindness, what impressed me most was the similarity in what repeatedly happened as we walked with these pastors through their respective churches.
As a pastor would take us from one place to another, they would stop and introduce us to their congregation’s members. A typical greeting would go something like, “Hey Brother Mark, I want to introduce you to our guests.” After we greeted him, the pastor would follow with, “Guys, I want to introduce you to Brother Mark. He and his wife Sarah have been attending church here for six years. Brother Mark and his wife have been faithful to the church and have served in the children’s ministry. Brother Mark is a deacon and has been here since I arrived as pastor. Brother Mark has three children and one on the way.” The pastor would then ask how Brother Mark’s wife was doing since he missed seeing her on Sunday. The pastor would continue, “Brother Mark and I have seen some amazing things happen in the life of this church and the lives of our people. Oh, by the way…Brother Mark is about to get a promotion at work. We’ve been praying for that opportunity. Have you heard anything from the company yet?” After an exchange that could last 10 minutes or more, we would run into the next person and have the same experience.
These men have helped me to develop a picture of a faithful pastor. It’s incredible how these men shepherded their people through cultural upheaval, a global pandemic, and private personal pain while remaining faithful to the call of ministry.
One of the primary attributes each man demonstrated was a uniquely faithful commitment to preaching. While each man’s preaching style differed, their commitment to expository preaching was similar. Expositional preaching requires diligent study, which these faithful pastors demonstrated. They understand the sanctifying work in the believer’s life experienced by the exposition of God’s Word.
In his book, Famine in the Land: A Passionate Call for Expository Preaching, Stephen J. Lawson wrote the following,
“This famine in pulpits across the nation reveals a loss of confidence in God’s Word to perform its sacred work. While evangelicals affirm the inerrancy of Scripture, many have apparently abandoned their belief in its sufficiency to save and to sanctify. Rather than expounding the Word with growing vigor, many are turning to lesser strategies in an effort to resurrect dead ministries. But with each newly added novelty, the straightforward expounding of the Bible is being relegated to a secondary role, further starving the church. Doing God’s work God’s way requires an unwavering commitment to feeding people God’s Word through relentless biblical preaching and teaching.”
Far too many pulpits resemble stand-up comedy stages from which pastors deliver abbreviated twenty-five-minute Ted Talks rather than a place from which the proclamation of God’s Word is to take place. These faithful pastors take the preaching of the Word of God as the sacred duty it is.
Faithful Pastoral Care
Churches uniquely positioned to care for others were dealt a severe blow during the pandemic when their doors were closed. Faithful pastors of churches, large and small, recognized the serious nature of what was happening and began to leap into action. The elders of many churches started calling the most vulnerable while working on reaching out to everyone they could.
Every church had to make decisions about opening or closing their buildings. Every church had to make decisions about how to minister to its people. These faithful pastors made this decision with a high level of pastoral care that indicated the church members were a part of their very own family. They took seriously the charge that Paul had given the Ephesians elders before his departure, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28 ESV).
Faithful in Persecution
We are living in a post-Christian culture. Many of us remember when proclaiming the Christian faith was respectable. Today, however, the pressure to capitulate on critical Biblical doctrine abounds. With the changing of administrations, threats like the Equality Act loom large for many Christian pastors. As COVID restrictions transform meeting spaces, pastors are challenged with deciding if they will submit to the government or God regarding “the assembling of the saints” (Heb. 10:25).
These faithful pastors are making decisions with sobering conviction. A dear brother recently said, “You can determine rather quickly if a belief is a conviction when the pressure of persecution is applied to the decision you are about to make.” It’s easy to say you believe something. However, when the pressure of persecution gets applied to your decision, will you remain faithful?
The incredible beauty of American Christianity has been our ability to freely proclaim the good news of the Gospel around the world. Unfortunately, the sad result of this truth has been that the lack of persecution has often made American Christians soft. Somehow, we’ve been duped into believing if the government doesn’t approve our message, we must adjust the message.
Before his departure, Jesus made one thing clear to his disciples when he said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 ESV).
I’ve been encouraged as I’ve witnessed faithful pastors address difficult issues and stand on biblical principles rather than the strength of their personality. The great need for these faithful men is apparent. I’m grateful to know so many.