Deeper in Faith
Pastor, Preacher, Example
by Jeff Cockrell
We are in a national crisis when it comes to biblical knowledge. In the book Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know, Stephen Prothero discusses essential biblical information every person should know. During his research, Prothero discovered that 60% of Americans cannot name five of the Ten Commandments, and half of high school seniors describe Sodom and Gomorrah as a married couple.
The local church pastor plays a key role in instilling vital biblical knowledge. The pastor’s job is to teach the Bible and to preach the whole Word of God without apology. However, some of the most important biblical lessons he shares will come through the example of a godly, dedicated life. In the Pastoral Epistles, the Apostle Paul charged Timothy and Titus to preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:1-5), but he also presented a number of lifestyle challenges to men who answer God’s call to preach
A pastor must be blameless (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6). This refers to observable conduct. Obviously, pastors are not perfect, but they should strive to live above reproach. Paul emphasizes this characteristic in verse 2—of good behavior—and again in verse 7—a good report of them which are without. When a church allows a person of unsavory reputation to hold the position of pastor, it creates a reproach. Evangelist George Whitefield often said he would rather have a church with ten righteous men than a church with 500 at whom the world laughs.
Paul referred to the pastor’s actions again in 1 Timothy 4:12, charging young pastors to be “an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” In Titus 2:7, he challenged young leaders to provide a “pattern of good works.” The pastor must be an example, both in public and private. He must be characterized by love, refusing to be bitter, resentful, or vengeful and forgiving when wronged. He should provide an example of faithfulness and moral cleanness.
This includes his marital relationship (Titus 1:6; the husband of one wife). Leviticus 21 prohibited a priest to marry a divorced woman or have any blemish on his moral character. The same holds true for today’s pastor.
Paul told Timothy to be moral in attitude (1 Timothy 3:2; vigilant, sober, and given to hospitality). He should be well balanced, calm, and collected in his spirit, not swayed by sudden impulses. Sober refers to a serious attitude about life and ministry tempered by hospitality or a kind, welcoming temperament.
Paul also made it clear that the pastor must be a master at teaching the Word of God (1 Timothy 3:2; apt to teach). Charles Spurgeon was pastor of Metropolitan Tabernacle in London for 31 years. Throughout those years, he preached to a regular crowd of 5,000. The only thing that prohibited larger crowds was the size of the auditorium. Spurgeon did not fill the building through visitation programs, magnificent choirs, or with a fleet of buses. (The church didn’t even have an organ.) Spurgeon merely stood and preached, and people listened.
He must also be a disciplined manager. Paul used the phrase rule well—literally lead—in 1 Timothy 5:17 to describe the duties of the pastor. He is to provide loving guidance for the church. Luke 10:34 uses the same word to describe the compassion of the Good Samaritan toward the man who had been robbed and beaten. In Acts 20, Paul instructed pastors, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”
Titus 1:7 also infers pastors should be mature in social matters (not given to wine), not given to physical violence (no striker) but gentle in dealing with people. Second Timothy 2:24 states, “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient.” This maturity in social matters should also be evident in a pastor’s financial dealings—aboveboard, without jealousy, greed, or coveting. Paul wrote to Ephesian pastors in Acts 20, “I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel.” Peter reminded his readers in 1 Peter 5, “Feed the flock of God which is among you…not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.”
Coveting is often the first step to flagrant sin, and covetousness goes well beyond finances. Pastors should avoid coveting the abilities of others. Instead, pastors should accept the spiritual gifts of others with delight, recognizing they are crucial to kingdom work.
The pastor’s maturity should carry over into spiritual matters (not a novice; 1 Timothy 3:6). Paul went on to say that a recent convert should not be a pastor because it will expose him to great danger: “lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.”
Godliness is to be the pastor’s activity. Paul uses the Greek word for exercise in 1 Timothy 4:7, (from which we derive the modern word gymnasium). Paul paints a picture of an athlete straining to win with all his might. Any Christian who wants to excel in godliness must work at it, and the pastor is no exception. A weightlifter doesn’t build his muscles overnight; it takes time and work.
Paul emphasizes one pastoral duty above all others—preach! Yet, this action will accomplish little without the proper lifestyle. One Sunday, a young man was invited to be the guest preacher at a church. He preached on Exodus 20:15: “Thou shalt not steal.” The next morning, the preacher stepped on a city bus and handed the driver a dollar bill. After the driver gave him change, the preacher went to the rear of the bus and counted the change. He discovered that he had received too much and quickly told the bus driver, “You gave me too much change.”
The driver responded, “Yes…a dime too much. I gave it to you on purpose. You see, I heard your sermon yesterday, and I watched in my mirror as you counted your change. If you had kept the dime, I would never again have any confidence in your preaching.”
Pastor, preach the Word! Live the Word! People’s lives are depending on you as pastor, preacher, and example.
About the Writer: Dr. Jeff Cockrell has served Ahoskie FWB Church since July 2011. He holds degrees from Liberty University (B.S. in Church Ministries, M.A. in Religion), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.A in New Testament), and University of Wales (Ph.D. in Theology). He is a member of the Free Will Baptist Historical Commission, and he and his wife, Terri, have two sons, Drew and Joel.