Feb. 27, 2011
1 Corinthians 4:1-5
As long as there have been pastors, there has been the struggle of pastoral expectations. What should a church expect of its pastor? J.D. Gray aptly captured the dilemma when he wrote:
If the pastor is young, they say he lacks experience.
If his hair is gray, he’s too old for the young people.
If he has five or six children, he has too many.
If he has no children, he’s setting a bad example.
If he preaches from notes, he has canned sermons and is dry.
If his messages are extemporaneous, he’s not deep enough.
If he uses too many illustrations, he neglects the Bible.
If he doesn’t use enough stories, he isn’t clear.
If he condemns wrong, he is cranky.
If he doesn’t preach against sin, they he compromises.
If he preaches the truth, he’s offensive.
If he doesn’t preach the truth, he is a hypocrite.
If he drives an old car, he shames his congregation.
If he drives a new car, he is setting his affection on earthly things.
If he receives a large salary, he’s mercenary.
If he receives a small salary, well, that proves that he isn’t worth much, anyway.
Even the apostle Paul failed to meet the expectations of the churches he served. He had planted the church at Corinth, nursed it to life, poured his very life into its people, and they were still disappointed in him! Perhaps they did not like the way he confronted sin, or perhaps they were upset that his travel plans changed and he wasn’t able to be with them. So, the Corinthians questioned his teaching, his authority and even his integrity.
In 1 Corinthians 4, Paul tells the believers exactly what they should expect of him, and in so doing he establishes an ageless pattern for pastoral expectations.
Expect a Pastor to Be a Man Under Authority, Maintaining a Mysterious Stewardship (v. 4:1)
Paul said the Corinthians should think of him and Apollos as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. A servant is one who is under the authority of another. A steward is one who is charged with a task by the one in authority.
Perhaps the image is that of a great land owner who cannot possibly handle all his affairs by himself. Therefore, he employs a worthy servant to take care of many specific tasks. Likewise, a pastor is a servant of Christ and charged with the specific task of faithfully proclaiming the mysteries of God—the gospel itself.
Gaining a firm grasp on this first pastoral expectation is necessary to understand the second one, which is that a church should…
Expect a Pastor to Be Trustworthy in His First Accountability to God (vv. 4:3-5).
For Paul, it’s only a small matter that the Corinthians would examine him; and he doesn’t invest too much in self-examination, because what he thinks of himself or what the Corinthians think of him has no final weight. The final scrutiny belongs to God, so he must be accountable to God first as a trustworthy steward.
The most frightening thing about pastoral ministry is not sitting before deacons, meeting with a committee or confronting a sinful member. The most frightening thing is facing the judgment of God. God will evaluate what a pastor thinks with his head, feels with his heart, does with his hands and speaks with his mouth.
People place all kinds of expectations on a pastor, and a pastor is accountable to his congregation. Yet, church members must make sure that what they expect of their pastor is also what God expects of him—to be a servant of Christ, a steward of the mysteries of God and trustworthy in the endeavor.