My Pastor, My Example?

by Pastor JR Cuevas

“in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” (1 Timothy 4:12)

I recall several conversations I had with seasoned pastors when I was on the brink of graduating from college – contemplating the idea of applying to seminary and pursuing a vocation in full-time ministry. Having heard the saying, “If you can see yourself doing anything else, do it…because being a pastor isn’t for everyone,” I entered into these conversations with the agenda of asking these godly men what it is about pastoral ministry that made the job so difficult. I heard many of the same things from them:

“You have to be one who does all out of a love for God,” some would say.

“You have to be a man who seeks the approval of God and not man at all times,” another would counsel.

“You need to discipline yourself more than you ever have before,” one would exhort.

“Your heart for people must be so big that you are willing to give your life up even for the most difficult of them,” another would warn.

One that particularly stood out was:

“You have to be able to live for your heavenly rewards, and be willing to forsake all earthly things.”

After pondering their counsel and after much prayer, I began to realize that the things that these men were saying all had nothing to do with skill, but everything to do with character. Or, more specifically, they had everything to do with godly character. As I prayed and wrestled with my emotions, I realized that – pastor or no pastor – I was called to pursue these character qualities that these men were remarking about, for as a Christian I was called to discipline myself for the purpose of godliness. In a nutshell, they were saying: “Being a pastor is so difficult, because in order to be one you really have to be like Christ!”

And, unless you call yourself an unbeliever, don’t we all? When Paul instructed Timothy to be an example – in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity – he called him to be so to all those who believe. The implication: Timothy was a model to be imitated not only by the other pastors and elders, but by the older men, younger men, older women, younger women, children, and widows. In other words, everyone – not just the leaders – were called to look to Timothy as their model for living. Why is topic of such importance today? It is because many in the church fail to see pastors as their examples. They see them as great preachers of the Word to be listened to, but when it comes to everyday living many a lay-person would deem the examples that their pastor puts forth as simply impractical for them. We’ve heard it too often: “It’s great that Pastor Bill does that, but he’s a pastor! You can’t expect me to do the same thing!” Because the congregation is deemed to consider their pastors and leaders as worthy of double honor, people often mistakenly place them on unfair pedestals. It often shows in either an overflow of criticism every time a pastor errs, or in a lack of emulation whenever a pastors excels. Pastors, as well as great men of the faith, are many times seen as figures to be admired, rather than as examples to be emulated. They are deemed as passionate men to be flattered, rather than as practical models to be followed. Sometimes, it’s as if there are two different Jesus figures to be conformed to: one for the pastors and leaders, and another for the lay-people.

But there is one Christ, and He alone is the head of the church. He alone is to be emulated, for those who follow Him are called to walk in the same manner that he walked. The Jesus that pastors are called to conform themselves to is the same Jesus that the rest of the church is called to emulate. He’s the same Jesus whom Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon followed. He’s the same Jesus whom Jim Elliot followed. He’s the same Jesus whom Paul followed. Thus, when we look at the exemplary lives of our senior (or associate) pastors and the great men of the faith, we are called to do more than to give them our applause while sitting back and excusing ourselves from doing the same thing. Rather, they do what they do so that we may look at them and say, “as a fellow follower of Christ, I shall do the same.” Practically, the pastors life is different from that of a lay person. A pastor is called to preach weekly; a lay-person is not. A pastor usually spends most of his work hours in the church; they lay-person spends most of his at a secular workplace. But though the practical outworking of things may be different, the essence of the example is the same. The faithfulness that a pastor shows to his people is the same faithfulness that every lay-person should exhibit. The sacrificial love that a pastor shows to his congregation should be exhibited by the latter to the same degree. The dignity and discipline of conduct that a pastor is called to is the same dignity and discipline that any other person in church is called to exhibit in his or her life. Thus, let us all give our leaders the honor and respect that God wills for us to give them, and let us do so by striving hard to emulate their example.

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The Beacon is the monthly newsletter for Lighthouse Bible Church in San Diego, California. It covers a variety of subjects including LBC events, church history, current events from a Christan perspective, ministry profiles, and messages from our pastors and elders. To join the Beacon ministry, please contact Stephen Rodgers.

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