The pastor must not be distracted. He must be set free to be God’s servant in the local church. Period.
However, in most local churches today, this is not the case. What we find are pastors and churches who are not sure about what each other should be doing, especially pastors.
This confusion can and must be corrected. Paul’s instructions to the young pastor Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:6-16 is the place to begin.
Let’s examine this text:
The substance of 1 Timothy 4:6-16 may be summed up in the last verse of this section, verse 16:
Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (ESV)
In this verse, the pastor is told to keep a close watch on “yourself.” This same command to keep a close watch on “yourself” comes out earlier: 1. “Train yourself for godliness” (v.7). 2. “Let no one despise your youth, but set an example…” (v. 12). 3. “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them” (v. 15).
The pastor’s life is constantly under attack. There is nothing more enjoyable to the devil than to see pastors discredit from Christian ministry. Paul himself, whom I consider a pastor to pastors, was very much aware of this. So he guarded his life carefully (1 Cor. 9:24-27). In fact, we read,
We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way. (2 Cor. 6:3-4 NIV)
Therefore it does our pastors no good when we find them making the headlines, In our media craze world today, for all the wrong reasons: sex scandals! Money scandals!
I want to encourage fellow pastors to make it a habit to read and meditate on 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9, on a weekly basis.
When his life is not under attach, the pastor’s teaching is. If right teaching leads to right living, the pastor can’t afford to get his teaching wrong. And the Enemy knows this (see 2 Tim. 3:1-13). He often raises up false teachers (2 Cor. 11:12-15).
False teachers were common in Paul and Timothy’s day. In fact, Paul told Timothy to remain at Ephesus so that he “may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine” (1:3 ESV). Furthermore, our section of 4:6-16 is preceded by Paul’s ominous words in 4:1-5, which has to do with “deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.”
Part of the pastor’s priority, then, is to point out the truths of Scripture to the people entrusted to his care (4:6). He must “command and teach these things.” He must protect his flock against false teachers. This is what Paul told the elders/pastors at Ephesus back in Acts 20:28-32. The pastor must protect his flock.
But to both protect his teaching and his flock, the pastor must be “nourished by the words of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed” (4:6 HCSB).
And when the pastor keeps a close watch on his life and his teaching, the teaching, both pastor and flock will be eternally better off (4:16).
It’s time to rethink the priorities of the pastor.