When St. Paul wrote to his younger protege, Pastor Timothy, he was not only chained in prison, but he also had been betrayed and abandoned by most of his friends. (1:15; 4:10,14-16) Winter was approaching- and since business and traveling was very limited during the colder months, the possibility of someone bringing his cloak and the scrolls of Scripture before Winter, gave him something to look forward to. (4:13)
St. Paul knew Timothy since his early youth (1:4-10). Not only did Paul love Timothy like a son, he admired the young man for his sincere devotion to Christ Jesus. The older Apostle didn’t want for his younger protege to become discouraged when he himself suffered as a minister of the Gospel. In order to quell temptations to leave ministry- the old Saint instructed his disciple by reminding him that to be engaged in ministry, is to be part of an advancing holy army that is invading territory that once belonged to Satan.
Paul was concerned about the possibility that his young and emotionally-sensitive disciple would “tuck tail and run” when ministerial warfare became more challenging than usual. One of the most important things for every true pastor to remember is that he is a soldier under command- and that as such, he has the obligation to fulfill his mission.
2 Timothy 4:5 (NIV)- But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
One of the ways that Satan uses in order to dissuade Pastors from their mission, is by tempting them to doubt their call and the divine authority that is imparted through holy ordination. This is especially true when larger groups of people turn against their Pastor and abandon him whenever they feel that they cannot dominate his teachings (4:1-5). It is during the precarious times of ministry that the good soldier of Christ must make the resolute determination to be level-headed and focused on his primary objective. It’s not easy…but we must do it.
Paul gives his younger protege 4 basic examples that would help him to keep level-headed and focused on his mission in making and forming disciples of Christ. (All cited passages below are from 2 Timothy and the English Standard Version)
I. It is the duty of a true Christian Pastor to share in the sufferings of his comrades.
2 Timothy 2:3- Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
Anyone who has served in the military knows that when a soldier watches only for his own personal benefit, that he places the rest of the squad or platoon in danger. In order to teach this principle to younger men during basic training, whenever a soldier is disciplined, his whole platoon suffers. Part of the military discipline is to be concerned about one another for the sake of morale and team building. Whether dealing with inclement weather, digging foxholes, cooking, cleaning arms or latrine duty…every soldier must do his part (and even go beyond the call of duty) for the benefit of the whole platoon. If one man suffers- then all suffer, until circumstances get better for everyone involved and specific goals are accomplished.
A “Christian” who sits idly while others are struggling to fulfill the Gospel mission becomes a burden and a stumbling block for others. A true Christian will feel uncomfortable watching other Christians running to and fro serving, cleaning, mowing the grass, caring for the elderly, visiting the sick, evangelizing and reaching out to the community. A true Christian will want to participate in the sufferings of his immediate comrades and proactively associate himself with all suffering Christians around the world.
A true Pastor will try to keep level-headed and focused under pressure in the knowledge and assurance that he isn’t the only one suffering for the Gospel. On the contrary- the very fact that you are suffering while working to advance the Gospel is confirmation that you have indeed been called by God and that you are serving your Commanding Officer, gallantly.
II. It is the duty of a true Christian Pastor to be entirely focused on fulfilling his Commander’s orders.
2 Timothy 2:4- No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.
Part of the challenge with today’s Church is that pastors are too worldly. Pastors are not called to be “cool” or liked by the masses. Pastors are supposed to be entirely immersed in Jesus Christ, and everything that he or she does must always be for the sake of fulfilling the commands of Him who enlisted us into His ranks either by means of the Gospel, Baptism or holy ordination.
The only way in which Pastors can save themselves from being dissuaded from their mission, is by setting aside all worldly cares and ambitions. Every good Pastor must choose between the financial benefits that result from keeping feathers unruffled or taking the financial risks that come as a result of preaching the full counsel of God (Acts 20:27).
The Pastor of a congregation stands in the stead and by the command of Christ. No one else in a church will give an accounting for the whole congregation, besides the pastor (and Bishop) on the Last Day. In today’s world, even though the message of the Cross of Jesus is tremendously unpopular, it still contains the same power to transform people’s lives, if they wholeheartedly accept it. The Gospel of Jesus NEVER CHANGES! (Revelation 14:6)
Every soldier that enlists in the military knows that his life will be at risk from the moment he signs the enlistment contract and swears before his Commanding Officer, until the day he is released from his duties. We are soldiers under direct command, and as such we must obey.
III. It is the duty of a true Christian Pastor to follow the rules without exception.
2:5- An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.
Soldiers and athletes share in many of the qualities that make them into special people. In order to be a good soldier or athlete, one must be a person that is focused on the mission (or goal), a team player, and disciplined. When athletes use “short-cuts” such as anabolic steroids or resort to cheating (such as boxers with brass knuckles under their boxing gloves), they prove to be persons without character, and therefore, unworthy to be trusted.
We live in a world where it is the cheaters and the liars who seem to prosper- but if we resort to underhanded methods or lies in order to fill our churches, then we cannot properly teach the Gospel that has been given to us- especially since the Good News is founded upon the ABSOLUTE TRUTH that is Jesus Christ.
When disgruntled members from another congregation seem to suddenly fill our empty pews, we are under obligation to find out the exact circumstances as to why they departed from their last church. In days such as these- where many congregations no longer see each other as part of a greater whole (catholicity), it would be beneficial to remember that we’re all under the same Chief Commander, regardless of the Platoon (local church).
It is extremely tempting to not ask questions that will force us to withhold Holy Communion from our new visitors… but a true Pastor FOLLOWS THE RULES WITHOUT EXCEPTION. By giving Holy Communion to disgruntled Christians who refuse to fix the issues that they left behind, the “cheating” Pastor is contributing to the damnation of foolish souls. (1 Cor. 11:27-34)
Such a “cheating” Pastor can be assured that on the Last Day, his crown will be stripped from him, and that his punishment will be greater than that of the foolish sheep he so selfishly refused to correct.
IV. It is the duty of a true Christian Pastor to accept the first-fruits of his labors.
2 Timothy 2:6- It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.
One of the greatest dangers that good Pastors oftentimes fall into is to be detrimentally giving. True love compels to share in all good things with the people that we love…and a Good Shepherd will stay with his few sheep through “thick-n-thin.” Sometimes good Pastors of financially struggling congregations, will give up their incomes and pick up secular jobs that steal his time from ministerial preparations. A good Pastor might seem “heroic” for not accepting monetary remunerations for his ministerial labors… but the fact is that Jesus Christ himself commanded all those who “preach the Gospel, to live from the Gospel.” (1Cor. 9:14)
Since most laypersons are involved in their own affairs, they oftentimes cannot see (nor imagine) the complexities of Pastoral ministry. Not only must the Pastor live a disciplined, devotional life…but he (like any true professional) must spend hours studying, researching, meditating, and seeking for relevant ways by which his disciples can apply the teachings. Not only that, the good Pastor deals with everyone else’s dysfunctions and personalities, in addition to his own! A good Pastor is a person who administers the church as the chief steward of Christ… this means, that he must also become adept in conducting church “business” in a world that seems to be increasing in its hostility towards the Gospel. A good Pastor is a person of extremely deep observation and consideration– qualities that train him to recognize certain patterns of behavior that usually end in the same results.
Since pastoral ministry is the most difficult vocation on the face of the planet- the Pastor who does not accept remunerations for his labors, unintentionally teaches his congregants to not appreciate the many complex roles that a Pastor must fulfill every day. In a world where professionals receive salaries…it is difficult for people to see their Pastor as one if he refuses compensation. It is as if he was validating the allegation that Pastors only “work” for an hour on Sundays… when in fact, the reality is that most Pastors are extremely over-worked, under-appreciated and extremely tired.
So Pastor… Take the compensation! You not only have the duty to accept it… YOU DESERVE IT.