The Call, Purpose & Duty of the Pastor to a Congregation
This last month I had the privilege of being installed as the Pastor here at Smyrna Presbyterian Church. The installation service was a joyous one for me – surrounded by the church family that I have been called to serve, as well as many friends and mentors that have been an encouragement and help to me along the way. The night included a robust worship service, a wonderful anthem from our choir, and a stirring message from the Rev. Carl Robbins of Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church in Simpsonville, South Carolina. Included in the service were questions that were asked to me as I took this charge to this particular congregation. If you were there that night or not, I thought it would be helpful to see those questions in print and briefly talk about them.
Here are the installation questions:
1. Are you now willing to take charge of this congregation as their pastor, agreeable to your declaration in accepting its call?
2. Do you conscientiously believe and declare, as far as you know your own heart, that, in taking upon you this charge, you are influenced by a sincere desire to promote the glory of God and the good of the Church?
3. Do you solemnly promise that, by the assistance of the grace of God, you will endeavor faithfully to discharge all the duties of a pastor to this congregation, and will be careful to maintain a deportment in all respects becoming a minister of the Gospel of Christ, agreeable to your ordination engagements?
The first thing that you might thing when reading those questions are “Is that it?”. It is true that they are rather brief, and they may not be all encompassing of the duties and responsibilities of the pastorate however when you examine them they are much more complete than upon first observation. These questions lay out the call, purpose, and duty of a pastor to a congregation.
The call of a minister is much more than agreeing upon the terms of the hire. Calling is a spiritual term with a spiritual function. The Scriptures are very clear that a man should not take the office of teaching elder unless he is called by the Lord to do so (James 3:1). There is the strict Scriptural standard for being an elder (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1), along with a seminary degree and a theological and doctrinal requirement laid out by our denomination. But even when all of those are met, the most important requirement is that the Lord is calling one to do so and that call has been tested and proven by the Church. So this question of installation is asking, are you willing to take this position (this charge) because you believe that the Lord is calling you to do so? Without that specific calling of the Lord to a specific congregation, one should not be installed to that position.
We cannot know the intentions of one another’s heart, but we should examine the intentions of our own hearts. The second question asks about the intention of the pastor being installed – is he taking this charge out of the right motivation and purpose so as to make sure there is no alternative motives other than promoting the glory of God and the good of the Church. For this simple, yet overarching purpose, is indeed the great purpose of the pastorate – indeed of all Christians. The pastor should be leading the other officers and the congregation in this grand purpose.
The third question is the one that probably comes to mind when thinking about what a pastor should agree to when he becomes a pastor – that of duty. The question seemingly leaves it open ended when it says “all the duties of a pastor”, but we know from the rest of the Book of Church Order (from which these questions come), as well as our doctrinal standards of the Westminster Confession, these duties are to be the ones laid out in Scripture. The pastor has Scriptural duty and mandate to care, shepherd, lead, and feed the flock of Christ Jesus that has been given to his charge. Whereas many within the church would like to add to these duties, this is the mandate that should not be neglected, and is why a part of the questions asks will one do it faithfully. Also the last part of the question asks the pastor being installed will he be a model of faith and faithfulness, demonstrating by one’s example what a disciple of Christ should look.
When we examine these questions, we see them to be a very full picture of what one is called to when he is called to the office of the pastorate. Like the Apostle Paul one can only say, “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Cor. 2:16). Thankfully in the same book the Lord gives the answer, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). May God be pleased and glorified to raise up good and faithful pastors for His Church.
Next month we will look at the congregation’s role to their pastor.