Everyone Needs a Pastor

Last week I attended a panel discussion question answer time. I love it when I am not on stage and I can watch someone else squirm. The panel members were intelligent, loved the gospel and provided great answers over all.

However, one question came they struggled to answer: What would you say to someone who continues in known sin? The answers varied from “encourage them in the gospel” to “warn them they are not a Christian.” None of the answers felt satisfactory.

I have thought about that for several days now, and with the benefit of time to think about it, I can now give my answer: that person needs a pastor, beyond that I refuse to answer. I do not refuse out of cowardice. I refuse because some questions simply cannot be answered in the abstract.

What does it mean to continue in sin? Do they continue to look at pornography, lust, covet, or commit murder? Is he acting on his sins, or struggling against sinful thoughts? Is his continuation an addiction, or is it the action of a hardened heart? Are there scars of childhood at play? Are we talking about anger or anxiety? Or are we talking about something more aggravated, a multi-year adulterous affair perhaps?

Without knowing the circumstances, I cannot answer what seems like a simple, straightforward question.

That point brings me to my topic today: You need a pastor. You need someone who cares for you, knows you, knows Jesus and knows the word. You need someone who has dedicated his life to applying the word of God to the lives around him, to sit with you and listen to you. You need to sit under someone like that week in and week out.

The bible makes two things clear: God has called and equipped some people to be pastors or shepherds (1 Peter 5, Eph. 4:11). And all of God’s people need to be under a shepherd (Matt. 9:36, James 5:14).

Without a pastor you are left to the tyranny of the abstract. Are you the prodigal son, or the rebellious Demas (2 Tim. 4:10)? Can you decide that for yourself? If you were self-deceived would you know it (James 1:22-23)? You need to sit under the teaching of the word by a pastor who knows you.

I am frightened today by the way we choose the safety of anonymity. We would rather have facebook friends that personally engage. We would rather debate through the comments sections of blogs, rather than disagree in person. And we would rather listen to sermons online, or anonymously blend into a mega-church, than have someone speak to us who knows us.

This self-chosen isolation makes me sad. God created you to be like him, surrounded by loving fellowship. As people love us, encourage us, teach us and correct us we become more and more like Christ. A pastor is an important part of that fellowship. I really don’t want you to feel alone. I want you to have someone who can apply the balm of Christ to your bruised conscience. I want you to have someone skilled in dressing your shame in the clothing of Christ. I want you to have someone courageous enough to call you away from paths of destruction. I want you to have a pastor.

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