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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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The Importance Of A Pastor’s Love For His Congregation

From an article by the Reverend Dr. Ron M. Garwood:

When a congregation has elected a new pastor, they await his coming with great expectation. And the pastor, too, is looking forward with good and positive expectations as he prepares to begin service to the new congregation. Then, after the new relationship has begun between a pastor and the congregation, the question is often asked among the membership of the parish, “What do you think of our new pastor?” And a district president often hears comments from members of a congregation about what they think of their new pastor, be it in negative or positive terms. . . .

[The pastor] must love the members of the congregation, and so serve them faithfully. If the pastor feels that the people of the parish are his enemies or that they are mostly troublemakers and ingrates, the people soon sense this very negative attitude, and the relationship between themselves and their pastor will not develop as it should. I have noted in the relationship between a pastor and his congregation that when the congregation believes that the pastor really loves and cares for them, that no matter what other circumstances may exist in the parish, the congregation will be patient and accommodating with their pastor, and the health of the ministry in that place in general is good. However, in a congregation where the people do not believe that the pastor loves them, every little circumstance seems to become a major issue or problem, and the mission and ministry of that congregation and pastor is greatly distracted.

Martin Luther recognized that the love of the pastor for his people is of great importance and wrote: “Men who hold the office of the ministry should have the heart of a mother toward the church; . . . The Lord indicates this very beautifully in John 21 when He makes Peter a preacher and, before doing so, asks him three times: ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me?’ As though He would say: Unless your heart toward the sheep is like that of a mother toward her children‹a mother, who walks through fire to save her children‹you will not be fit to be a preacher.”

Now it is important for the pastor to understand that the love spoken of here is not just emotional fluff or warm feelings but true, substantive love. As noted, Luther equates the love a pastor should have for his people with that of the love of a mother for her children. A good Christian mother loves her children in a giving, sacrificial way, doing what is good and necessary for them, even if that means disciplining them and loving them with what is termed “tough love.” So too, the good pastor will love his people in a giving and sacrificial way, being available to them as a shepherd to his flock, serving them in a faithful and true manner. He will bring them the Word of God, both Law and Gospel, ministering to them with that precious Word. By doing that he will be faithful to his call as a servant of Christ and of the congregation, and will truly love and care for them with the love of Christ. It is God’s love for him in Christ that motivates and enables the pastor to love the people of the congregation, and it is the love of God in Christ that he brings to the people as he faithfully preaches and teaches the Word of God and administers the Sacraments. . . .

Then, as the pastor loves and cares for the congregation by faithfully serving them with God’s Word and administering the Sacraments according to the Lord’s institution, and as the congregation receives the pastor’s ministry as from the Lord, God will bless the pastor and parish. Problems may come about in the relationship between the pastor and people, but because both pastor and people have their focus on Christ and are committed to each other in Him, the problems are worked through in a successful and God-pleasing way, and the mission and ministry in that place is blessed.

Continue reading. . . .

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