The Pastor is a Student

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When I graduated Seminary I did not leave a life of study. Every week I study so when I preach, I rightfully divide the Word and teach it correctly. Pastoral ministry — in fact the Christian life — requires I be a learner. Being a student benefits me personally and the church. The Lord calls believers to be life-time students. Some have said the pastor should be a scholar — I believe God agrees. Christ tells me I am a disciple, He commands me to be teachable, and exemplify both to the church. These three characteristics must be present in my life in order to honor Him as His child.

1398263997_10116_oFirst, be a disciple. Before Christ ascended, He had a Mission’s meetings, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matt 28:19). “Make disciples” is the heart of Jesus message. But what is a disciple? A disciple is a learner. Jesus regenerates believers for the purpose of learning about Him! This is not a classification or a specific gift given to some, this is what it means to be a follower of Christ! Tomorrow, I may not be a pastor, but I am still a learner of Christ. God regenerates people to students! Believers may be disqualified from leadership, but are never disqualified from learning.

We learn the Triune God by studying His Word. Jesus said “make disciples” by “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matt 28:20). No matter how much I have learned, I do not know everything. In fact, the more I study the more I realize how little I know.  Paul prayed the church would “be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord . . . increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col 1:9-10). Paul desired the Church to have enough knowledge to produce good fruits and yet continue growing in knowledge. [1]

I study not to know more Scripture, but to know Christ more. The goal is knowing my Savior! Knowledge alone will make arrogant, but love edifies (1 Cor. 8:1). “The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5). God teaches us His Word so we will love better. Who? Him. If we love Him more, we will love others more. If I have all knowledge, but no love, then I am the most annoying noise in the universe (1 Cor. 13:1).

Second, be teachable. I do not know everything and sometimes I am wrong. Dr. Barrick provided great wisdom to us while in Seminary. “Always give yourself a 10-20% chance you are wrong.” This means every time I preach, write a blog article, or counsel I need to consider I made a mistake. I have taught through the book of Hebrews four times, going on five. I am not a master of this book.

God can use anyone to teach or correct me. A single man can teach me about parenting autism09webeven though he does not have a wife or kids. His instruction to be kind, patient, and loving toward my kids is 100% biblical. I have heard older men tell younger men, “Listen to me” solely because they are older in age, but God says, “I understand more than the aged, because I have observed your precepts” (Ps. 119:100). My kids have corrected me because they rightfully used Scripture. “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days” (Prov. 19:20)

The danger to my learning is pride. Pride will deceive me into thinking more highly of myself than I should. “But he doesn’t have three boys.” “You have never sat in my shoes.” “Oh, I have studied this issue for hours!” All of these are excuses not to listen. “Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid” (Prov. 12:1). The ironic truth from God regarding my pride and assuming I am right is that I am really stupid — I am the wise idiot.

When someone approaches me and says, “I think you missed something.” I want to be quick to listen and understand his criticism. I want to understand him, his perspective, what I missed and weigh it with Scripture. When I am wrong, I want to admit it and conform to Him. I wonder how often debates happen where a person does not listen but waits for his opportunity to speak. “A fool does not delight in understanding but only in revealing his own mind” (Prov. 18:2).

Finally, exemplify learning. As a leader in my church people will follow me. They are commanded to imitate me as I imitate Christ (1 Cor. 11:1 & Hebrews 13:7). This scares me because the church is prone to have my same weaknesses and blind spots. Therefore I want to exemplify studying and knowing my Savior Jesus better! If Cornerstone Las Vegas can know Christ, discern truth verses preferences, and smell error, then we will stand firm in one mind and one spirit (Phil. 1:27).

Jesus commissioned the church to make disciples (Matt. 28:19). God told Timothy, “The things which you have heard from me [Paul] in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). Some have summed up this verse as “find FAT people.” FAT stands for Faithful, Available, and Teachable men. The pastor wants to raise up men who can teach others. Therefore the first requirement for discipleship is find FAT men. If a man is not teachable, how will you entrust what you have learned to him?

88299d06513c63c9cd885d2f0f698744111224aeb9e0d7ca1a27cbd231048d6aThe pastor teaches his disciples how to serve. If I am prideful, unteachable, and a know-it-all, what are my disciples going to look like? Yep, me. This is the worse thing that could happen to our church. “A disciple is not above his teacher . . . It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher” (Matt 10:24-25). Those I teach and instruct are going to learn to be like me. Jesus indicted the Pharisees for pride and noticed their disciples were worse, “Make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves” (Matt 23:15).

Lord willing, my drive to learn about God from His Word passes along to my disciples. Their teachability / humility encourages me to exemplify the same. “Therefore go and make learners of all the nations.” Yes Lord, but please teach me first that I would honor you in all I do and lead people to you!

 

[1] Peter teaches the same lesson in 2 Peter 1:5 – 8. He provides a list of qualities believers should “apply diligence” to obtain. At the end of his list he says, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing” (1:8). We obey the Lord by applying diligence to learning and we need to ever be increasing in knowledge. In short, be constantly learning about God.

 

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