As we go through the pastoral call process this spring, it is good for us to meditate on what exactly we are calling a pastor to come do among us. What is a pastor’s true job description? Our head elder recommends the following excerpt from a sermon on Colossians 1:21-29, entitled “The Job Description”. The sermon was originally preached in 2013 by the Rev. Joel Biermann, a professor of systematic theology at Concordia Seminary St. Louis, and is quoted below with his blessing.
Let me be crystal clear on this. The pastor is not called to a congregation to train children in some good, solid, morality. He is not sent to a local church to help cultivate spirituality and a sense of holiness among people. He is not called to a congregation to preach an upbeat sermon on Sunday so that the people can get their week off to a nice positive start. He is not present to patch people up after a tough week. Pastors do not exist to provide the basic religious services of hatching, matching and dispatching. Pastors are not called to lead the troops into battle, or captain the ship through the shoals. They do not arrive at a congregation to serve as CEO that can turn a profit for the organization, or to be a coach who can lead the team to victory. They are neither CEOs nor coaches. Pastors do not exist in order to energize and organize the workers. They do not come to a congregation in order to bring some fresh blood and excitement. They are not called to grow the church or to revitalize the people. None of these things are what a pastor is called to do.
A pastor is called by God through a congregation to go to that gathering of his people and to do his work among them. Your pastor is called by God through you to do God’s work among you. And God’s work is very simple: to bring Christ and his grace to you, and to make certain that you stay in that grace. That’s what pastors do. Pastors bring Christ to people. God has arranged it that way from the very beginning. Where there is a church there must be a pastor. God will not leave his people without a man, without a pastor, to deliver his gifts to them. So, your pastor comes to your congregation according to the will and purpose of God to be your gospel deliveryman. That’s what he does. That’s his job description. He makes God’s story real and relevant in your life. He forms you into the shape of that story. He enacts the re-creation of the whole world, and guides you into that wonderful eternal celebration. This vital work he does through God’s chosen means. He does it by preaching. In the pulpit your pastor tells God’s story to you and shows you how that story norms you and transforms you. He proclaims to you the wonderful news that in Christ all of your failures and all of your shortcomings and all of your willful disobedient sinfulness is all covered and forgiven and gone. He tells you that truth again and again and again. He will never get tired of it. It’s his reason for being.
And your pastor will deliver God’s grace to you through the sacraments. He will baptize your babies and your adult converts. Through him God will bring dead people to life. And he will remind you of your own death and resurrection in the waters of baptism. He will call you to the altar, and here he will feed you with Christ himself. The reality of God’s work in Christ will be at work in you as you eat and drink the body and blood of your Lord and receive all of his gifts. Your pastor brings Christ to you that’s what he’s here to do. And then he will work, and he will work mightily, to keep you in Christ. It will not be easy. Sometimes he will need to encourage. Other times he will need to warn. He will sometimes have to admonish and maybe even rebuke. At times it will be uncomfortable and downright unpleasant for everyone. But, he has no choice. It’s his call. He’s got to do it. He’s got to keep you in Christ, and nothing can get in the way of that, not even you. And he will teach, and he will teach, and he will teach, striving always to make you strong in your faith, certain in your doctrine, and bold in your confession. You see, the goal is nothing less than breathtaking and astonishingly ambitious. Every man, every man is to be made complete, mature, perfect in Christ. Every single man. That includes you. That includes all the people all around you—even those who have yet to hear about Christ and his incredible story of restoration and eternal life. Your pastor is committed to making sure that this place becomes a place that is filled with people who get the gospel and who work hard to make sure that others get it as well. This is what pastors do. This is what pastors are for. Your pastor is here to make sure that you are made perfect in Christ. That’s God’s purpose and your pastor is God’s tool in that purpose.
May God bless us and keep us in the true faith as we work together to call a new shepherd for God’s people in Boston. Amen.