As is obvious from the title, the topic assigned me deals with the minister’s calling as Pastor. Not is the question, what is the minister’s calling in the official proclamation of the Word. Rather the question concerns the task of the minister in regard to the pastoral labor. We do not mean by the above comments to say that these two (i.e. the minister’s calling in the preaching and his calling in pastoral labor with individuals in the congregation) are not related. They are. In fact, they may not be separated. This is true because they are but two aspects of the one office of the minister. Nevertheless, we may distinguish between the two. The former (official preaching) belongs particularly to the prophetic aspect of the minister’s calling; the latter (pastoral labor) belongs to the priestly aspect of his work. The one concerns the congregation as a whole: the other the congregation individually.
To the above general observation we would add a second. The topic is, indeed, important and timely. To put the subject of our concern in the proper Scriptural perspective is very important especially in our day. Much is being said and written about the minister’s calling as pastor. The trouble is that much of what is being said fails to set forth the minister’s true calling. The minister is supposed to be some sort of psychologist, a counselor. While it is our intention to maintain that the minister is not a psychologist we do not mean to condemn the science of psychology.
There are a number of questions which must be asked and answered in order to come to a proper understanding of the question involved. Consider the following: Who is the subject of pastoral labor? Who is the object of pastoral labor? And what is the minister’s only calling as pastor?
Of course, the subject of pastoral labor is the minister. That means that Christ is the subject of pastoral labor. The minister only functions as officebearer in the church. He is called by Christ to his task. By virtue of his being called by Christ to his task. By virtue of his being called by Christ to the office of minister he labors as pastor. He is a servant of Christ. Christ is according to Scripture the chief shepherd of the church (I Pet. 5:4). Therefore Christ is through the minister the subject, the One who does the pastoral labor.
That means especially two things. First, it means that the position occupied by the minister does not lie in his own person. To put it positively, the minister’s position in his office lies in Jesus Christ. The minister’s comes in the name of Christ in all of his labor. Moreover, he is clothed with the authority of Christ, never with his own. This is extremely important to see. Important because the only possibility of the minister to function as shepherd in the church lies in his being called to his office by Christ Himself.
Second, that Christ is the chief subject of all pastoral labor means that He qualifies the called one unto his task. Not only does the minister come with the badge of Christ’s authority in his labor; but also, he comes in the strength of Christ. In all of his weakness, failings, and disappointments the minister may rely upon the sure promise of Scripture that He who calls also equips. In the consciousness that he is called by Christ and is thus the mouthpiece of Jesus Christ the pastor has the boldness of faith to perform his labors.
The object of the labor of the Pastor is the congregations. Not must this congregation be considered a mere group of individuals, but as the flock of God. (I Pet. 5:2)
That “flock of God” is a precious flock. Most precious it is because the flock has been redeemed with the blood of God’s own Son. Loved from eternity, elected from eternity, and saved by the blood of Jesus is the flock of God. Therefore it is God’s precious treasure; always the object of His love and favor.
The particular congregation of the pastor is only a part of that one flock of God. So too the individual member of the congregation is only a part of the one flock. That means that the minister in all his pastoral labor with the individuals of his congregation may never consider them except in the light of their being a part of the body of Christ, the flock of God.
The calling then of the pastor? Negatively, he does not labor with a view to the individual salvation and comfort of the one member. The aim of his labor must be to cause that one member to live in the fellowship of the body of Christ as it is manifest in the congregation of which he is a member.
When the minister deals with an individual in the congregation he is dealing with one of Christ’s sheep. Thus no matter what the particular need of circumstance may be, the pastor has only one calling, viz. “feed the flock of God” (I Pet. 5:2). Whether laboring with the sick, the bereaved, the dying ones, or those in doubt the minister must only feed the flock. His only word to them can be: “Thus saith the Lord.”
This is true because he is dealing with individual members of the flock of God. He does that as servant of the Chief Shepherd. Fundamentally all of the needs of the members of that one flock are the same. They stand in need of the Bread of Life.
The minister’s calling as Pastor, therefore, is not to give medical advice to the sick, or psychological counseling to the mentally ill, but only and always to give the object of his labor the Word of God. This is his calling. His task is to show the sheep their only comfort in life and death so that they are led to confess, “I am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ in life and death.”