In a world of constant change and shifting values, of ever-new innovations and faster ways to connect and communicate with others, one may wonder, "What use is a pastor?" We have the internet and social media. Do we really need someone to guide us in matters of faith and spirituality? Well, simply put, yes. The vocation of a pastor goes far beyond mere religious guidance. The truth about a pastor's purpose for serving a congregation of baptized sinners can dispel any misconceptions we may hold that blind us to the true calling of God’s preachers.
First and foremost, a pastor is not a spiritual dictator or an infallible sage. No, a pastor is a baptized sinner too, clinging to Jesus Christ in faith the same as any Christian. Therefore, just as he was once given a pastor himself, a pastor is called in the same way to serve the communion of saints as a shepherd and servant. Amongst the priesthood of all believers, the vocation of a pastor is primarily God’s call to shepherd the congregation he’s been given to, preaching and teaching them God's Word and thus nurturing their spiritual lives.
A pastor is also a steward of the means of the Spirit. He is an instrument through which the forgiveness of sins and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are communicated. Or, to put it more formally, a pastor is called to administer the sacraments and proclaim the Gospel, grounding the faithful in the saving work of Christ. It is through these means of the Spirit that the pastor becomes an instrument of God's love, providing comfort, assurance, and a reminder of God's unfailing presence.
But that (and this cannot be emphasized strongly enough) does not mean a pastor is a gatekeeper to salvation, nor can he manipulate God's grace and favor through his own efforts. Rather, a pastor, as an instrument of the Holy Spirit, delivers Jesus Christ to the congregation. He is the true source of life, salvation, and hope. A pastor is sent to proclaim the unconditional grace of God, reminding us again and again that it is our Heavenly Father who reaches out to us in love through his Christ-won forgiveness, and not the other way around.
So, what use is a pastor? A pastor serves as a proclaimer, a shepherd, and a fellow worker in the gospel. Pastors provide pastoral care, nurturing the spiritual well-being of the congregation. They stand as a witness to the power of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, reminding us that we are saved not by our own works, but by the unmerited favor of our Heavenly Father. A pastor calls people to gather in worship, teaching them God’s Word, and walking with them through whatever challenges may come, fostering a community of faith that supports and encourages one another.
And in a world that often values material success, fame, and instant gratification, the vocation of a pastor stands as God’s counter-cultural reminder of what truly matters. God’s use of pastors is rooted in his love and compassion and the desire to point others to the cross of Jesus for their comfort and consolation. Therefore, it is through the pastor's preaching of the gospel, in baptism, and in the eating and drinking of Christ’s body and blood that God's gifts are made graspable for us, offering us absolution, solace, assurance, and hope.
So, yes, in God’s way of doing things, the pastor is indispensable because he is the instrument of God's electing love. He comes preaching the good news that our salvation is not a product of our own efforts, but a gift bestowed upon us by God's grace and mercy in Jesus Christ. Through the pastor's faithful proclamation, we are given this indestructible, unfailing gift, to live in the freedom of God's grace, and to boldly proclaim the Good News to a world desperately in need of the same hope we’ve received.
From the mouth of the pastor, we encounter the God who elected us before the foundation of the world, who calls us by name, and who invites us into a relationship of boundless love and infinite grace. So cherish your pastors, honor their calling, and humbly receive the gifts they deliver on behalf of our blessed Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Through their ministry, we are grasped by God's unchanging, unfailing, and unwavering love for each and every one of us.