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Your Pastor Needs the Same Grace You Do

I was ordained for the pastoral ministry on May 1, 2010. Ever since that day, I continue to struggle deeply with sinful desires, thoughts, words, and actions. Being ordained doesn’t kill sin in the heart of any pastor. Your pastor takes his sinfulness into the ministry. To go further, being ordained didn’t save your pastor, because the saving grace of God in Christ does not flow through ordination, it flows through true faith. Your pastor needs the grace of true faith.

John Charles Ryle, better known as J. C. Ryle, was an English Anglican bishop and preacher of the late 19th century. He said this:

We shall do well to bear in mind this fact. Ordination does not confer the saving grace of the Holy Spirit. Ordained men are not necessarily converted. We are not to regard them as infallible, either in doctrine or in practice. We are not to make popes or idols of them, and insensibly put them in Christ’s place. We are to regard them as “men of like passions” with ourselves, liable to the same infirmities, and daily requiring the same grace. We are not to think it impossible for them to do very bad things, or to expect them to be above the reach of harm from flattery, covetousness, and the world. We are to prove their teaching by the word of God, and follow them so far as they follow Christ, but no further. Above all, we ought to pray for them, that they may be successors not of Judas Iscariot, but of James and John. It is an [sic] dreadful thing to be a minister of the Gospel! Ministers need many prayers. [1]

Here are six points from Ryle’s quote to encourage you to better relate to and love your pastor. Each point also applies to every elder who has been ordained as a shepherd and overseer of your soul.

Your pastor is not infallible.
This means your pastor errs. He sins. He makes mistakes. He sometimes fails you. He preaches with passion, faithfulness, and Spirit, but he does sometimes misspeak. The only infallible pastor is Jesus.

Your pastor is not God.
Your pastor could never, ever take the place of Jesus Christ in your life. He is not Jesus. He will sometimes fail you in doctrine and in practice, whereas God will never fail you. To make your pastor an idol is a grievous mistake, for it implants unrealistic expectations in you, puts immense pressure on your pastor, makes the local church a volatile place, and dishonors God. Love your pastor as a brother in Christ, not as a false god.

Your pastor is a human being who requires the same grace he preaches to you.
Pastors need God’s rescuing grace in Christ. They need your grace too. The same sinful struggles you deal with, your pastor deals with. Sometimes pastors do bad things. Pastors need the mercy, compassion, grace, and forgiveness of God no less than the people they preach this gospel to. They are equally poor in spirit. They also need your mercy, compassion, grace, and forgiveness.

Your pastor is in need of accountability.
Do you know Scripture enough to know whether your pastor is faithfully preaching it to you? Your pastor needs you to meditate on and discern Scripture. As hard as they work and as carefully as they think, even faithful pastors need you to test what they say and to ask questions when something doesn’t sound right with a readiness to go back to the Word. This leads you and them deeper into the Word as you converse and seek fidelity to Scripture together.

Your pastor is only to be followed as far as he follows Christ.
You should follow the lead of your pastor, but only as far as he follows Christ. Faithful pastors devote themselves to being good examples for their people. Without expecting perfection, and with discernment, pay attention to your pastor’s life and emulate him as much as he emulates Christ. Lovingly help him when he fails to emulate Christ.

Your pastor is in desperate need of prayer.
Your pastor desperately needs your prayers. He faces immense temptation and feels great pressure and concern for the souls that God puts under his careful watch (2 Cor. 11:28). On his own, he has not the resources for this high calling, but he has Christ and the prayers of the saints. Pray for your pastor regularly because he is in need and each prayer you offer on his behalf is a kind and powerful gift.

Not only do these six quick points promote your pastor’s well-being and comfort in Christ, they promote yours as well, for as Hebrews 13:17 teaches, it is to your advantage to let your pastor lead you with joy and not with groaning.


About the author

Jonathan Shirk

Welcome to the online home of Jonathan Shirk, family man, Reformed pastor, author, podcaster, and small town theologian. Whether you're from a small town or big city, may this website help you find deeper comfort and joy in the gospel.

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