The first question and answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism is instructive, not just for Christians at large, but is also for pastors specifically.
Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
The purpose of all peoples is to bring glory to God in all things. As Paul says to the church in Corinth, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” We are called to live for the glory of God, which is true for all people, and is especially true for those ordained to gospel ministry. Since the first day of seminary, pastors are taught that the aim of their ministry is to demonstrate the glory of God. This is pastoral ministry 101. We should magnify God in our preaching, counseling, and shepherding. God’s glory should impact the structure of the services we order, the staff meetings we lead, and our demeanor in meeting with even the most difficult of people. All parts of our ministry should point to God. And when this priority is lost, then the very foundations of a ministry become meaningless.
But as we come to the end of Pastor Appreciation month—which if you didn’t know is the month of October—it is worth noticing that in the minds of the Westminster Divines (the authors of the Westminster Standards), the main purpose of our lives is two-fold. First, we are to glorify God. And second, we are to enjoy God in the process of glorifying him. One overarching goal divided equally. That means God is not glorified if we are not enjoying him, nor are we actually enjoying God if we are not seeking to glorify him. Again, that is especially true for pastors.
What often happens is that pastors, likely with very good intentions and a strong work-ethic, get so caught up in the work of ministry, that they forget to enjoy the God they are seeking to glorify. Throughout the week, we quickly move from one task to the next without taking time to slow-down and find joy in God.
A typical week…
Sunday: The most important day of the week. You give everything you’ve got to the act of preaching. And then immediately after the service, you are thrown into a sea of meet-and-greet. By the end of the day, you are exhausted.
Monday: Crash day. Often a day when low-grade depression sinks in, and you wonder if God is even using you.
Tuesday through Friday: Frantic rush. Days are filled with e-mails, late-night meetings and difficult appointments. All while trying to finding at least a little time to sermon prep. But the truth is, a regular church week, plus kids’ sports, aging parents, bills, loving your wife and the sermon prep, is often pushed aside.
Saturday: Time to cram. The day is crammed with all the sermon prep you had hoped would be done by Thursday, but here you are, burning the midnight oil.
Rinse and repeat. Never feeling ahead. Always questioning if you are the man for the job. You want to glorify God, but you’re feeling more like a beat-up piccolo than a bold trumpet. Our pastoral calls, which ought to lead to our enjoyment of God, have become not a call, but a job—a duty.
As the leader of God’s people, how much more should it be said of us pastors, that we do not just have correct doctrine, but that we actually know and enjoy God. God is not just an idea to be protected, but a Father to be known and enjoyed. Yes, of course our people need pastors who can preach all the right things. But they also need pastors who know and enjoy God.
The vision of John in Revelation warns the church in Ephesus that they have lost their first love. This church was doing all the right things, but not enjoying God in the process. I suspect that this lack of love in the church began with the pastor.
A healthy church has a pastor who is committed to the glory of God in the mind and the enjoyment of God in the heart. The enjoyment of God can’t be rushed or even tightly scheduled. You can’t rush enjoying your wife. Consistent presence is the key.
The same is true with the Lord. A good pastor is one who has tasted and seen the sweetness of being with God (Psalm 34:8)—highly experiential language. John Owen writes in Communion with the Triune God: “So much as we see of the love of God, so much shall we delight in him, and no more.”
Especially today, when congregants are hyper-aware of religious hypocrisy, a faithful pastor must personally enjoy the God whom he is seeking to glorify.
Brother pastor, yes, whole-heartedly give yourself to the promotion of the glory of God in all aspects of your ministry. But be careful so that it becomes not dry, religious duty. The promotion of God’s glory is correlated to your enjoyment of Him in the process. You and your people need both.