One Ministry of the Word
by Mark Mann
The church today has drifted a long way from what we find in the New Testament Scriptures. Culturally, times have changed dramatically from the days and modes of New Testament Mediterranean style of church ministry. Indeed, times have changed, cultures have changed and dramatic events that occurred during the advent of the New Testament church have served their purpose and are no longer being implemented by the Lord to introduce His beloved bride--the church. So, here is the question that confronts all pastors today: What biblical mandates for Christian ministry do we find in Scripture that transcend time and have not become obsolete? Which, if any, ought to receive primacy in the church? Put another way, if we could condense our main objective in ministry into one primary goal, what would that be? The Scriptures themselves hold the key to the imperative.
Clearly, the Bible does not exalt one form of ministry of the Word over and above another. God does not command His people to build church buildings; nor does He require them to build pulpits or counseling offices. No, God has entrusted us with the ministry of His Word. God’s primary charge to His people is to approach the Word with care and responsibility in order to preserve the original intent of the Holy Spirit. As pastors, we are to disseminate the Word of God at every opportunity: by public proclamation and declaration (preaching); small group explanation and exhortation (teaching); and private admonition and instruction (counseling). God has given us His Word and drawn together His Church as the means to protect, keep and minister His Word of truth to mankind (1 Tm. 3:15). The ministry of God’s Word takes place primarily in the church in a variety of different ways: from the pulpit, in the classroom, in the counseling chamber and in Christian homes. With the divine mandate to save men from their lost state and transform them into the likeness of Christ, the church has been entrusted with this great responsibility by God’s power to His glory.
The pastor-teacher is not primarily a preacher or a counselor. He is a minister of the Word, therefore, he ought to be equally both preacher and counselor. His primary function is servant of the Word and this takes on many forms within the Church. The primacy is on the Word not one particular method of serving it. Since his charge is shepherding the flock of God, the pastor’s heart ought to be toward both the ninety-nine and the one. Within his heart should reside a passion for both public proclamation and private admonition that is borne out of his love for Christ and desire to shepherd His flock. So it was with Moses, Jesus, Peter, Paul, and many other faithful men of the Word.
For some ungodly reason (possibly pride, intimidation and/or laziness) many men tend to align themselves with one particular form of Word ministry which they happen to favor. They become champions of that particular form to the awful neglect or even the complete exclusion of the other. This practice finds no scriptural basis. Moreover, neither was it the heartbeat of Jesus, the apostle Paul, Reformer John Calvin or Puritan Richard Baxter. These faithful men did not elevate one form of ministry over and above another. And neither should any pastor.
This book will examine the historical accounts, both biblical and extra-biblical, of men engaged in the public and private ministration of the Word in an effort to recapture the biblical mandate for pastoral ministry. Throughout history, men called by God to shepherd His people have given themselves to one ministry of the Word with great passion and zeal. Preaching and counseling were never, until very recently, considered an ‘either/or’ proposition. Therefore, personal attention must never be viewed as less vital than preaching. Rather, biblical counseling (i.e., the private care of souls) must be fully restored to the status it enjoyed prior to the influence of secular humanism and the intimidation of modern psychology.
The preaching pastor must recognize the critical need in his ministry to engage in the personal assessment and instruction of his flock. For this he will render an account to the Lord (Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:17). If a preacher disregards personal work and spends the majority of his time in his study only to make a brief appearance on Sunday to preach, his sermons will remain lifeless and inefficacious for life-change. Writing with a warning while referring to the benefits of the symbiotic relationship between preaching and counseling, author Jay Adams states:
If he is not truly a pastoral preacher—i.e., one who meets the needs of the flock, giving individual attention to the sheep—he will not preach well. If he spends his time during the week with commentaries alone, when he preaches he will sound like a book. But the man who puts his exegesis to work, not just on Sunday in the pulpit, but all week long in the counseling room, ministering the Word to those in trouble, will rattle his people’s windows when he preaches. They will say to themselves, ‘He understands!’ And they will come for help. Each activity feeds the other (P.W.P.; p 38).