by Lauren Crane
There is a method to being an effective pastor, and it involves standing faithfully at the intersection of shepherding and good theology.
This intersection, where attention to God and God’s people meet, was the focus of Southeastern’s Spring 2009 Board of Visitors meeting, held on Southeastern’s campus on April 19-21. The event featured Southeastern alumni who are serving as pastors, both locally and around the nation. The men spoke and addressed the BOV at various sessions during the three-day meeting.
“It’s very simple: We are hard-pressed to find men that are good shepherds, and then to combine that with men who know the reality of Christian doctrine,” said Dennis Darville, Vice President of Institutional Advancement. Monday morning, during the opening session, he said, “The future of the Southern Baptist Convention largely depends on the health of her pulpit. We need men who love Jesus and are careful to exegete the text and exposit the text. We’re making sure we are training men to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ and edify the church.”
Seth Polk, a 2000 graduate of Southeastern and pastor of Cross Lanes Baptist Church in Cross Lanes, Virginia, spoke to the gathered Southeastern supporters about the aspects of faithful shepherding.
“This is not a job. It’s not a career. It’s a calling of God,” Polk said about shepherding as part of pastoring. “One of the great dangers in the ministry is pride, because we’re in the public eye. Shepherds must submit to the will of God, which takes humility.”
Polk also said that in addition to recognizing the call to pastor, men must also recognize the need to pass on those qualities to the next generation. “Part of the equation of being a faithful shepherd is not just being one ourselves, but passing it on to those who want to serve God.”
Later Monday morning, Josh Smith, lead pastor of MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church in Irving, Texas, spoke on the other necessary quality of an effective pastor – that of being an affectionate theologian. Using the example of Paul addressing the church at Corinth with “godly jealousy,” Smith said it should be so with effective pastors who fight for the faith of God’s people.
“Paul did it, not because he was concerned with his own reputation, but because he was concerned with the reputation of Christ,” Smith said, in speaking about how Paul challenged men and women in the church who spoke only about those things they challenged, and never about Christ, the gospel or the things of God. “He challenged those men who were subtly deceptive. They came in with just enough truth to destroy the church.”
Smith said Paul desired God’s people to be presented to Christ as a spotless bride, and he wanted the church to be focused on Christ, uncorrupted by subtle deceptions.
“There must be a deep concern and jealousy for the church that flows out of an affectionate mind,” Smith said. However, that affection must be rooted in sound, Biblical theology. “There are a lot of pastors who will love their people straight to hell because they’re not theologically discerning. There is nothing on earth more powerful than a pastor who loves his church and faithfully preaches the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
Later Monday morning, J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., spoke about how Southeastern trained him to be a good shepherd and a good theologian, and what to look for in order to find a similar education. Greear, a two-time graduate of Southeastern, said it is important to think critically about the skills learned in a seminary education.
“Look for a place that teaches you to be a preacher and a pastor,” Greear said. “Learn how to take apart the incredibly rich book of God and teach it to his people. My education helps me read the Bible from the perspective of the lives of dysfunctional people.”Greear also credits Southeastern with training him to be a scholar, and imparting to him the desire to be a soul-winner.
“The training of the pastor to lead the church is one of the most important and crucial tasks in moving the kingdom forward. Jesus did not commission the disciples to build the kingdom themselves, but to be a witness to the King, a verbal testament, a proclamation that the gospel has come. The way the gospel was to go forward was through the body of believers.”
“As goes the pastor, so goes the church,” Greear said.
The final talk of the Board of Visitors’ meeting was given by Nathan Lino, a 2002 graduate of Southeastern and pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, during the Board of Visitors’ and Board of Trustees banquet.
Lino said that in order to effectively reach the flock, pastors must be both concerned with the preaching and teaching of God’s word, as well as with building authentic and loving relationships with the people in his church.
Pastors, in an effort to be good shepherds and theologically sound, should grow in the knowledge of God so they can counsel their flock to do what is best for them, since “God wants what is best for you,”Lino said. However, he said the leaders must be careful to counsel in such a way that they deliver truths, not as cold and distant speakers, but in the context of a real and authentic relationship with someone who cares.
“If you’re going to help people, reach the lost and confront unbiblical thinking, it’s dirty and messy,” Lino said. He said believers should look to the example of Paul, whose life was changed because of an encounter with the real and loving God.
“If you channel the real truths of Scripture through a pipeline of a real and authentic relationship, then people will accept the hard truths of Scripture,” Lino said. “However, if you create a pipeline but never deliver the living water, nobody’s life will be changed.
“A Biblical pastor will stand at the crossroads of theology and missions, and to think you can go and pastor without getting into the depths of God’s word means you will create a beautiful pipeline that will never deliver the living water.”
The mission of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Southeastern is an institution of higher learning and a Cooperate Program ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention.