There is a common question that a pastor has to answer all through his life. It comes at various times, from a variety of people, and with different levels of tact. But the essence of the question is always the same, “So, what do pastors do all week, anyway?” It is a practical question… and I’m always happy to answer it. But the fact is that the question is only a couple of shades different than the one pastors ought to be asking themselves, “So, what does a pastor do?” When I pose that question, I’m not speaking of the day-to-day minutiae. I mean to ask about the ultimate purpose behind the pastor’s calling. Why is he there? What is it that he ought to be spending his life on… and therefore, the little moments throughout the week? My answer? Gospel-Centered maturity.
Now, I must continue on. Many of you heard that phrase and thought something like this “Oh ya, isn’t that where a pastor makes sure to give a ‘gospel’ invitation at the end of every sermon?” Actually, this is the assumption I’ve spent years fighting against. That general approach assumes that the message of Christ is only for those who are not yet Christians. It certainly is for those who need forgiveness through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. But the gospel’s place in the life of the church goes far beyond that. It is to be central in all of our life and ministry.
Many trip up at this point precisely because they have a limited view of the gospel. The fact is that when we talk about being “gospel-centered”, we really are saying that we’re Christ-centered. The gospel is, after all, the message (good news that brings joy) of Christ. It is a report of all that He has accomplished in His cross-work. But it is also glad tidings regarding all that this cross-work has purchased for the children of God. So, the gospel is to be central because Christ is to be central.
And this brings me full-circle to my question “So, what does a pastor do?” My answer to the question is a statement of Paul:
Paul says that He proclaims Christ in order to present people as mature. He understands that what people need is not more instruction on the “how” of the Christian life. They really need to see more and more of the “who”. And the who, is Jesus. Paul’s strategy was to continually point believers to Jesus. To apply and reapply the accomplishments of the cross to their lives and struggles. He sought to draw out the implications of the good news at every turn so that men and women were freed from immorality, impurity, and greed. Paul knew that the means of maturity in Christians was to focus the gaze of their hearts on the Christ. This is the job of the pastor. And this is what we mean when we speak of gospel-centered ministry.
Though today, there was a decidedly ministerial application to this post, tomorrow, we’ll see how this plays out in the lives of our church members generally. And I hope that as we do, you’ll find greater clarity in how to live a gospel-centered life.
28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. (ESV)