Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
—2 Timothy 4:2
What are the distinct callings of every pastor?
First, the pastor’s primary responsibility is to preach the Word of God. Paul told his spiritual protégé Timothy, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2). That word “preach” means “to herald or to announce.” In Paul’s day, if an emperor had a message to deliver to a township, he would send his herald to announce his message. That is what the pastor is to do. He is to preach. He is to announce the Word. The clarifying words “reprove,” “rebuke,” and “exhort” give the sense of urgency with which the pastor is to deliver the message. That word “reprove” means to speak persuasively. To “rebuke” means to convince of wrongdoing. To “exhort” means to encourage in a positive way. But Paul’s message is not simply to preach. It is to preach the Word. No herald in Paul’s day was free to formulate his own message. He wasn’t free to say: “Well, the emperor said this, but I have something else I want to share with you today.” No. His job was to faithfully announce the message that had been entrusted to him. In the same way, pastors are to preach the Word of God.
The second role is the pastor as a prophet. A prophet not only confronts people about their relationship with God but confronts the culture when it departs from the teachings of God’s Word. Why isn’t that happening today? I think there are three reasons pastors are hesitant to act as prophets. One reason is a misunderstanding of the Bible. We think we aren’t supposed to speak out about ungodly behavior by unbelievers. But the fact is we are called to be prophets. The second reason pastors don’t act as prophets is because of a misunderstanding of the Constitution. Some pastors believe that the separation of church and state prohibits pastors from addressing controversial issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. This misunderstanding of the Constitution causes pastors to silence themselves. A third reason pastors don’t act as prophets is a fear of controversy. I’m sympathetic with that, but let me be very blunt. Pastor, you will never be criticized by the world for building a homeless shelter or building wells in Africa. But if you dare stand up and point your finger at the culture and say, “This is wrong, thus sayeth the Lord,” you better be ready to suffer. That’s why Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:5, “endure hardship.” If pastors fulfill our role as prophets it is going to get hard at times, but that’s the pastor’s role: not only as a preacher but as a prophet.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “America’s Last Hope” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2011.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.