As Paul begins to summarize the pastoral call, he paints the picture this way: “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5). The pastor’s biography should be a simple one:
- he was sober-minded,
- endured suffering,
- did the work of an evangelist,
- fulfilled his ministry.
He is sober-minded, not like those described in verses 3 and 4 who are vulnerable to fads and trends. He is not seduced by novelty or religious innovation.
He also endures suffering. He understands that suffering isn’t rare; it’s the norm. He is not going to avoid it. If you are a faithful pastor, it’s going to happen: you’ll be the target of criticism from within the church and slander from without. You’ll be opposed by the world when you preach the gospel. And you won’t be exempt from the personal suffering that’s part of living in a fallen world—suffering that God will use to accomplish his purposes in your life. God wants you to be confident that he is at work through your suffering, so that you can endure it with a solid, not superficial, joy.
The pastor is to do the work of an evangelist. Even though Timothy is serving in an area where evangelism and church planting are taking place, Paul wants evangelism to remain a passion in his life. This is all too easy for pastors to neglect in their preaching and personal life.
These imperatives combine to make one point: fulfill your ministry. Be faithful. Discharge the full range of your responsibilities. Persevere until the task is complete. Regardless of opposition or apathy, regardless of apparent success or lack thereof, regardless of church size, regardless of suffering—fulfill your ministry.
For the duration of our lives and ministries, we are called to relentless faithfulness. Today, be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. Tomorrow, be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. Do it today and do it all again tomorrow, and do it all again the day after tomorrow. Keep doing the same things.
In a culture where innovation is paramount, and the calls to produce something new seduce not just the world but also the church, this is wisdom from above: pastor, just keep doing the same thing. No innovation needed. This is what Paul is charging Timothy, and God is charging us, to do: be faithful. Do the same thing. Don’t be distracted by what’s new. Fulfill your charge. And do it all again tomorrow.
This post is part of a series entitled “Ordinary Pastors” and is adapted from a message I preached at T4G 2010, which was published in a compilation of sermons from that conference entitled The Unadjusted Gospel (Crossway, 2012. Used by permission.)