“Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” – 2 Timothy 1:14 (NIV)
As a pastor and leader in the church, you belong to a long lineage of guardians, those entrusted to guard the deposit regardless of the cost and then to entrust it to the next generation. That’s your calling, one of the priorities of your ministry as a pastor. But how, practically, do you do this? In addition to guarding against overt false teachings, a pastor in a typical evangelical church today faces two additional, even more subtle dangers.
First, out of a desire to keep things simple or sometimes for rhetorical appeal, a pastor may leave out several important and essentials elements of the gospel. Simplicity is a good virtue, but we cannot sacrifice truth on the altar of simplicity and clarity. So even if something is hard to understand or requires a more complex explanation, we must take the time to teach it and explain it. Don’t avoid the more difficult teachings of Scripture in an effort to keep things simple.
Second, it is possible for those who have been Christians for a long time to begin to assume the gospel. They may assume everyone knows it already (which is not true). Or they may think that once a person has heard and understood or responded to the gospel, there is no need to talk about it anymore… So how do you keep your people from assuming the gospel? Pastors guard the truth of the gospel by regularly proclaiming it among God’s people and then winsomely applying it to life through the weekly preaching of God’s word. Don’t assume the gospel; preach it regularly.
Defend the Authority of ALL Scripture
Paul writes that “all Scripture is God-breathed,” indicating it is inspired by God, and Paul adds that it “is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16 NIV). In his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul refers to the Hebrew Scriptures (our Old Testament), noting that the examples of Israel’s disobedience “were written down as warnings for us” (1 Corinthians 10:11 NIV).
Guarding the truth means recognizing that we need to instruct from the Old and New Testaments. The whole counsel of God is God’s authoritative, inerrant, infallible word.
Three Suggestions on How to Guard the Truth
1. As you plan your preaching, make it your goal to preach through entire books of the Bible. While there is a place for topical preaching, one of the problems with it is that it allows a pastor to avoid dealing with hard texts… Preaching through entire books provides a balanced diet of biblical exposition for your church, and at the same time it defends the authority and value of the whole Bible.
2. Following the intent of the last suggestion, try to preach and teach a balance of the Old and New Testament in your church… One of the ways we have tried to strike this balance in our church is to preach from different Testaments in the morning and evening services. At times, we have even tried to take the passage from the morning sermon and select a passage from the other Testament for the evening that somehow connects with the morning passage. We also try to vary genres between the two Testaments. Though that balance is off at times, the goal is to uphold the whole of the Bible before our people so they understand that all of it is profitable for teaching, correction, and training.
3. If you aren’t rotating your preaching between the Old and New Testaments, at least try to have a reading from both the Old and New Testaments in every gathering for worship. This has historically been the practice of the church, and this balanced approach allows a service planner to show how the Bible fits together as one book — one redemptive story. These simple efforts, done well over time, will effectively train people in understanding their Bible and in coming to cherish all of it as a gift from God. In doing this, pastors teach their people how to guard the truth.
A pastor’s primary, instinctive calling must be to guard the good deposit and entrust that truth to other reliable men. The priorities of a pastor’s life and ministry can be filled with many good labors, but all of these must be grounded in and driven by the stewardship of the truth of God, the gospel of Jesus, and the whole of Scripture. If pastors and church leaders fail to do this, they will end up building their lives and ministries on things that will not last. If we lose the truth, we have nothing left. But if we guard the truth and make it the lifeblood of our ministry, we labor in the work that the Spirit empowers and through which he breathes life to our souls and the souls of our people.
How to Use This Book
Give this to a pastor who is struggling with demands for his time, or who is working to determine his priorities in ministry. Also, any M.Div student will find The Pastor’s Ministry to be an essential guide for keeping first things first in their ministry.
By Brian Croft, adapted from The Pastor’s Ministry
The Pastor’s Ministry
Biblical Priorities for Faithful Shepherds