Ministry

What Duties Does The Congregation Have Towards Its Pastors?

The following is an excerpt from one of Jonathan Edwards’ most famous sermons entitled “The True Excellency of a Gospel Minister”. At the very end, Edwards gives a very helpful application of what the congregation’s responsibilities and duties are towards a minister who seeks to fulfill his calling as the local pastor. When the pastor seeks to teach the truth and walk in the truth, he is worthy to be followed.

It would be very helpful for anyone in our church to read and think about Edwards’ sermon in order to get an accurate picture of the high calling that our pastors are called to. This section, in particular, is worth relaying to you via the blog. I can say from my brief witness of our church that there is such great warmth, respect, and love that you have for your church staff that I commend this reading not out of rebuke but as an encouragement to see the work of the Spirit in your lives and especially in the lives of your elders and deacons who set the tone for the church.

And as it is your duty, to pray that your minister may…become such a blessing to you, so you should do your part to make him so, by supporting him, and putting him under the best advantage with a mind free from worldly cares, and the pressure of outward wants and difficulties, [in order] to give him wholly to his work. And by all proper acts of respect, kindness, and assistance, to encourage his heart and strengthen his hands [rather than to live in such a way as to] obscure and extinguish the light that would shine among you and to smother and suppress the flame by casting dirt upon it… And particularly when your minister shows himself to be a burning light, by burning with a proper zeal against any wickedness that may be breaking out among his people, and manifests [this zeal by speaking out against it] in the preaching of the word or by a faithful exercise of the discipline of God’s house, [then take it] thankfully…submitting to him in it, as you ought, [in order] to not raise up another fire of your unhallowed passions, reflecting upon and reproaching him for his faithfulness. [Here is how] you will act very unbecoming a christian people, and show yourselves very ungrateful to your minister, and to Christ, who has bestowed upon you so faithful a minister [that if you fight against your minister] you will fight against Christ and your own souls. If Christ gives you a minister that is a burning and shining light, take heed that you do not hate the light, because your deeds are reproved by it; but love and rejoice in his light… Let your frequent [attitude and action] be to your minister for instruction in soul cases and under all spiritual difficulties; and be open to the light and willing to receive it and be obedient to it. And…walk as children of light, and follow your minister wherein he is a follower of Christ (as a burning and shining light). If you continue to do so, your path will be the path of the just, which shines more and more to the perfect day, and the end of your course shall be in those blissful regions of everlasting light above, where you shall shine forth with your minister, and both with Christ, as the sun in the kingdom of the heavenly Father.

The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 2 (Banner of Truth: Edinburgh, UK 2009), p. 960