Do the popular evangelicals and fundamentalists submit to the teaching of the pastoral epistles in their pastoring? One would think this might be a good basis for success as a pastor. If not, then what is missing?
What do the pastor epistles instruct a pastor to do that is not the practice of many popular evangelical and fundamentalists pastors? They are often rewarded in their lack of obedience to the pastoral epistles with popularity. Others want to be like them. They got big, so they must be a success.
Have you noticed that Jesus didn't get big? He got more unpopular, despite His ability to perform jaw-dropping miracles. Paul wrote in Philippians 2:20-21:
For I have no man like-minded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's.
And what about these words in 2 Timothy 1:15:
This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me.
From what we read, Paul wasn't getting bigger either. We know that many conversions could occur. We see that in Acts. However, Paul made clear that it didn't come from human ability (1 Cor 3). More ability doesn't equal more conversions.
Is it possible that the popularity and size of the most well-known evangelicals and fundamentalists happened and continued because they have not followed the pattern of pastoring that Paul has written in his pastoral epistles? They are often men with either great intellect or speaking ability or both. People like to listen to them. They're interesting. The size of their audience could parallel the size of the audience of a popular television show or sporting franchise. People join their audience because of the entertainment value. It's fun to be a part of a winning team. And then this type of "success" breeds more audience and popularity---a bandwagon effect.
We have no reason to oppose great ability, someone who can speak well or communicate difficult concepts in an interesting way. However, there is more to pastoring than that. Even if you are a talented speaker, you could become unpopular if you did what Paul did. Paul protected the church---not just by writing. He did write about it. He wrote a big chunk of the New Testament. But what he wrote about, he did. He wanted all pastors to do the same.
A pastor might be able to explain the pastoral epistles very well. But does he do them? In other words, does he pastor? Pastoring is what we see in the pastoral epistles.
I believe that many popular pastors are popular because they don't pastor. If they pastored, their popularity would diminish. Men known this. They know what obedience to the pastoral epistles would mean to their popularity. Their popularity doesn't diminish because it is more important to them than obedience to the pastoral epistles.
The popularity of the non-pastoring of the popular evangelicals and fundamentalists perpetuates the lack of pastoring of churches. Many churches have removed the idea of pastoring from the office of the pastor by calling the pastor the "teaching pastor." You might be a teacher, but you aren't a pastor if you don't obey the pastoral epistles. The desire for the office of the bishop (1 Tim 3:1) is a desire for what the pastoral epistles instruct. You aren't fulfilling the office that your title of pastor suggests if you do not follow the teaching of the pastoral epistles.
Size of the church is absent as a concern in the pastoral epistles. The priority of the pastorals is the purity of the church. We know that Jesus loves the church and wants to present it pure and spotless in the day of redemption. He wants quality in his church. Scripture is sufficient to accomplish purity, but the pastoral epistles must be obeyed.
You might think, "Well, these popular evangelical preachers and teachers do write books to help the church with its purity." The pastoral epistles do not call for book writing for church purity. I talked about this in the previous post with John MacArthur, who many across the country wish to emulate as the way to accomplish pastoring. MacArthur writes books about wrong positions on doctrine and how that belief and practice are being corrupted. Meanwhile, his own church takes up the very trendy, "purpose-driven," church-growth techniques. He needs to pastor his own church. That isn't just preparing sermons, teaching them, and having them played all over the world on radio and now television.
Paul started out his teaching to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1,
I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine.
What did Paul begin with? Clean up the church you're pastoring. Charge some in your own church that they teach no other doctrine. He didn't say a thing to Timothy about making sure everyone else in the world did it a certain way.
MacArthur writes a lengthy essay against the Manhattan Doctrine. Meanwhile, that doesn't change his fellowship with those who signed the document. Paul said in Galatians, "Let them be accursed." Actually doing something about it results in unpopularity. Everybody is impressed with the civility, but how important is protecting the gospel? If you don't separate, then you aren't doing what the passages actually teach. The same goes with John Piper and his continued relations with the open theists. A well-known conservative Baptist like Mark Dever won't separate over infant sprinkling. These men write against false doctrine, but they don't do what the pastoral epistles require a pastor to do.
With everything that was important for the church to believe and do, it was to be enforced with pastoral authority. Paul writes Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:3-5:
If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness. . . . from such withdraw thyself.
Then in verses 11 and 14:
But thou, O man of God, flee these things. . . . keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We see much more in 2 Timothy about the purity of the church.
2:5: If a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.
2:21: If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.
And then in Titus:
These three epistles direct a pastor to protect the purity of the church. Would that yield an evangelistic outcome? Yes, a genuine one, one that keeps in focus a true gospel and conduct becoming it.
1:5: For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting.
1:10, 11, 13: For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, . . . whose mouths must be stopped, . . . . Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.
2:15: These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority.
3:10: A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject.
The grace that brings salvation, Paul writes Titus, teaches "us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world" (Titus 2:12). Paul wants genuine conversion, not the cheap grace that manifests the worldliness rampant in the popular, even conservative, evangelical churches.
I believe we have men who would be as popular and big as MacArthur and Piper if they compromised like these men and if they weren't separatists, like these popular evangelical figures. Those faithful men have endeavored to pastor their churches, that is, maintain the purity of those churches by confronting the worldliness and corruption of them. Some of those men have intellect, talent, and ability matching or surpassing that of the popular evangelicals and fundamentalists. However, they believed early on that they would be pastors, men who would take responsibility for the purity of their churches by obeying the pastoral epistles for the greater glory of Jesus Christ. We should be judging the success of pastoring based on the criteria that God's Word provides in the three New Testament books especially for that purpose.