Though we are continually amazed at the ways in which the Lord is planning for our provision up to this point without me having secured some kind of job, I do continue to look for work of any kind to provide for my family. And believe me I have applied for a host of different jobs--from washing dogs to teaching in a Baptist College.
And believe me, as much as I love dogs, I would much rather be teaching in a Baptist college than washing dogs in this period in between churches. But this prospect of teaching in a college has afforded me the opportunity, by God's grace, to learn or be reminded of something concerning pastoring.
I have been greatly encouraged by my wife and by former church members with their kind words in regards to how well they think I would do as a teacher in a Bible college. Whether or not their enthusiasm is warranted, I'm not sure.
I can say, though, that I would enjoy it. It would be an opportunity to teach and to teach about the Scriptures and the things of God found in the Scriptures. And I greatly have a passion for that without question. But that is not the same as being a pastor, obviously with all the other responsibilities that go along with pastoring. And more specifically is the area of preaching as a pastor not equivalent to teaching in a Bible college.
Someone may object, "But isn't weekly preaching to a congregation just the same as teaching weekly to a classroom in a Bible college." And in one sense I guess the answer is, "yes." Both the pastor and the professor/teacher are teaching the Scriptures. However, in a much larger sense, the answer is an emphatic, "No."
How so? The answer lies in this beautiful organism that the Gospel has created that we call the Church and more specifically the local expression of it--the local church. There is nothing in all the world like the local church. In the local church you have a group of individuals from different backgrounds--socioeconomic, racial, age,etc., --whom God has caused to be born again through the Gospel and who now God has brought together in the context of this local church to covenant together to live out the implications of the Gospel in relation to one another and the world around them both locally and globally with a goal of bringing glory to God as they are shaped more into the likeness of Christ and as more of those who are without Christ are relocated in Christ through the local and global missions efforts of that local body as it carries the Gospel across the street to its neighbors and across the ocean to the nations.
And in that covenant community you have this precious and unique relationship of pastor/shepherd and sheep. You have a shepherd/pastor or group of pastors/elders whom God has set apart to feed and care for and love this group of sheep. This pastor loves the sheep and binds up their wounds and pulls them back when they stray away and loves them with all their imperfections and they love him with all of his imperfections--for both he and they know all too well that he too is a sheep. This pastor would lay down his life for this group of sheep. And if the pastor shepherds this group of sheep God has entrusted to him by being biblically faithful to God's Word, this group of sheep would lay down their life for their shepherd.
And so you see, "No," teaching in a classroom at a Bible college, as much as I would enjoy the opportunity to do (definitely much more than washing dogs or selling cars), is not the same thing as preaching weekly to a local church. The issue between the two is not just the fact that in both you are teaching the Scriptures. And that's why, as much as I would enjoy teaching in a college if that is what the Lord has for me to do in this between time, it could not hold a candle to standing before a local assembly of God's people weekly to feed them the Word of God as we covenant together to be faithful to the Word of God in growing together in the likeness of Christ through good times and bad and reaching out across the street and across the ocean with the Gospel for the glory of God.
You see, I have learned a valuable lesson in the past five months of not being a pastor. It's a lesson that I hope I have just been reminded of and not actually learned for the first time. But either way, I am thankful to God for it. That lesson is this: my passion for preaching/teaching and whatever giftedness God has given me to express that passion is not isolated to just preaching/teaching. My passion for preaching/teaching God's Word is inseparable from my love for the local church and God's call upon my life to be a pastor of a local church.
God did not call me to preach/teach. God called me to pastor a people. My passion to preach/teach is an extension and reflection of my passion to pastor a people and my love for the local church.
A valuable lesson learned and I pray one that is never forgotten.