Yesterday was the first official day of my Summer-long internship at an OPC church in Northern Virginia. One of the privileges I have is to complete a number of readings over the course of the Summer. The first thing I’ve read is from Joel Beeke and Terry Slachter’s book Encouragement for Today’s Pastors: Help from the Puritans. For this book, I read Section One on the Pastor’s piety. The assigned reading helped to tie some things together for me. I’ve tended to think about the work of the Pastor as falling under one of two basic categories: either pulpit ministry or parish ministry (though of course, there is significant overlap between the two). I still think this is basically a sound framework, but on its own it doesn’t go far enough. What this book does so helpfully is to draw out the vital necessity of the Pastor’s ministry of piety as well. Together, these three areas (piety, pulpit, & parish) capture the heart of a minister’s duties.
The picture that’s taken shape in my mind is a railroad track. There is a rail on each side which allows the train to move forward. On the one side is the “rail” of pulpit ministry (which would encompass the Pastor’s teaching and preaching) and on the other side is the “rail” of parish ministry (which would cover all the shepherding, counseling, evangelism, and even administrative tasks). These two rails provide the basic framework for ministry and are what people would see if they look at a train driving down the tracks. But there is another vital component. Although it isn’t as visible, what holds these two rails together are the wooden crossties of pastoral piety. Without those crossties the rails will shift as the train moves and the railcars will careen off the tracks and crash. With the crossties, the rails stand firm and the train can move safely and swiftly.
It’s the same way with the ministry. The public work of the pastor is seen in the twin rails of pulpit ministry and parish ministry. But holding those rails together are the crossties of pastoral piety. Without a zeal for the Lord, without frequent and fervent communion with God, and without a steadfast dependence on God’s promises the public ministry of the pastor will shift and slide with often disastrous results. But when the crossties of piety are firmly in place, the public ministry of the Pastor can stand firm.