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The Shepherd’s Schedule

Truth In Love 379

What are the responsibilities of a pastor?

Sep 5, 2022

Dale Johnson: This week on the podcast, I’m thrilled as ever to have with us, Dr. Carl Hargrove. If you live on the West Coast, you’re probably very familiar with him. If you’ve been a part of the Master’s University or the Master’s Seminary, you would probably be familiar with his name. I cannot wait to introduce our listeners to this brother. Tell you a little bit about him, he’s married to Joanna for 29 years. Praise the Lord for that; five children from 27 down to 18, he’s an ordained minister of the Gospel from Grace Community Church out in California, pastor two churches in the South Bay Area from 1994 to 2014 before returning back to Grace Community Church. He’s a faculty member at The Master’s Seminary and pastoral ministries, he’s the director of Grace Advance, Grace Community’s ministry to help plant and revitalize churches in North America. He’s the vice president of The Master’s Fellowship and that’s an international network of TMS graduates and like-minded men who join for fellowship and mutual ministry. He’s a co-founder of ARC (African Revitalization Center), which seeks to support ministry training and church strengthening in Africa. He enjoys travel, hiking, experiencing various cultures, military history, and golf. Mmm, man, that’ll be fun. That is something I enjoy too, Carl. And my oldest son is planning to attend The Master’s University in the fall and he’s planning to play golf for the Mustangs.

Carl Hargrove: Well, I need to get a tip or two from him when it comes.

Dale Johnson: Well, that would be great. And you know what, as a father who lives in Kansas City sending my son to California, he needs to spend some time with some godly men just like you and the golf course might be a good place to do it. 

Carl Hargrove: No objections here whatsoever.

Dale Johnson: Okay, that sounds good. I’ll hold you to that. Listen, I am so grateful that you’re here with us today to talk about this issue of shepherding the flock. I want to take several angles here that I think are important, particularly in what we’ve come through as believers in our various churches, pastors, elders, thinking about how to shepherd the flock and there are a lot of dimensions to that. We’re of course, going to talk about this from an angle of soul care, biblical counseling. But pastoral ministry is certainly broader than that, and this is the place that the ministry of the Word begins is with the shepherd.

So, Carl, what I’d like for you to do is just talk about that. I teach at a seminary, I talked to a lot of young, aspiring pastors and the task of pastoring is daunting. When you think about all the things that need to be done, leading people feeling inadequate and ill-equipped, think about just for a second shepherding the flock, as you think about ordering your day. What are some of the things that you try to instill into young seminary students as far as time and how to think through what our responsibility is to shepherd the flock of God?

Carl Hargrove: Now, what a great question. So absolutely imperative that we answer that because here’s why. And you asked, what are some of the things I say to younger pastors? One thing is this, when it comes to shepherding the flock, shepherd your soul, your soul. You must be healthy, a healthy shepherd. If you’re going to in one sense, pour your life into them because that’s a part of shepherding.

So, one of the first things that a shepherd must do is be engaged with the living God personally, intimately, and consistently. And if that can happen, then through that intimate relationship, you’re gaining wisdom and insight and spiritual stamina, because the ministry requires that. It’s a joy, it really is, but it is tiring. And for a pastor, who is not tired, he’s not pastoring and I would say for a pastor who doesn’t have joy, he’s not pastoring but I would say also for that pastor who has never experienced moments where he is fighting a fight, then he’s not pastoring because it is a battle, but it’s a battle that is unlike, better stated, not unlike that of our Lord’s. The joys that he had of caring for people, the battles that he had with the religiously lost, but yet he did what? He took care of his soul, if you will, though he is God incarnate He spent time with his father, often going away to pray to him.

I would say the first thing that the pastor must do, the leader must do is to take care of their soul so that they have something to give to others, and that’s what we’re doing even when we are counseling others, we’re saying, let me give you this wisdom. Let me give you this insight, here’s some life experience, and at times we can distinguish between empathizing with the person, but we’ve been there. I’ve experienced it in brother or sister. Here is my advice. There are times that we sympathize. I have not been there, but here are the principles that can still guide you in this moment in your life experience.

Dale Johnson: Those are some critical ideas, Carl. And I want to break some of these around because I think it’s so important for us to sort through some of these. I know when I talk to my students in counseling, one of the most important things I tell them is how the Word must dwell in them richly. And when they walk into the counseling room, if they allow the Lord by his Word and his Spirit to infect and be saturated in their hearts, and the peace of Christ is ruling in their hearts, they are convinced that the Word is powerful to do work in their own life. And it breeds a confidence in the counseling room, that this word of God, if it could change me, then it can change the person sitting across from me. I think when you’re preaching, it’s much the same the way that you preach a passage is different when that passage has gripped you. When you have studied the Word and you have seen yourself even be conformed in this way to what the passages describing, you teach and preach it differently with confidence.

I want to talk about this. I have a lot of young seminary students. As I mentioned, young pastors listening to this even to the lay person who sits in the pews and sometimes they may wonder what this guy only stands up on Sunday. He works one day a week, right? Help my young Seminary students and then pull a veil back for some lay people, a little bit of insight into what is a typical, you know, week looks like in managing time for a pastor who’s shepherding his flock. 

Carl Hargrove: That’s really important. And sometimes people will kid and they’ll say, well, you only work one day a week. I’m not sure why you so tired. I wish I had the gig that you have. Well, walk in my shoes for a week and I think you met retract that statement. You know, I often tell especially younger students that make sure that you have moments when you can enjoy life, you can laugh, you can have sweet fellowship and they were, okay, why is he talking about laughter? I thought this was a theology class here. Well because there will be a moment when you’re going to cry. And in a given day, you may go from some great experience, it brings joy, your countenance is lifted and then you get a phone call and someone says, “That’s it, pastor, I’m leaving him.” “Pastor, I need to tell you something. I’ve been hiding it for years so I need to confess it to someone it has been eating me up.” So, in a given week, there are these varying emotions that you experience. And that’s why we need to make sure that we again we’re engaged with God, we’re engaged in sweet fellowship with other brothers and sisters. So, that our countenances lifted up because there will be things that will pull on it in the other direction. In a given week you think about well I have some administrative duties, I have to counsel some dear saints, I need to study for this message that’s coming up as well, and then there’s always the things that are not in a schedule that just happened. As life just happens for us.

Dale Johnson: Those phone calls, right?

Carl Hargrove: Yeah, those phone calls. I mean, I look at my calendar and my life is color coded. If I look at it right now, and I see all these color codes and it’s wonderful, this is blocked off here and this is blocked off here, and then I get a phone call. So, what do I do? How do I make up for that time? I think first, there must be organization. I have to think through here is my week ahead. Here’s my month ahead. Where are my hours? And I need to block off hours. We can’t just go in the moment. The pastor’s life can’t be a constant audible call. Here’s the game plan, but there will be audibles that I have to call and make adjustments. So, I have to organize. And with that organization, let me pray about even what’s organized.

So, my study of the Word of God on a personal level, have I given it sufficient time? Counseling God’s people. Some pastors may not be engaged in this. I don’t understand that. I’m not sure how you can be pastoring and not be counseling the people of God. However, here is a thought though that needs to go with this. If we’re shepherding, it means we’re also training, and so we’re training people for the work of the ministry. That’s that strong sense from Ephesians chapter 4, we’re training them. So, we need to train other counselors, we need to pour into them, prepare them, expose them to other people that have expertise in areas of biblical counseling, provide for them resources, and even you sharing your own personal experiences so you can help with the culture of counseling that you have in your church. And as you train them, then you can, if you will practice that Jethro principle where certain cases come to me and others are handled by you. I have entrusted them to you because you can’t do it all, you shouldn’t do it all. As a matter of fact, if a pastor is attempting to do it all, I think he’s undermining biblical principles. You’re not allowing your church to be shepherded so that they can even discover the joy of serving, the joy of experiencing their own spiritual gifts, you’re holding them back. So, as he thinks about his life, I’m engaged with God, I’m engaged with God’s people, I’ve set aside some hours here for that, my family life they cannot be set aside, so, my wife and I we have a date night. So, let’s make sure we can keep that date night. Are there audibles that get called? Sure. So, we back it off to next week or something like that. And I think sometimes she doesn’t mind that because when it gets backed off, I have to really make up for it the next time around.

Dale Johnson: It raises the level of anticipation. 

Carl Hargrove: Exactly, there it is. So, you think about that as well. And then I need to block off time where I’m going to study God’s word. Where is that block of time that has to be protected? And of course, there are administrative duties that we have that there may be in a given situation. Some we can give to other talented people that enjoy doing that, so, it’s a constant. Yes, we have office hours or even here on this campus, but when I go home, I don’t always say it’s over with. I can’t, it continues with me and then, you know, think about what Paul said, Paul talked about, having the daily concern for the churches. You can’t turn off relationships like that. If you have given yourself to someone, you just can’t say, oh, I’m not in the office, so I can’t be concerned for them. You will be concerned for them because these are your loved ones, these are your family. So, the pastor’s life is broad. It comes with joys and pains and complications, but there’s so much satisfaction knowing that you’re doing God’s will. 

Dale Johnson: Yeah, that really does help to set, I think appropriate expectations, Carl, you covered a lot of ground there. I want to revisit maybe two things and dial down a little bit, if you can. You mentioned something about time, and I just thought, man, the tyranny of the urgent, if you don’t have some things set up, time manages you, you don’t manage the time and you have to be very cautious about that.

You mentioned something about the personal study of the Word. And one of the things that I see that drives up seminary students and pastors more than anything as they study in order to teach. They don’t study in order to be changed and then out of the overflow of that, now, we teach. So, we just see a dryness with young guys when they’re just studying, in order to tell somebody something else, instead of this is the living Word that God has given us, that was intended to change us first and then we’re telling people about the beauty of what Christ is doing. So, as we think about our role in how we study scripture, how we grow the pastor, as you said, it’s broad, maybe he’s starting to get overwhelmed and you sort of jumped into this area and I want to bring us back to this about counseling.

Tons of pastors who agree with theology in much the same way that you and I would, what we believe to be true about the Godhead, what we believe to be true about the church, what we believe to be true about the Bible, we hold in high esteem. Then we talk about this issue of biblical counseling and social care and shepherding maybe, the private ministry of the Word, and you mentioned the Jethro principle and I think that’s really, really critical because in a lot of places that I go, I’ll talk to pastors and they love the idea, but then they look at the schedule of you just described the broad and they think how in the world am I going to add another spinning plate to put this on my shoulders? And part of what I like to say and I want to hear how you think about this is biblical soul care is intended to be modeled and exampled by the pastor, but it doesn’t mean he bears the sole responsibility of all the soul care that goes on in the church.

So, I want to hear you talk a little bit more about squelching some of the fears of pastors to personally engage in soul care ministry by that ministry of multiplication. Discipling other guys and gals to do this work of one anothering.

Carl Hargrove: Yeah, and that’s what we should be doing. How do we live a life where we can say, follow me as I follow Christ and you make an investment in people so that they can make an investment in others. You would think that would be simple because you say, it’s only logical. If I can invest in three people who will invest in three people who will invest in three people, look at the return that I can gain on that. If I were to say, here’s a stock that if you invest it to, you’ll get ten out of it. You would say, “Oh, where is it? Please. I’ll make the investment right now.” And so, when we think about investing in people, it’s so that we can reach others through our reach, if you will, this is God through us. If we reverse it is twelve men invest in them who invested in others. And now here we are two thousand years removed and by the grace of God, we are who we are as a Christian body. And so, as we invest in other people, we are loving others that we may never touch directly through other people that we’ve invested in.

I was just sharing with students last week in one of my classes, how there are relationships that I have with people in the church, and I will counsel through someone else to them. They’ll come back to me and they’ll debrief with me and I’ll talk with him. Excellent, good job, here is a Scripture that you can talk about, here is a principle and so, not only am I still counseling that person, but I’m also engaging in a relationship with that other individual in teaching them biblical principles. It’s even a lesson in hermeneutics because I’m sharing with them this is an appropriate application of that text, let me tell you why, or that’s not an appropriate application of that text and let me tell you why. So, then it’s multiple lessons and benefits that are even coming from counseling. 

Dale Johnson: Yeah, what a discipleship tool I think as you were describing that I’m thinking of the old missionary adage, right? I don’t catch the fish for them, I teach them how to fish and that’s a part of what you’re doing even as a pastor, you’re helping them to understand people from a biblical perspective. You’re helping them to understand the Scripture and how to apply that to some of the issues or problems that a person is facing.

Listen Carl, this is the first time we’ve met and I’ve really enjoyed this conversation, and I’m sure we could continue talking about shepherding the flock. It’s something that you and I both enjoy studying about, thinking about, and participating in ourselves, as we serve the body. I look forward to many more conversations that will get to have in the future to happen on some topics just like this. So, thank you, brother!