A Wooden Pastoral Refelction

Dear Church Family,

This week marks my five-year anniversary as the pastor of Providence Presbyterian Church. Please forgive my reminiscing. It all began when I submitted my packet of information to the pastoral search committee in May of 2012. Then, in June, I received a phone call from one of the elders of Providence Presbyterian Church in Midland, TX. Thus began a whirlwind of a candidating process. In July, my wife and I visited from New Jersey and I preached here at PPC; by the end of the month, I received and accepted the call to be the pastor. In August, Stacie and I returned to Midland to house-hunt and then to Dallas to transfer to the North Texas Presbytery. We moved from New Jersey to Midland in September, and I preached my first sermon as the new pastor of Providence Presbyterian Church on Sunday, October 7th.

A Pastoral Philosophy of Ministry

When I interviewed with the pastoral search committee, I submitted my ‘philosophy of ministry’ for the pastorate. It consisted (and continues to consist) of three main points:

(1) Be a suffering servant – The Lord told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Therefore, Paul boasts in his weakness, rather than in his own strength. Each of us, but especially the pastor, ought to be pursuing weakness so that the power of Christ is manifested. The see-saw ethics of the kingdom tell us that the first will be last and the last will be first (Matthew 20:16), the meek will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5), and that God has chosen the weak in the world to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:20). Many in the church, by the mere nature of his job, put the pastor on a pedestal. Therefore, the pastor ought to do everything he can to show the power of Christ manifested in his weakness, rather than in his strength.

(2) Know the manuals – Section three of the preface to the Book of Church Order reads, “The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America, which is subject to and subordinate to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, the inerrant Word Of God, consists of its doctrinal standards set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith, together with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, and the Book of Church Order, comprising the Form of Government, the Rules of Discipline and the Directory for Worship; all as adopted by the Church.” A pastor should know Scripture above all and rely upon it in all that he does (2 Timothy 3:16-17). In addition, he should know our confessional documents which contain the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures. Finally, he must know and consult the Book of Church Order for guidance in the everyday affairs of the church.

(3) Love the church – Loving the Church is a way in which we love Christ. When Jesus asked Peter if he loved him, he then said, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17). When Jesus appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus, he said, “Saul, Saul, why are persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4). Jesus so identified with his people, the church, that persecuting them meant persecuting their Lord. The things which we ought to be concerned about are the things which Jesus is concerned about, namely His people (Philippians 2:20-21).

Finding a Pastoral Fit

This milestone has also caused me to reminisce a bit about what drew us here to this church in particular. You see, in the process of seeking a pastoral call, I considered over fifty churches, and interviewed, preached, and even candidated at several. So, in addition to this church’s biblical adherence, confessional commitment, and warm hospitality, there were three basic criteria that I was looking for in a church – three criteria that I used to help determine if I would be a good fit as the pastor.

Of course, I didn’t share these criteria with pulpit committees during the candidating process; however, since being ordained in 1999, through various ministerial experiences both in the church and in the army chaplaincy, these are three things that I’ve learned are important for a pastor to consider. And, these three criteria assume that the church is doctrinally sound in its theology and practice. Here they are:

(1) A biblical view of the pastor’s role and ‘job description’: In Scripture, a minister’s role has basically two emphases: preaching/teaching (proclamation and teaching the Word, 1 Timothy 4:11-16) and shepherding (spiritual care of the congregation, 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12). Of course, there are a lot of other things that a pastor is called to do; however, pastors are primarily called to be ministers of the Word and shepherds of the flock.

(2) Wise, confessional, and shepherding elders: Elders are charged to guard themselves and the flock (Acts 20:28), and there are qualifications that are peculiar to the office (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1). Additionally, the pastor must be able to trust the elders of the church, both personally and ministerially. Personally, the elders are usually those in the church to whom the pastor first turns for spiritual care, to pastor him. Ministerially, the pastor works with the elders in shepherding to the church. So, it’s imperative that the pastor and the elders have a mutual respect and affection for one another.

(3) Reformed and reverent worship: As the one who is primarily responsible for planning and leading the church’s worship, it’s critical that the pastor and the church be in agreement as to what worship ought to be and how it ought to be conducted. Of course, there are going to be varied preferences, but there ought to at least be some semblance of a shared commitment to a particular form of worship.

For years, I have kept a daily personal journal of activities and significant events. Before even receiving the call to be the pastor – and in light of these three criteria – I wrote in my journal that Providence Presbyterian Church in Midland, TX “seems to be a perfect fit.”

Renewed Pastoral Promises

After receiving the call to come be the pastor of this church, I sent a letter of thanks and introduction to the congregation. In that letter, I made some promises which I renew today:

For my part, I promise to guard both myself and my teaching, to persevere in the public reading of Scripture, exhortation, and teaching, and in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, to show myself to be an example of those who believe (1 Timothy 4:11-16). I will endeavor to labor among you in gentleness, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children; I will endeavor to labor among you devoutly, uprightly, and blamelessly, exhorting, encouraging, and imploring just as a father would his own children (1 Thessalonians 2:7-12). As I seek to be an under-shepherd of the Good Shepherd, I commit to praying for each one of you and your families. Please pray for me and my family.

 

Conclusion

So, this week marks my five-year anniversary as the pastor at Providence Presbyterian Church. Most people know the big anniversaries: twenty-five is silver and fifty is golden. Well, I looked it up; apparently, five is wooden. So, consider this my “wooden pastoral reflection.”

Since coming to Midland and Providence Presbyterian Church five years ago, our family has grown (not in numbers, but in maturity); here’s a picture of our family from May 2012, just so you can see how much.  In the past five years, there have been changes in our church, as well; some members have moved away and others have joined.

As I reflect on the past five years of life and ministry, I am grateful to the Lord for bringing us to this church. I am humbled by the privilege of being your pastor, and am grateful for the love, care, and friendship that my family and I have in this congregation.

Allow me to close with how I began my letter of introduction five years ago: “To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Providence Presbyterian Church in Midland, Texas. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch