The highest privilege and greatest honor in pastoring is not standing in the church pulpit but praying by the hospital bed. It’s not being accorded the highest place but carrying out the least-seen service. It’s not broadcasting the truth to thousands, but whispering it to one. The holiest moments of pastoring are the ones that are seen by the fewest people. And in the end, I’m convinced these are the ones that mean the most.
Can you think of a celebrity pastor whose fame is based on something other than his preaching (or on his books which are, in all likelihood, based on his preaching)? Can you think of one who is known more for his prayers than his sermons, for his words before God than his words before man? Can you think of one who is known more for his hospital visits than his pulpit proclamation? Can you think of one who is lauded for his tender care more than his powerful exposition?
Celebrity pastors are almost invariably known for their preaching and teaching—for the most public part of their vocation. And that’s well and good when it comes to the pastors we know from afar—the ones whose sermons and podcasts we love to listen to and to benefit from.
Yet we can have very different expectations for our own pastors, can’t we? When we think of our own pastors with fondness, or perhaps with frustration, we often apply a different set of criteria to them. After all, there is far more to pastoral ministry than preaching. It may be the most public part of a man’s ministry, but it’s not necessarily the most important, or the most impactful, or the one that meets our deepest needs.