When Pastors Actually Pastored

I found this video of Perry Noble a few years ago. This encapsulates much of what I hate about some big evangelical churches with their big mega pastors and sometimes, their big mega egos. (Note the qualifications).

Here’s the deal. If you don’t know your people; if you don’t visit them in their homes, see them in their workplaces, and grieve with them in hospitals, you are not a pastor.

Perry Noble is not a pastor.

You can call him whatever you want. Visionary. Executive. Communicator. Abbess. Whatever. Just please don’t call him a pastor.

Before pastors started reading Fast Company to learn how to fulfill their vocations, they used to read works like Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor.

Now, Richard Baxter was a pastor.

Here’s Baxter on the pastor’s duty to visit his people:

We spend Monday and Tuesday, from morning almost to night, in the work, taking about fifteen or sixteen families in a week, that we may go through the parish, in which there are upwards of eight hundred families, in a year, and I cannot say yet that one family hath refused to come to me, and but few persons excused themselves , and shifted it off.

Baxter was also a mega church pastor, and yet found the time to visit 15 or 16 families a week. And that’s not including his grueling preaching load. What I want to know is, what does Perry Noble do all week? 40 hours of vision casting?

And I find more outward signs of success with most that do come, than from all my public preaching to them. If you say, it is not so in most places, I answer, I wish that the blame of this may not lie much with ourselves. If, however, some refuse your help, that will not excuse you from not affording it to them that would accept of it.

This should help those more pragmatically minded pastors who want to see measurable results. If you know anything about Baxter’s story, you’ll know that his remarkable ministry changed the religious flavor of his town for good. Nominalism turned to zeal as regular townsfolk became ablaze with the gospel.

How? Baxter attributed this remarkable makeover to the Spirit working through diligent and loving visitation. Pastors would do well to take heed.

Brethren, do I now invite you to this work, without the authority of God, without the consent of all antiquity, without the consent of the Reformed divines, or without the conviction of your own consciences? See what the Westminster assembly speak occasionally in the directory, about the visitation of the sick: ‘It is the duty of the minister not only to teach the people committed to his charge in public, but privately, and particularly to admonish, exhort, reprove, and comfort them upon all seasonable occasions, so far as his time, strength, and personal safety will permit. He is to admonish them in time of health to prepare for death. And for that purpose, they are often to confer with their minister about the estate of their souls,’ etc.

I wish Perry Noble and others would be more conversant with the Christian tradition when it comes to pastoring. As Baxter says, he has the authority of God, antiquity, and the Reformed divines on his side.

And now for Baxter’s finishing blow. Prepare yourself for some puritanical heat.

Read this over again, and consider it. Hearken to God, if you would have peace with God. Harken to conscience, if you would have peace of conscience. I am resolved to deal plainly with you, though I should displease you. It is an unlikely thing that there should be a heart sincerely devoted to God in that man, who, after advertisements and exhortations, will not resolve on so clear and great a duty. I cannot conceive that he who hath one spark of saving grace, and so hath that love to God, and delight to do his will, which is in all the sanctified, could possibly be drawn to oppose or refuse such a work as this; except under the power of such a temptation as Peter was, when he denied Christ, or when he dissuaded him from suffering, and heard a half excommunication, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan; thou art an offense unto me; for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.’ You have put your hand to the plough; you are doubly devoted to him, as Christians, and as pators; and dare you, after this, draw back, and refuse to do his work?