John Stott’s little book The Preacher’s Portrait is an excellent overview of pastoral ministry, in particular the attitude pastors should have towards preaching and the congregation. Stott uses five Biblical words to describe our work: Steward, herald, witness, father, and servant. In the chapter on the pastor as father Stott carefully describes what it means for a pastor to be a father to his congregation. It was the chapter that cut me the deepest. He says love is the chief idea behind Paul describing himself as father in I Thessalonians 2:13
Love, then, is the chief quality of a father to which the Apostle refers when he uses the metaphor to illustrate his ministry; not a soft, sickly sentimentality, but a strong, unselfish love which cares and which is not incompatible with discipline.
Stott then goes on to give some fruit that comes when a pastor loves his congregation.
First, a father’s love will make us understanding in our approach…it is not enough to give an accurate exposition of some passage of the Word of God if we do not relate it to the actual needs of men…A father labours to understand his children as they grow up. He cares about them so deeply that he will do his utmost to enter into their hopes and fears, their weaknesses and their difficulties…Love, the unselfish care which longs to understand and so to help is one of the greatest secrets of communication. It is when a preacher loves his people that they are likely to say of him, “he understands us.”
Second, a father’s love will make us gentle in our manner. So many of us are naturally brusque and rough handed. By temperament we are neither meek nor sensitive. Yet the true father, whatever his character may be like and however strict a disciplinarian he may be, shows a certain tenderness towards his children. His love makes him gentle.
Third, a father’s love will make us simple in our teaching. With what patient simplicity does a father spell out the alphabet to his child! He humbles himself to the child’s level. He forgets his own intellectual accomplishments, his erudition, his prizes and doctorates, and is quite content to go back to the rudiments of learning for his child’s sake. We must do the same, if we would be true ‘fathers’ to our people. If we love them, our objective will not be to impress them with our learning, but to help them with theirs.
Fourth, a father’s love will make us earnest in our appeal…Earnestness is a characteristic of a father also. Can he see his children begin to go astray and remain coolly indifferent? Does he see them in danger and give them no warning? A father who loves, cares; and a father who cares will not hesitate to use entreaty if he has cause for anxiety about his children…Just as a father warns his children of danger, the faithful preacher will sometimes preach on sin, judgment and hell.
Fifthly, a father’s love will make us consistent in our example…the wise parent watches his behavior and takes great pains to set his children a good and consistent example in all things…[the pastor] is the only official representative of the Christian faith whom many of them know. They are bound to take a lead from him, not only as they listen to his sermons, but as they look at his life. He cannot give himself the luxury of unguarded moments; like his Master he is being watched all the time. It is much easier to lay down the law from the pulpit than to exemplify it at home. We find it simpler to give directions about the way than to lead others in the way ourselves.
Sixthly, a father’s love will make us conscientious in our prayers. I cannot imagine a Christian father who does not pray conscientiously for his family; yet how few preachers pray systematically for their people..Praying and preaching go hand in hand…And only love will make us thus diligent, for prayer is a hard work and secret work