In part one, I looked at the function and role of a minister by looking at the Book of Church Order, the Liturgy of the Reformed Church in America, the Belgic Confession, and the Ecclesiastical Ordinances of the church in Geneva, Switzerland. The two tasks that continued to recur in each document are preaching of the Word of God and administration of the Sacraments, and these in fact are the only tasks which are specifically delegated to ministers alone.
The question that remains, however, is this: if preaching of the scriptures and the administration of the sacraments are the most important tasks of the minister, then why do I often find myself thinking, “I don’t have time for this sermon!” Now it is quite possible that this is a failing on my part, I will own up to that possibility. However, I don’t think that I’m the only one that has this experience, at least periodically.
I wonder if in the greater society, as well as in the church, there has been a dark underbelly to the professionalization of ministry. You pay a physician to diagnose and treat an illness, you pay an accountant to take care of your taxes, you pay a lawyer to answer your legal questions and take care of your legal business. But when it comes to ministers, the role is to build up people for the work of ministry, not to do all of the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12: “The gifts that he gave were that some would be…pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ”). I wonder if the professionalization of ministry has made the pastor the default person for taking care of the things that the church does (“We need to do something…have the pastor do it…that’s what we pay him/her for after all!”).
But ministers are not like other professionals. It is not the role of ministers to run the church, and it is not the role of ministers to do the “religious stuff”, and ministers are not simply purveyors of religious goods and services. I think that a major challenge to contend with is that ministers are seen as another professional. However, ministry is not another profession. Ministers have a role like no other professional. Ministers are “stewards of the mysteries of God”. Ministers study and preach the sacred scriptures, ministers administer the sacraments. Ministers build up the body of Christ for the work of ministry.
Ministers empower people to minister.
To answer my question…the most important task of the minister. This answer is in two parts: preaching of the Word, and administration of the sacraments. The sacraments are only celebrated during times of public worship, so what is the most important task for pastors “between Sundays”? Studying the scriptures. The challenge, however, is this: in a world of clergy as professionals alongside other professionals, how is this to be lived out?