Just as Christians can never retire from serving the Lord Jesus Christ, so also we can never retire from serving other people. The work of prayerfully proclaiming Christ, his cross and resurrection is a way of life more than an occupation.
One form of this service is that of a pastor: that is a shepherd or under-shepherd of the Great Shepherd. Being a pastor involves caring for and leading a flock. We misuse the word ‘pastor’ when we confine it to ‘counselling’, especially counselling an individual. Pastoral work is different to the work of the modern counsellor and a pastor does more than care for an individual sheep; he leads a flock.
A shepherd whose flock consists of one sheep is not a very profitable shepherd. He is a hobby farmer with a pet, and the emphasis is on hobby rather than farmer and pet rather than sheep. A pastor may leave the ninety-nine to search for the one lost sheep, but his aim is to bring it back to the flock, not spend all his time caring for the one that was lost. The nature of the gospel is to bring people into fellowship with each other and the pastor is to draw them together. While the good shepherd of Ezekiel 34 and John 10 will lay down his life for the sheep, the work of the pastor in these passages is more specific than simply self-sacrifice. It involves gathering the scattered sheep into a flock, leading them to rich pasture and judging between them so that the fat sheep do not trample the lean. Pastors must care for individuals but personal work is not the same as pastoral work. Each sheep matters to the good pastor, but his task is feeding, guarding, gathering, protecting, and judging the flock as a whole.
Pastoral leadership requires going before the flock with vision and foresight, but it also requires the energy and management to move the flock into new pastures, to protect from wolves, to rule with compassionate equity and to fix the broken sheep pen. None of this is contrary to the work of gospel ministry – in fact it must flow out of the ministry of Christ’s gospel – but it is a specialised form of the ministry. The pastor has to be across all the facets and details of the congregation if he is going to lead them properly. It involves understanding the finances and the buildings, the music and the youth group, the Bible study groups and the morning tea, the outreach and the advertising. It is like running a small business alongside the work of prayerfully proclaiming the gospel.
One of the abiding problems for pastors is keeping the balance between the time and energy spent in administering the affairs of the congregation with the time and energy available to teach and preach the gospel. Over time as the church grows, and/or the energy level of the pastor diminishes, the balance shifts and adjustments need to be made either to how the pastor does his work or how the congregational life is organised. I believe we have reached that stage of development at the Cathedral and it is time for me to resign as Dean.
During the last decade the Cathedral has undergone many changes, possibly even more changes than during the last century. I wish to thank you for bearing with the alterations I brought, which I believe are now yielding fruit. This year, the two Sunday morning congregations have seen significant numerical growth and the 5pm congregation has settled into a consistent pattern having gone through much upheaval over last few years. The Healing Ministry is growing under the leadership of Chris Allan, the musical component of the Cathedral has really lifted in the last few years under Ross Cobb’s care, and our School is going from strength to strength under John Collier’s leadership. The harmony between these different ministries has never been stronger. We have also seen real growth in welcoming people from diverse ethnic backgrounds and in young families becoming part of the congregations. At last we have seen the development of not only children’s but also teenage ministries. Compared to when I started as Dean, the attendances and offertories are greater and growing. However, more importantly, the welcoming nature of the congregation, the seriousness of listening to God’s word, the concern for outsiders and the quality of our relationships have been significantly transformed. Yet, till the Lord returns, we always have further to go and grow as Christians and as congregations.
All this growth and development requires a new younger Dean with fresh energy to take us forward from here as he keeps us moving in different ways to reach the city and have a longer ministry in which to establish better patterns of church life for the future. As it is important to keep momentum going, I have indicated to the Archbishop and Chapter my intention to resign at Christmas this year in order to give them six months to appoint the next Dean. It would be wonderful if he could start his ministry in February next year, but getting the right man is more important than the right date. The process of appointing a Dean is “by the Archbishop with the concurrence of the Chapter”. The present Archbishop has invited the Chapter to share with him in the process of finding my successor. It is important that we pray for the Chapter’s wisdom as they consider this appointment.
As far as my future is concerned, I have a new job lined up in 2015 with “Two Ways Ministries”. Being freed from the varied responsibilities of Dean will allow me to serve God’s people outside the confines of one church and without the weight and distractions of being a church pastor. I have started accepting invitations to preach around Australia and overseas, and am negotiating with my publisher and other organisations about opportunities to further the work of the gospel here in Sydney and elsewhere.
“Two Ways Ministries” is a new company, which has as its objectives: “to recruit and train the next generation in preaching the gospel by teaching the Bible.” Its office is located in Moore College and Helen and I are looking forward to working with them, ministering the gospel in public and private, as we teach God’s word for as long as the Lord has in store for us. While we sadly resign from pastoral ministry and the Cathedral we can never retire from ministering the gospel and so are thrilled to have the opportunity to work for “Two Ways Ministries”.