Our calling as pastors includes fighting.
I don’t mean we strap on the gloves and go toe-to-toe with our elders and congregational members. I mean, as pastors, we’re called to defend the faith.
As time passes, we will see our orthodox faith in Jesus Christ attacked more and more. We will find that the things of God are increasingly viewed with suspicion . . . addressed with cynicism . . . and, eventually, banned completely.
When we entered ministry, whether we knew it or not at the time, we entered a war zone. The pastorate is a battleground, not a playground.
This is why Paul included in his first letter to Timothy these sober commands:
Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12–13)
As pastors, it is never appropriate for us to earn a reputation as a fighter, in the sense of being argumentative or a bully. That’s the last thing the body of Christ needs—another angry, bullheaded preacher pushing his agenda.
No, here’s the type of “contender” we need to be:
- We must have a strong determination mixed with keen discernment.
- We must refuse to allow anyone to intimidate us in our convictions.
- We must fight against those things that can damage the flock.
- We must have a tough hide and a tender heart.
Paul commissioned Timothy to pastor the church at Ephesus. Interestingly, the letter Paul penned to that local body echoes with battlefield metaphors. Because our battle is a spiritual conflict, our weapons also are spiritual (Ephesians 6:11–17). May we never forget that our adversary is the devil, not our congregations. Speaking of our adversary, here are a few reminders:
- He is wily, clever, and brilliant.
- He stands against everything you stand for.
- He will despise the times you preach the truth.
- He will want you to soften your blow.
- He knows you better than you know yourself, making a study of every chink in your armor.
The battleground of ministry always reminds me of Martin Luther’s ageless hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” Take a moment now, lean back in your chair, and sing these verses out loud and clear.
And I mean sing! After all, we’re in a battle.
A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe—
His craft and pow’r are great,
And armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing,
Were not the right man on our side,
The man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He—
Lord Sabaoth His name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
And tho’ this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph thro’ us.
The prince of darkness grim,
We tremble not for him—
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure:
One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly pow’rs,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Thro’ Him Who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also—
The body they may kill;
God’s truth abideth still:
His kingdom is forever.¹
- Martin Luther, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” in The Celebration Hymnal: Songs and Hymns for Worship (Nashville: Word/Integrity, 1997), hymn 151.