- Tullian Tchividjian - http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian -

What Kind Of A Pastor Do Sinners Need?

Posted By Tullian Tchividjian On December 6, 2012 @ 12:34 pm In Uncategorized | 21 Comments

[1]Sinclair Ferguson answers this question from his Marrow Controversy Lectures:

But when your people come and have been broken by sin and have fallen into temptation and are ashamed to confess the awful mess they have made of their life, it is not a Calvinistic pastor who has been sanctified by vinegar that they need. It is a pastor that has been mastered by the unconditional, free grace of God. It is a pastor from whom ironclad orthodoxy has been torn away and the whole armor of a gracious God has been placed upon his soul-the armor of one who would not break the bruised reed or quench the dimly burning wick.

You see, my friends, as we think together in these days about a Godly pastor we have to ask, what is a Godly pastor? A Godly pastor is one who is like God, who has a heart of free grace running after sinners. The Godly pastor is the one who sees the prodigal and runs and falls on his neck and weeps and kisses him and says, “This my son was dead, he was lost and now he is alive and found.”

Pastors, when sinners are drowning (and trust me…they are!), don’t tell them to paddle harder and kick faster. Throw them the life-line of amazing grace.

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21 Comments To "What Kind Of A Pastor Do Sinners Need?"

#1 Comment By Mitchell Hammonds On December 6, 2012 @ 12:43 pm

Great post Tullian! You pot stirrer you!!

#2 Comment By G & N On December 6, 2012 @ 1:55 pm

I love this painting and insight.

Praying that you and your family have a wonderful & peaceful Dec/Christmas and new year 2013.

#3 Comment By Jeff Pierce On December 6, 2012 @ 1:55 pm

Amen, Tullian! As a fellow reformed pastor who has followed your recent dialogues regarding this topic and who has often found himself in similar battles, I am increasingly grateful for others who are unashamadly and unrelentingly holding forth the Gospel of grace. Thanks for your commitment to a truly Gospel-centered view of sanctification. I’m finding that it is making all the difference in my shepherding ministry. In my own counseling, I am learning to counsel with promises, not prescriptions and I’ve been amazed to see how God is liberating my counselees as a result. God bless, brother!

#4 Comment By Ed Nugent On December 6, 2012 @ 3:05 pm

Thanks for the great post! I needed it today.

I just heard from a parishioner that our church needs to get off the grace wagon and get back to “personal accountability”. I suppose he thinks too much grace is dangerous and only produces lazy Christians. His solution is personal accountability, which is just another way of saying more LAW.

Grace is dangerous, but it is not dangerous in the way he thinks. It is dangerous to the identity of good religious people. They believe that it makes their personal piety less valuable and diminishes all of their moral efforts and good works.

The only true motivation to serve, to give, to love and to forgive is in response to the fact that Jesus has served me, given to me, loved me and forgiven me! And we get to proclaim this message to our brothers and sisters that don’t yet know it or believe that it’s true.

Thanks again for the post.

#5 Comment By theoldadam On December 6, 2012 @ 4:06 pm


Pour the law on that parishioner. Are they reading THEIR bible enough. Are they praying enough? Going to visit the prisoners in the jails? Going to the nursing homes? Living on a thin margin of income and giving the rest to the poor?

Pour on that accountability. Then he/she might get real and realize that they need a Savior and not a spiritual aerobics instructor.

#6 Comment By Mitchell Hammonds On December 6, 2012 @ 4:11 pm

I heard Kim Riddlebarger say once that in Romans the Apostle Paul’s instructions to Christians is to realize this… you are justified before God. What that realization alone does for those who struggle to gain assurance is priceless.
The thought that God has actually done this legal work for me… not just provided an “opportunity” for me, but actually did it! He didn’t wink at sin… he satiated his own justice! Creates us new through his own means of grace and promises to complete the work He began in us in the first place. Now… I get to live. Be a husband, father, co-worker, and a downright decent golfer. Who knows, maybe I’ll get a chance to say something about this grand news that God has already given His last word on our sin. They may even ask where I attend church and I’ll tell them that as well. Or… they may not. It isn’t called “Good News” for nothing!!

#7 Comment By Julie B. On December 6, 2012 @ 5:21 pm

Yes. Yes. Yes!

#8 Comment By Heather Marsten On December 7, 2012 @ 8:55 am

I agree, grace changes things. Grace gives us the empowerment to grow more Christ-like. I gave up on God when I was eight and didn’t want a relationship with any Father God. I hated God. Words like Jesus loves you almost caused me to spit. I spent forty years doing anything and everything I could that was not of God – and the sins were multiple, from sexual to occult. God began to deal with me and dropped into my spirit (although I didn’t know it was from God) to give God one last chance and read the Bible. He then led me to a wonderful pastor who didn’t flinch when I went in to his office and said, “But Pastor Don, I’m a good witch.” We began by looking at my past (he was seeking the father wound) and he began to introduce me to God. He was not soft on sin but he was big on grace. The two are not mutually exclusive. My Bible became permanently creased at 1 John 1:9. But at the same time, we explored passages that showed me how repulsive the occult was to God. And he explained in terms I could understand how satan could fool me into thinking I was doing good when I was really not being pleasing to God. We explored the sexual sins and he would grill me to make sure I had changed. It took two years before I could come to God. It was not an easy journey, but without a grace-filled pastor, I would have probably run not walked to the nearest exit of the church.

#9 Comment By Jim McNeely On December 7, 2012 @ 11:33 am

I love this! I love theological debate but this point can get lost in the shuffle. God’s heart is for sinners; it is the sick who need a physician. However you cross your t’s anddot your i’s, people need grace all the time. Thank you!!!!

#10 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 7, 2012 @ 12:11 pm

Amen and amen! Let them know they have only begun to enjoy the bottomless grace of God’s forgiveness and of their eternally settled righteousness in Christ! THEN teach them who they are as risen ones and teach them HOW to paddle–How to truly “walk in the Spirit” so that they will experience God’s promise in Galatians 5: “This I say, the, walk in the Spirit and you WILL NOT fulfill the lusts of the flesh!” Not perfection, but joyous growth in the dance found in our union with Christ.

#11 Comment By David Gibbs On December 7, 2012 @ 12:45 pm

Thanks for the post. I shared it with some other pastors, hoping it might provide some wind in their tired sails.

#12 Comment By Dave “Padre Dave” Poedel, STS On December 8, 2012 @ 5:31 pm

Your site was sent to me by a brother Society of the Holy Trinity (Lutheran) Pastor and I very much like what I read about what kind of Pastor a sinner needs. A sinner as sanctified as he wants his parishioner to become is where I like to start. A Pastor who does not find realization of sin to be but a memory but a present struggle is nice too….but most of all a sinner needs a Pastor who has an intimate usage of the Means of Grace: the proclaimed Gospel in the Absolution (the pronouncement of which refers to the fact that Jesus’ death on the Cross is wage He paid) and the administration of the precious Eucharist.

For some of my folks (those whose attendance is not too regular) I sometimes wait for the Eucharist until the next Sunday or Wednesday so that they receive the community aspect of the Sacrament, but for those whose wounds are so raw, I will often take the penitent to the altar and commune with them, showing and demonstrating my solidarity with them as a redeemed sinner.

The medicine of immortality is for the mortal!

#13 Comment By Mitchell Hammonds On December 9, 2012 @ 3:29 pm

If you want to ruin the message of the gospel and all of its sweetness simply tell a new believer what he should be feeling or doing. Adverbs are also one of the great enemies of the Gospel of Christ.

#14 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 9, 2012 @ 5:34 pm

Mitchell, that is why Paul spends three chapters in Ephesians, two in Colossians and eleven in Romans explaining our riches in Christ before he gives a single practical command!

#15 Comment By Christiane On December 9, 2012 @ 9:37 pm

What kind of a pastor do sinners need? St. Ambrose gave this some thought in the 4th Century:

“For he who endeavours to amend the faults of human weakness ought to bear this very weakness on his own shoulders, let it weigh upon himself, not cast it off.
For we read that the Shepherd in the Gospel (Luke 15:5) carried the weary sheep, and did not cast it off.
And Solomon says: “Be not overmuch righteous;” (Ecclesiastes 7:17) for restraint should temper righteousness. For how shall he offer himself to you for healing whom you despise, who thinks that he will be an object of contempt, not of compassion, to his physician?

Therefore had the Lord Jesus compassion upon us in order to call us to Himself, not frighten us away. He came in meekness, He came in humility, and so He said:
“Come unto Me, all you that labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.” (Matthew 11:28) So, then, the Lord Jesus refreshes, and does not shut out nor cast off, and fitly chose such disciples as should be interpreters of the Lord’s will, as should gather together and not drive away the people of God.

Whence it is clear that they are not to be counted among the disciples of Christ, who think that harsh and proud opinions should be followed rather than such as are gentle and meek; persons who, while they themselves seek God’s mercy, deny it to others . . .”

St. Ambrose (circa 330 – 4 April 397)

#16 Comment By Mitchell Hammonds On December 10, 2012 @ 7:37 am

“Feeling” has nothing to do with practicality Scott. You’re confusing our emotional and personal response with being the point. You sound more like a pietists than anything. However you may interpret Paul in the end “living” as a proper response to your “going and giving to the poor” mentality… not that there is something wrong with giving. But your response may or may not be someone else’s response; be it emotionally or practically. By living I mean being a husband/wife, mother/father, son/daughter, co-worker etc… knowing God is using you/I through our different vocations. How’s that for practicality. You’re seeking some glorified version of “you” before God is ready to reveal it; which incidentally will be at your physical death and completed at the resurrection. I love practical. I’m practical everyday.

#17 Comment By Scott Leonard On December 10, 2012 @ 9:27 am

Mitchell, I am confused as to how you could construct that kind of response to the statement I made above in agreeing with you! Your comment was that if you lay a bunch of “shoulds” on new Christians, you can discourage growth. I agreed, and said that’s why Paul spends all his initial teaching on showing us our riches in Christ.

#18 Comment By Mitchell Hammonds On December 10, 2012 @ 12:50 pm

My bad then Scott. I read into your statement something totally different.

#19 Comment By Jeff Baxter On December 12, 2012 @ 12:07 pm

Thank you for posting Tullian. It is always a hard balance to provide God’s grace and hold the line of Truth, but may we strive for both.

#20 Comment By Todd Van Voorst On December 13, 2012 @ 5:18 pm

this is profound and simple all wrapped up in living, loving, and learning the Gospel.


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