Well, this is a tricky one, isn’t it? The late Dr. John Stott’s book The Preacher’s Portrait describes five roles that a pastor-preacher fills in serving the church of Jesus Christ. The metaphor of a father is not usually applied to the role of the preacher!
Stott warns that this father-like attribute of a faithful preacher has limitations; the preacher is not to presume to exercise any sort of fatherly authority over his congregation, for such authority belongs to God alone, and not to the frail human entrusted with preach! (Matt. 23:9) However, the preacher is to treat his church as family, and relate to them with the tender-hearted kindness, understanding, and sacrifice that any good father demonstrates towards his own children. Stott’s other domestic metaphor for the preacher, the steward, refers to the preacher’s relationship to the household, particularly in his administration of the goods and stores of the master of the house. But a father’s primary role in the home is to lovingly relate to its people.
Stott writes, “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 or sickly sentimentality, but a strong, unselfish love which cares and which is not incompatible with discipline.” (1 Thess. 2:13) Only by genuinely loving those we preach to can we truly understand the daily joys, blessings, challenges, and blessings that our church members face. When a preacher gains such wisdom into the real life of the congregation, he then is fit to speak with both appropriate authority and tender affection to their specific condition.
Stott lists six aspects of such affection: understanding, gentleness, simplicity, earnestness, example, and prayer. He concludes, “We do not have this love for people by nature; we can only receive it by grace. By nature we are selfish, lazy and hungry for the praise of men. There is only one way to learn to love, and that is, to yearn for people, in St. Paul’s phrase, ‘with the affection of Christ Jesus’ (Phil. 1:8).
May our pulpits be filled by only by those who love their congregations like a father loves his children!