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A Pastor’s Reflections: Pastor’s Study or Office?

November 3, 2015

How often have you ever thought about the words we use? These days we might talk about going to church and dropping by the pastor’s office to say hello. In days gone by people would not have used this word to describe the room where the pastor worked. They would instead have talked about stopping by the pastor’s study. What’s the difference?

The historic understanding of a pastor’s role was somewhat different than what it is today. Historically, people looked at the pastor as one who was well studied in the Scriptures. His primary role was to study the word of God, spend many hours exegeting the Scriptures, in prayer, and in meditation on the word in his efforts to bring the weekly sermon. Sure, the pastor spent time with his congregation—he made regular visits with his flock, counseled, made hospital visits, and the like. But his primary task was to study the word of God. Hence, people would refer to the pastor’s study.

These days, much has changed in the broader church. People do not view the pastor as a student of Scripture but as the CEO of the church, an administrator, or a manager. In larger churches I suspect this is the case. If a church has a large staff and many elders, then the pastor likely has to spend a lot of time managing these people. This means that you would find the pastor in his office—he was not studying but rather managing.

Should the business world make such inroads into the church? Should the pastor spend most of his time managing or studying God’s word? I suppose the answer to this question all depends upon what type of pastor you want. Do you want someone who is a good manager or someone who is skilled at preaching God’s word? Personally, I think the answer is clear. The apostle Paul, for example, says little about a pastor’s managerial skills and a whole lot about his responsibilities to preach the gospel. I’m not saying that a pastor should be completely ignorant about certain management skills. Rather, management and business isn’t his main task—his bread and butter is preaching God’s word.

Maybe I’m a little too word-centered, but I can’t help but think that churches who want to communicate the nature of the pastor’s calling should appropriately label his workspace—put a sign on the door that says, “Pastor’s Study.” Such a label will let the church know that when the door is closed the pastor is inside studying God’s word—preparing to point people to Christ, the manna from heaven.