This is my second interview on the series “The Blogging Pastor”. In this interview we are featuring blogging extraordinaire Dr. Jim West who is currently blogging at Zwinglius Redivivus. Dr. West is certainly by far one of the most active and renown blogger on biblical matters. I really enjoy his wit, although it took me sometime to understand his humor and sarcasm. Which is odd considering that I am a very sarcastic person myself. I think it was his Doctorate that threw me off, I suppose I just expected him to be serious all of the time. I felt like the character in 30 Rock when he said “I don’t get sarcasm I’m from Canada”. My goal is not to critique the interviews, but simple to gather some information and get a different perspective on what a Pastor should and shouldn’t be doing. As I stated before there seems to be tremendous pressure on pastors becoming managers, administrators, and so forth, while ignoring their call as Mark Stevens put it “to pray, study the scriptures, and provide people with spiritual direction”. A task that seems to be getting lost in our day and age. I hope you enjoy his strong position on various matters and are able to distinguish that from his humor 😉
Dr. Jim West is Adjunct Professor of Biblical Studies at the Quartz Hill School of Theology and Pastor of Petros Baptist Church, Petros, Tennessee. He has written a number of books and articles and serves as Language Editor for the Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament and Language Revision Editor for the Copenhagen International Seminar.
RJ: What is your role as pastor?
The same as every Pastor I suppose, to preach Scripture, not self; to encourage, exhort, and correct; to give doctrinal guidance, spiritual support, and moral support to church folk.
RJ: Are you considered the Senior Pastor, or an Associate? Or are you referred to as a different title, if so what is it?
I’m neither senior nor associate. I’m the singular pastor. Or as I prefer to say, the undershepherd; Jesus is The Shepherd.
RJ: As a pastor what are your responsibilities?
RJ: Do you conduct weddings, funerals, and provide counseling?
Only when absolutely necessary. Weddings and Funerals are, if I might say so, the most difficult aspect of pastoral ministry. Funerals for obvious reasons, and weddings because these days marriage is seen as something just as disposable as an old order of Chinese take-out. Knowing beforehand that nearly 60% of marriages in the United States are doomed isn’t good reason to be joyful. And given my disposition, counseling couldn’t possibly be described as my strong point.
RJ: If you do how much of your time is spent doing these activities?
Just the amount morally required.
RJ: How much of your time is spent doing administration?
I don’t do administration. I’m not an administrator. And I reject completely the notion that any Pastor is. The minute we see the Church as a business we start talking about ‘administration’ and ‘bottom lines’ and all that secular rubbish which has nothing at all to do with the Church.
RJ: Also do you have a paid staff that you also have to manage, and how much time does that require?
Nope. It’s just me.
RJ: Preaching and teaching, how much time are devoted to these areas?
I preach Sunday morning, Sunday night; I lead a community Bible Study mid-days on Tuesdays, and a Church Bible Study Wednesday nights. I teach the College Sunday School Class- and as you may or may not know, I also teach for Quartz Hill School of Theology (online courses). Each sermon requires no less than 10 hours of prep and each study no less than 10 as well. The online courses are individualized so there’s no way to quantify the prep and interaction.
RJ: What type of sermons do you preach, and why?
Expository only. Our task isn’t to string together a series of amusing anecdotes and funny tales to tickle our hearer’s ears: our task is to Proclaim Scripture, the Word of God.
RJ: Other than Sunday morning do you have any other services? If so what is your level of participation?
RJ: What is the approximate size of your church?
It’s around 120 feet from front to back and around 180 side to side.
RJ: How is your church leadership structured? Is it made up of paid staff or volunteers? What are their responsibilities?
There’s just me. We have Deacons, and organizations like Sunday School and Choir and Youth group and Children’s programs. And all of them are volunteers.
RJ: What sort of outreach do you do to minister to your community? Does it involve any evangelism? Social helps?
Outreach here follows the pattern set by Jesus in the Great Commission: ‘As you go, then, make disciples… etc.’ Lifestyle evangelism is what we emphasize. Naturally, lifestyle evangelism includes meeting spiritual and material needs as best we can. We do food drives and clothing drives and support our local ministry center. First and foremost, however, is the proclamation of God’s love through word and deed.
RJ: What do you enjoy most about being a pastor?
To be honest?
RJ: I have to ask, what do you least like about pastoring?
The unwavering sense that, like Cassandra, words fall on deaf ears.
RJ: If you could change somethings in your duties as a pastor what would you change, if any?
Weddings. I’d let the State see to them. 99% of the time weddings (and too many marriages) are a farce.
RJ: Do you feel that any of your current responsibilities are distractions to what you should be doing as a pastor? If yes care to elaborate?
No. The whole concept of ‘distraction’ or ‘interruption’ violates God’s Providence.
RJ: You have devoted a significant amount of your time over the years to blogging. How do you find the time, and why do you continue to commit to this forum?
I don’t sleep very much. Why do I continue to do it? Because I enjoy it and I am convinced that biblical scholarship, theological truth, and intellectual vigor and wit are sorely absent in the big wide world and as a theologian it’s my duty to do something about that.
RJ: Follow up question? Would you like to see more pastors blogging and if yes why?
No- most pastors are dreadfully boring human beings. I know I’m supposed to like them, and I do like some. But most are just tiresome souls who care more about themselves and their reputations than they do the Gospel or the truth. If more pastors blogged, more misinformation would be spread.
RJ: What are your thoughts on pastors having a higher biblical/theological education such as a Doctorate?
If Pastors don’t have at least a college degree, I have serious problems with them (because ignorance is never a virtue). If they have a Master’s in something besides biblical studies or theology or Religion, they are unfit for their office. And if they don’t have a sufficient mastery of the Biblical languages, they are similarly unsuited for their task. Interpreters of the Bible owe it to their flock to be able to read the Bible and not depend on someone else’e idea of what the Bible says.
RJ: What advise would you give a person seeking to possibly become a pastor?
Don’t do it. Unless you HAVE to do it. If such a person is truly called, they’ll know exactly what I mean. If they don’t know what I mean, they can’t possibly be truly called.
RJ: Any final thoughts?
Yes, I’d also like to see world peace before I die.
Why would anyone want to become a minister? 😉
i hate that guy. you should interview levi johnston!
Because you are called.
i can’t wait for the fun (slanderous and scandalous) comments to commence. where’s geoff hudson????
OMG, like, shut up, Jimbo! He should totally interview Justin Bieber! SQUEEEEEE!!!!!
Bieber is ordained? Now I’ve neared everything.
For future interviews I will be changing the following question from “RJ: what is the approximate size of your church?” to “RJ: Approximately how many people attend your church?” 😉
Well at least he’s serious about world peace.
i’m very serious about world peace. and- the farcical nature of too many marriages.
Robert> I thought that was a brilliant response to an often tendentious question. (And I don’t mean that you were ill-intentioned in asking it, but that some people are.)
Esteban, my only intent in asking that question is to put some perspective on the demands of a pastor, both small and large present different challenges and demands. A smaller church may actually expect more from their pastor, because they think he will have more time.
Good interview, nice pic of Jim!
I really enjoyed that, excellent interview, thanks.
Only the anti-christ would believe there will ever be world peace in this life time. I almost missed Jim’s Petros sarcasm in that statement 😉
i will admit that i knew what robert was asking when he asked about church size. but like estee, the question – to me- and i dont fault robert for it at all- bespeaks the all too pervasive ‘ya gotta have a big church or you dont matter’ mentality so pervasive in modern american christianity. we all need to go out of our way to reject and denounce and even mock the very question itself. if true ministry is to be measured by ‘results’ then we can go ahead and declare jeremiah and amos and hosea and the rest of the prophets utter failures.
Jim, I totally agree that with you ministry should not be measured by results (i.e. how many attend).
Well you raise a question. Are there any results by which one can measure themselves, or is it suffice to say so long as you are doing your pastoral responsibilities then that’s enough?
Many of the books I have read refer to a healthy church as a growing church, but is that necessarily true? Is that the only mark of a healthy church? Are these terms (i.e. healthy church) even things we should be considering? I would assume that we want our churches to grow, if for no other reason than to have new believers?
Just a point, but people rarely measure or even speak about hospital chaplain ministry. Since I am sort of semi-retired I am doing more of this. It is a forgotten work, often hard but it does have it’s blessings! And there are no numbers really there, save those that pass on.
I have always personally liked pastor Jim, or Sir Jim as I have called him, though he and I have very different political attitudes. But his eccentricity is in some ways close to my own. He must have some British genes! (I know he does) And he is finally 50! 🙂 Btw Jim, I am 61 now, got ya beat there! I will perhaps see the glory before most of you also? That is also a different measure. And we will all be “measured” there!
‘measuring’ churches and ‘determining success’ are completely up to God. completely. if God decides a ministry is a success (noah, for instance) then it is, even if no one ever responds. and if God decides a ministry is an abject failure (like Osteen and Young and the rest of the liars and charlatans) then it is, even if the whole world is stupid enough to pant after them like horses in heat.
“horses in heat” you are a very colorful preacher!
Jim, I agree. I thought of Noah (a preacher of righteousness) when I was commented before. No one got on the ark with him except his family, but he did what God asked him to do. He was obedient to his calling, and I think that is the most important thing for all us, but especially for pastors.
Part of why I was motivated to do this series is because I’m sort of tired of reading “how to have a successful church”, etc. I am hoping to get a different perspective and hopefully in the process help some pastors who may have been feeling as if they missed their calling somehow. You and Mark have provided a good perspective so far. When I am done I hope to analyze the responses and formulate a summary. But I have more interviews to do!
According to numbers, Jesus did a pretty terrible job of getting people to be true disciples. Look at how many people at Pentecost believed in one day compared to what Jesus did.
I guess that’s more of an illustration of what happens when the Holy Spirit speaks to people and that may be a terrible example, but still.
I liked what Jim said about the role of minister and marriage… Biblical history shows that marriage has always been a private / state issue and not a church one… Martin Luther said… Marrying people is a worldly issue and the church has no business being involved in it.
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