I think that when many candidates for the ministry imagine life in the pastorate that they most commonly think of standing in the pulpit. True enough, preaching comprises one of the greater portions of a pastor’s responsibility—not only preaching, but preparing, studying, and honing one’s homiletic skills. However, I suspect that few think of the important role that churchmanship plays in a pastor’s ministry.
There is a running joke among many Reformed ministers about long and boring presbytery or classis meetings and the same for meetings of the general assembly or synod. To be honest, there are many times when I’ve contemplated putting a fork in my eye for entertainment purposes because the meeting of presbytery is so boring. Yes, an important point has been made, but unfortunately, not everyone has said it. This means that you often get to hear the same speech multiple times. Or, at least for me, numbers bore me to tears—hand me a financial spreadsheet and my eyes will glaze over. Any time some one gives a financial report I feel like I’m listening to the teacher in a Charlie Brown cartoon, “Wah wah wah, wonk wonk wonk.” It’s all pops and buzzes to me.
My own issues with boredom aside, I cannot stress enough the importance of good churchmanship. In other words, as boring as these meetings can sometimes be, it is vital that ministers are engaged in other levels of churchly ministry. Yes, the local congregation is important and is the most common venue where you will find a minister serving. However, important matters are often discussed and deliberated at the presbyterial and synodical levels. One of the more common ways to serve is on the various committees at the presbytery or general assembly—foreign missions, home missions, Christian education, judicial, appeals and complaints, and the like. Denominations establish committees, for example, that deal with the broader life of the church.
The United Churches of North America (URCNA) and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) are currently in the process of creating a new Psalter-Hymnal. The work of this committee is important and, if approved, will likely shape the worship and theology of the next generation. This is just one example as to how serving at the level of presbytery or general assembly can impact the life of the church. Yes, you have been called to serve in a local congregation, but you have been ultimately called by Christ to serve the church at large, and being a good churchman is one way that you can carry out this aspect of your pastoral ministry.