One of the most important things we can pray for our pastors is that they will recognize and fulfill their God-called responsibility of availability to the people whom He entrusts to their care.
In the original language of Scripture, the word pastor means shepherd. Involvement is the primary duty of shepherds. In Biblical days, shepherds lived with their flock, and so closely bonded to their sheep that they literally smelled like them. Just as the Great Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, became the Lamb of God, so did faithful servants of the flock devote themselves to their charge with a dedication so complete that they became a part of the flock.
"For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare Thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee" (Hebrews 2:11-12).
In this light, preaching cannot be considered as the first responsibility of pastors. Again, availability is the first responsibility. The pastor must present himself to God, and upon the basis of such consecration, to people. He must acknowledge that to whatever degree the Lord enables and makes possible, he will be there for his people. He will not neglect his own family, if he has one, and he will recognize that his pastoral role begins in his own home. However, he understands that his life is not his own, and that the high calling of lowly servanthood means that involvement, identification, compassion, and a listening, caring, and available heart must chiefly characterize his ministry.
There is a sense in which a man must earn his place in the pulpit. By this, we do not discount the truth that God's callings are all of the most amazing grace and mercy. We rather propose that the pastor who merely wants to preach is no pastor at all in the Biblical sense. Shepherds do not merely speak to their sheep. No, they live with them and are there for them. As it were, they smell like them. The path to the pulpit passes through the pasture where the flock lives and dies, rejoices and cries, overcomes and fails, arises and makes its journey in a treacherous world. No man who avoids the pasture is worthy of the pulpit. Let us therefore pray for our pastors that they will understand and accept their primary calling, and then preach to a people whom first they have loved.
"Being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. For ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail: for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe . As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children."
(I Thessalonians 2:8-11)