"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."
C. S. Lewis

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Duty of Pastors

Saint Tikhon On The Duty of Pastors

Our father among the saints, Tikhon of Zadonsk, was born in a simple peasant family in the village of Korotsk in the providence of Novgorod, Russia, in the year 1724 A.D. He received the monastic tonsure at age thirty-four and because of his mortifications and great spiritual wisdom, soon received greater and greater service until finally he was consecrated as the Bishop of Voronezh. His episcopacy lasted for almost five years and, because of frail health, he withdrew and took up residence in the monastery of Zadonsk. He reposed peacefully in the year 1783 A.D. in Zadonsk where his miracle-working relics now repose. He was a great ascetic of the Russian Church, rare shepherd, intercessor and an author of the most beautiful spiritual works. By his wisdom, holiness and asceticism, Tikhon can be equated among the great fathers of the Orthodox Church of ancient times. Because of the many witnessed miracles over his relics, he was proclaimed a saint, at first, by the people and after that by the official church in the year 1861 A.D. He is remembered by many as the "Russian Chrysostom." (Bishop Nikolai Velimirovch, The Prologue from Ohrid)

"Do we forgive our neighbors their trespasses? God also forgives us in His mercy. Do we refuse to forgive? God, too, will refuse to forgive us. As we treat our neighbors, so also does God treat us. The forgiveness, then, of your sins or unforgiveness, and hence also your salvation or destruction, depend on you yourself, man. For without forgiveness of sins there is no salvation. You can see for yourself how terrible it is." (Journey to Heaven)


astors are here taken to mean bishops and priests. The very name pastor indicates of what sort they must be. For they shepherd not irrational, but rational, sheep of Christ, people created in the image of God and redeemed with the blood of Christ, the Son of God. Heed this, then, beloved pastor!

1. You should not seek this rank or honor, but await the calling.

2. When you are called, consider whether you are able to take up such a burden; and if you cannot bear it, do not approach it lest it weigh you down and plunge you into the abyss. He who would correct others must correct himself, he who would teach others must first teach himself. He who would shepherd and save others must watch over himself. He who would keep watch over and guard others must be good himself. He who would be a leader and show the way to others and lead them to the heavenly home must go on before himself. He by whom all should be enlightened must be a light to the world, the salt of the earth, and so on. He who would be an intercessor for others to God must first be pure and blameless himself. His own conscience must not reproach him who would reprove others for sin, lest he hear, Physician, heal thyself (Lk. 4:23). Consider these things, beloved, and do not approach burdens greater than your strength.

3. A pastor must without fail teach people, lead them to true repentance, plant the fear and love of God in men's hearts, put the fear of God's judgment in reckless and unrepentant sinners, encourage the troubled and doubtful and those inclined to despair with the mercy of God and the consolation of the Gospel, and root out superstition, schism and heresy. He must draw all this teaching from the wellsprings of Israel, the sacred books of the word of God, and transmit it to the people under him.

4. The place of teaching is the holy church; however, the pastor can and must impart his teaching in every place, wherever there may be a gathering, whenever occasion permits. In this we have as an example to all pastors Christ the Savior of the world, Who taught not only in the temple of Solomon, but also in homes, and in the desert, and in other places. Occasion will give the diligent and clever pastor a time and place to speak, as we see even in the Gospel. While sitting at table, he might speak of the table of the Kingdom of Heaven, and so on.

5. You must consider beforehand whatever you have to say to people, and think on it well, and then you may set it before the people. Food is sprinkled with salt before it is cooked, and then it is set on the table, and it is both pleasing and useful to those that eat of it. Thus a pastor must first prepare the food of the word of God within his heart, and sprinkle it with the salt of reason, and then set a spiritual table for his hungry people, otherwise the pastor might easily sin in word.

6. Because there are two kinds of people [i.e. among the flock]—those that live recklessly, and those that are humbled with the fear of God's judgment and hunger for consolation—then the pastor has an obligation to set forth in his words to those without fear the Law of God and God's judgment, and thereby lead them into true repentance and contrition; and he must give the Gospel consolation to those that are contrite and sorrowful and troubled in conscience. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15).

7. Sometimes a word of reproof must be spoken to all in general, and sometimes to some particular person. When reproof is given in general, then one may speak strictly and sharply, that sinners listening might feel the lash of fear in their hearts, and so be wakened as from the sleep of sin. We see this in the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures. But when you wish to say a word of reproof to a particular person, and it concerns a sin known both to you and to him, in that case speak carefully, lest while you treat one injury you do not open a greater wound. Seek a time and an occasion for this. There is no better occasion than when he himself confesses his sin to you. Then you may tell him everything, only speak soothingly and with sympathy, and not with anger, so that he may know that you speak out of love, and that you sincerely desire his salvation.

8. When people, whoever they may be, commit iniquity and you know it openly, take extreme care not to be silent, but everywhere reprove their iniquity in your speech, lest you be like a dumb dog that does not bark when thieves break into a house and loot it, and wolves fall upon the flock and devour it.

Stand firm, beloved, and show your pastoral work even though you must necessarily suffer. In this work you have as your examples the prophets, apostles and luminaries of Christ who lived in times of old.

9. Keep from flattering rich and exalted people that live in the luxury and pride of this world, and keep from minimizing their vices, or even worse than that, from making them out as nothing, lest instead of being a teacher you are a flatterer; but reprove every vice plainly and bear witness to the truth in every place and at all times, for you speak the word of God as a messenger of God. Let all such people know that you are their pastor and teacher, and that you must give account for them to the just Judge.

10. Avoid speaking the word of God for the sake of praise and human glory, lest you sin before God, appropriating to yourself that which is not yours. The word of God is given for the sake of men's salvation and for the glorification of God's name. One must preach it for this end. When you fittingly discharge your pastoral duty, then you will have praise though you may not wish it, however not from all. Those that are good and zealous for their salvation will love and praise you, but those that are wicked and neglectful of their salvation will hate you and revile you. You will not, then, please everyone.

11. Whatever you teach the people under you, you must first do yourself. Thus you will teach in word and deed when your manners and life are in agreement with your word. You sit in a high place and stand before all. All look at you, then, and observe what you do and say. Therefore, teach them goodness by your word and example, that they may hear from your lips a useful word, and see the example of your good life, and so they will profit by your word and life.

Beloved! Be a light to your people in word and life. Be their salt, be a leader into that homeland, and not merely a signpost by the roadside showing them the way, but go on before yourself. Guard them as a watchman, and guard yourself. Proclaim the word of God to them, but first do so yourself. Invite them to the great supper of eternal blessedness, but go on before yourself.

12. Without the help of God, the efforts of the pastor himself as well as those of the people will not be discharged or meet with success. For this reason the pastor has an obligation to pray diligently to God for himself and for the people, that He help both himself and all the people.

The Apostle portrays the virtues a pastor must be adorned with and how diligent he must be, in his First and the Second Epistles to Timothy and in the Epistle to Titus. Read them for yourself and you will see. Worthy of all acceptance is this saying, a bishop, and a priest, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, an apt teacher, no drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and no lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way (1 Tim. 3:2-4).


St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, Journey to Heaven: Counsels on the Particular Duties of Every Christian (Jordanville: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1991) pp. 110-114.

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