In Defense of the Pastor’s Study

The pastor’s study is the place where he keeps his library and his writing desk. It is the place where he meditates on the Scriptures. It is where he meets with troubled souls and where he counsels engaged couples. The study is a vital part of the pastoral ministry, where the pastor prays for the faithful and comes again to be filled with the Word of God which he will teach the faithful from the pulpit and in Bible classes. The pastor cannot teach what he does not know, and that’s why he needs his study.

When Jesus gives the command to make disciples, He specifies how His Church is to do it: by baptizing and by teaching. Teaching is not optional in the Church, and so learning is not optional for the pastor. Yes, of course, the study can be abused — as can all good things. It is very popular at a certain midwestern institution to belittle the pastor’s study as the place where confessional pastors retreat from the world and hide from their people, although I know an awful lot of confessional pastors and I have yet to meet one who actually acts that way. But to be fair, it is fun to smash straw men to bits.

Yes, the pastor needs to be among his people. Yes, the pastor needs to leave the study and go and visit people. But — be among them and do what? Visit people and do what? These people the pastor is visiting are mortal, and they’re born in sin. They will stand before God to be judged, either unto eternal life on account of Christ’s righteousness given by grace through faith or unto damnation on account of their sin. Men have other needs, too, but this is the greatest of all — salvation from death and hell. A man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the Law. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. The pastor, then, had better be sure that his words are the words Jesus sent him to proclaim.  How does the pastor do that? He studies the Word of God.

“…the word of the LORD came to [Ezekiel], saying, ‘Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.’

“So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.

“Therefore you, O son of man, say to the house of Israel: ‘Thus you say, “If our transgressions and our sins lie upon us, and we pine away in them, how can we then live?” ’ Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’” – Ezekiel 33:1-10

No pastor should hear those words without at least a little fear. This is why he must be asked at his installation, “Will you be diligent in the study of Holy Scripture and the Confessions? And will you be constant in prayer for those under your care?” What better place for both of these than the pastor’s study?