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A Biblical Theology of the Pastoral Role

As a college student, I find the one most frequently asked of me is, “What’s your major? “At first, I thought it was quite normal to answer that I was in the Moody Bible Institute pursuing a pastoral major. But after going through this exercise a hundred times, I came to the conclusion that when I use it nobody has any idea what I am talking about the word “pastor”.  The responses are extremely varied.  “You mean you’re going to be a priest? “Or,” There’s such a thing in a school?” “Or, ‘ You are a pastor already, we are all pastors in the Lord ‘ and even, ‘ Your father must have been a priest, right? ‘ Unfortunately this culture has become very confused about the pastor’s position and existence.

Most of the previous conversations were with unbelievers, so I hope we should cut them off some slack over their church ignorance. When we turn our attention to the church, it would be my hope that we will find a better understanding of who the pastor is to be. But as many people know, that’s far from the truth. Every church I come into seems to have a radically different definition of the word pastor.  I was initially tempted to shrug this off as a matter of differences in personality. But I find that many church leaders follow the examples of other prominent Bible teachers to “surpass” their own personalities emulate what they view as a “good pastor”.

A Biblical Theology of the Pastoral Role

Any pastoral ministry book today will reflect the current trend towards ministry pragmatism: if it seems to work, then it must be the right way to do things. Every Christian today has opportunities to view and experience the ministry through radio, television, videos, and magazines from the country’s most thriving churches. Through this, great pressure is coming upon our church leaders. People from their congregations learn about the “successful” ministries happening in such-and-such a church, and they want their own pastor to imitate these. Joseph M. Stowell writes in his book Shepherding the Church, “As shepherds, we are overwhelmed by demands to develop our ministries in ways that provide incredible opportunities for growth We are at the forefront of our profession, keeping us from feeling old and stodgy and living well on our own glory this is a necessity to be constantly changing in order to effectively reach specific people at particular times. But the danger is that in creating and adapting to new forms we can easily loose our substance. This is the dilemma which the church is in today. The effective ministry is seen as the one that builds the greatest sanctuary, has the most age-specific programs, and distributes its teachings through the most media forms. The successful pastor is the one who has the largest church, he has gone to the best seminary in his denomination, developed the most eloquent preaching style, written the many books, and the largest number of conferences were spoken.  Where is the standard for pastoral ministry?

Does the word “pastor” mean anything?  In some churches, every ministry has a “pastor.” There is the senior pastor, the assistant senior pastor, the family pastor, the children’s pastor, the women’s pastor, the worship pastor, the visitation pastor, the operations pastor, the business pastor, the mission’s pastor, the parking pastor, the counseling pastor. A friend of mine joked that we could call the church landscaper a “pasture pastor”. The word has been stripped of meaning, and now is basically a connotation for: anyone whose work pertains to the church. This is the understanding shared by many Christians I know.  They claim that because we are all supposed to be doing the work of the ministry, and because we all share in the priesthood, therefore everyone is a pastor. While that may seem very noble and righteous at first, we find that this belief undermines the authority of the leaders of the church. If I am just as much a priest as my church leader, then why should I agree to their rectification? Maybe the “fellowship” I have with my other Christian friends satisfies me such that I don’t need to attend church. In fact, I might know what I need more than my pastor does, so I’ll find a church that fits my “needs” better. Why should I go along with the changes the senior pastor is making when I know that other people in the church disagree with his leadership? While I do strongly support full participation of all believers in the work of the ministry, I think the office of “pastor” needs to be reclaimed, and guarded carefully.

I believe that the Church disregarded the Biblical for pastoral service because they were misled into thinking that these s would be ineffective today and that better odds have been discovered. I speak not in judgment over such individuals, for how many times have I doubted the word of God and considered my own plans to be superior? Sadly, I confess that I am lured by the persuasion of popular wisdom and odds at times as well.  But let us all seek repentance and confess that, “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the soft stuff of the world to put the mighty to shame “(I Cor. 1:27). Let us carry out pastoral ministry in such a way that the faith of the people would be not in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (I Cor. 2:5).

The word “pastor” originates from the Greek poimena that means shepherd..  I find this to be the most prominent and comprehensive metaphor for pastoral ministry found in Scripture.  “The shepherd image is one of the few applied exclusively to leaders, and not to members of the community as a whole.  Therefore it becomes a very important image for understanding what is distinctive about the role of leadership.”  In the Old Testament, God’s people are often referred to as sheep.  “Israel is a scattered sheep” (Jer. 50:7) and, “All we like sheep have gone astray” (Isa. 53:6).  In this passage, Jesus clearly shows Himself to be the perfect Shepherd. In couture, the current trend is to find your own path and to discover truth for yourself, to be independent.  The idea of having someone watching over you and leading you is not very popular, and least of all directing your inner life.  Because of this, many Christians have taken Jn. 10:11 That is, Jesus is our only Shepherd, and we need only look to Him for care and guidance. We find that the New Testament is very clear about the need for human shepherds, and this is one of the church’s principal functions. The conversation that our risen Lord has with Peter in Jn. 21 is very important in this matter.  We see Jesus clearly presented earlier in the Gospel of John as the Shepherd of His People. 21 This Jesus bequeathed this responsibility to Peter. Jesus uses a word in verses 15 and 17 which simply means feeding goats. That alone would lead us to perceive the pastoral position as special and authoritative. “A term like shepherd reminds us that even on the human level, some are responsible to lead while others follow, some have authority while others are called to respond to that authority. “There are people who are being fed if there is a feeder and those positions are clearly distinct. In verse 16, Jesus the sheep’s great shepherd asks Peter,” Tend (poimaine) my sheep This is the verb form of the word shepherd, and the passage could easily be rendered, “Shepherd My sheep”.  So here we have a very clear passage in which Jesus places the work of shepherding His people upon the shoulders of men.  This is the cornerstone of New Testament pastoral ministry and should not be taken lightly.  See here that Jesus is not merely commanding Peter to work, He is giving him the authority with which to do the work as well.  Peter would forever be able to defend his ministry and say that the Lord Jesus had Himself charged Peter to shepherd the people of God.  With so many forces working to undermine the authority of pastors today, we must take heed to these words.  The pastoral role is God ordained.

We find a very fitting statement from Peter in I Pet. 5:2-4, “Shepherd, the flock of God that is in your midst, serving as overseers, not by coercion, but gladly, not for dishonest benefit, but eagerly; nor as overseers; those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of glory that does not fade away.”  Peter is To deliver to the next generation of shepherds the same commission which he received personally from Jesus. It is important to learn from Jesus’ and Peter’s words that they are the sheep of God, and have been entrusted to us. Peter also tells us that Christ is the chief shepherd and hence our practice as shepherds. This relationship Paul had in mind when he said, “Imitate me, even as I also imitate Christ” (I Cor. 11:1).

What then is a shepherd and what is the example which Christ gave us to follow? It should be stated first, that if we are shepherds, then indeed the people of God are sheep, and this metaphor is just as comprehensive for the sheep as it is for the shepherd. Shepherds exist because the sheep have needs. These are needs which do not get properly met meet if the sheep are left to themselves. Looking at Psalm 23 from the perspective of the sheep gives us great insight into the needs of God’s flock. The sheep need rest and they need to be given food and drink which is safe for them, because they easily harm themselves in search of nourishment (v.2).  They wander away and get lost, needing a shepherd to seek them out and restore them (v.3). They need to be shown the correct way, not merely by explanation, but being led by the shepherd. The shepherd walks before the sheep (v.3).  The sheep need a comforter in troubled times, they need someone who will not leave them to suffer alone (v.4).  They are apt to being stolen away by thieves or eaten by lions. The shepherd is to be a watchful protector of the sheep (v.4). The main functions of the shepherd which we see from Psalm 23 are: feeding, seeking, restoration, teaching, leading, comforting, and protecting. I believe that this is exactly what Jesus had in mind when he said, “Shepherd My sheep” (Jn. 21:16). We find the pastoral epistles are filled with commands and instruction to carry out these specific tasks and that every role of the New Testament pastor has its roots in the shepherd metaphor.

There is confusion with some about the various titles of authority in the church. One that is clear, is deacon. This office is introduced in Acts 6.  Although the word for deacon is not used there, it is clear that the office was established at that time. It is helpful to our discussion to see that deacons were chosen because, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables” (Ac. 6:2). The deacons were appointed in order that the apostles could give themselves completely to prayer and to the ministry of the Word (Ac. 6:4). I find this to be evidence against commissioning “pastors” to every work of the church ministry. Biblically I think they should be considered deacons, and that the distinction is important in placing greater honor on the pastoral role.  But even in the case of deacons, their identification is valuable, because they are not merely volunteers, they are given an office with authority to carry out their part of the ministry.

The other titles of church leadership are bishop, elder, and pastors.  As we have seen, the word pastor is synonymous with the word shepherd.  One of the components of the shepherding role is oversight, and this is literally what the word bishop means in the Bible. It is very safe to say that a words pastor and overseer (bishop) are not separate offices. Peter writes, “God’s flock shepherd … working as overseers” (I Pet. 5:2).  But might there be a difference between elders and pastors? The apostle Paul writes in Eph. 4:11, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.” The list of top church offices here appears to be quite exhaustive and matches up with I Cor. 12:28.  The term for elder is absent from this passage completely.  I think Ac can safely say it. 15:23, Tit. 1:5-7, Phi. 1:1, and I Tim. 5:17 that the term elder, pastor, and bishop are used of the same office and if any distinction exists, it is in the functions and not the office, because one person can be an elder, pastor, and bishop at the same time. Two things are sure: there are to be overseers, and there are to be deacons (Phi. 1:1).

            It’s not what you do — It’s what you’ve got

As we are looking for a clear view of the Biblical role of the pastor, I wish to clarify now that the pastor is defined not by what he does but what he possesses.  It is unusual today to hear anyone describing themselves by anything other than their work and accomplishments.  This is particularly common in men.  Ask any person, who are you?  Describe yourself.  And they will respond by telling you where they work, how they keep themselves busy, how they are different from other people by the things they do.  I believe the Bible teaches clearly that we are to root our identity in what we have and not what we do.  What is it that the pastor has specifically?

A. He possesses godly character and abilities that meet the high qualifications of Scripture

                        “For an overseer must be blameless…” (Tit. 1:7).

B. He has a desire to be a pastor from within.

                        “Shepherd the flock of God […] not by compulsion, but willingly…” (I Pet. 5:2).

C. He has received the authority by which to carry out his ministry.

D. He has received confirmation from other Godly men of his pastoral calling.

                        “For the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord” (I Cor. 9:2).

E. He has an appointment from another elder or elders to lay hold of this responsibility.

                        “So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended then to the Lord in whom they had believed (Ac. 14:23).

F. God has given him a flock to shepherd.

                        “Shepherd the flock of God […] entrusted to you” (I Pet. 5:2-3).

If the pastoral role is so significant then, what people should be pastors, and what qualifications do they need?  The qualifications are explicitly stated in I Tim. 3:1-7 and Tit. 1:7-9.  These two lists were originally given to Timothy and Titus respectively in order that they might appoint men to be pastors.  There are many other verses which apply to pastors, but these two are most instructive because we are using them for the exact purpose for which they were written.  I Tim. 3 is the most frequently used passage in discussing qualifying, (or disqualifying), for pastoral ministry.  Some have debated about this list, saying that these same qualifications must apply to all believers, not just the pastors.  While it is true that all Christians should pursue the righteous character described here, in order to be a pastor, one must possess this character.  Because they are so plainly stated in I Tim. 3:1-7 and Tit. 1:7-9 I will not list them individually, but only point out some overarching themes and a couple debated issues.

  1. Blameless – This word appears in both lists.  It should be seen as the ultimate qualification for pastors and that from which all the others flow.  This includes a good testimony both within and without the church.
  2. Temperate – This one word encompasses most of the pastoral qualifications.  Temperateness is freedom from passions, keeping your head by avoiding violence, anger, arguments, and alcohol.  This comes through self-control and creates the watchfulness which is necessary in a pastor.  If a man is tangled in his own sinful passions, how will he rescue others from theirs?
  3. Lover of the Good – The pastor must love that which is holy and just.  He needs to have his love set on that which is good instead of money, renown, and worldly things that may tempt him by covetousness.  The love of the good will lead to a hatred of evil as well.  “The Lord loves those who hate evil” (Ps. 97:10).
  4. Exemplary Home and Family – The way he manages his home and treats his family will show if he is fit to take on the greater responsibility of the flock of God.  This is where he should learn gentleness and hospitality as well.  “If anyone does not provide…especially for his own family he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (I Tim. 5:8).
  5. Teaching Ability – A pastor must be able to teach.  He must also be faithful to the word of God, and be a teacher by example of his own obedience to the word.
  6. Tested and Experienced – A novice is not qualified as a pastor.  A novice is more likely to fall into pride and self-will.  But the tested man will understand that his ministry is a stewardship and carry it out in humbleness.

One of the areas of debate is the gender of pastors.  It is strongly assumed by the Biblical authors in all of the passages about pastors that they be men.  The passage in I Tim. 3 is directly preceded by a lengthy argument against women teaching men, “I permit no women to teach or to have authority over a man” (2:12). But this is one of the few instances where a natural, literal, historical interpretation of the Bible is sometimes discarded.  Two basic arguments exist against taking this prohibition literally. The first teaches that Paul’s statement is grounded so fully upon the oral context of the times, that now as the  sure has changed, the verse does not apply. This argument is based on the educational and social status women, which has radically changed in recent times. The other argument says that Paul’s prohibition was rooted in an attempt to counteract some Gnostic heresies of the day. The Gnostics of Paul’s day tended to elevate women as supreme instruments of revelation through a reinterpretation of Adam and Eve’s story, fashioning Eve into a for giving Adam the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. This belief teaches that Paul certainly meant what he said, but that the reason he stated his words so strongly was because he was fighting heresy. I have not had enough time to develop a detailed defense of my own views yet. I believe the most important statement Paul makes on the matter is, “I do not permit a woman to…have authority over a man” (I Tim. 2:12).  Paul makes a lengthy development upon this in I Cor. 11:2-15.  Women should not be permitted to do anything which places them in authority over grown men, and as I have been stating, the pastoral role is a role of great authority. I understand well the unpopularity of these words, and I dare not say such things but by the word of God.  I believe that women should not be pastors. I believe the surge of support for women pastors today stems from the corruption of the definition of the pastoral role which we are addressing.

Another key issue from I Tim. 3 is the issue of marriage and divorce. Paul writes that a bishop must be a “one woman man” (3:2).  This passage has been taken so literally as to prohibit unmarried pastors, and so ignored as to require celibacy for pastors. What a confused state the church is in!  The context does not offer much assistance in interpreting these words, but there are basically four ways to view this verse. Paul’s concern may have been: 1) Concerned with monogamy and against in particular; 2) Concerned with divorce and the reputation of the pastor, indicating that he must have no history of divorce; 3) Concerned with marital status, indicating that the pastor must be married; 4) Concerned about the character of faithfulness in the pastor.  I find it very clear that a pastor may have been divorced before becoming a Christian, just as he could have been a thief, a drunkard, a brawler, an inhospitable, and despicable man. If in becoming a Christian, we are still left wounded from our life in the flesh, what did Christ suffer for?  “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was smitten for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and we are healed by his stripes” (Isa. 53:5).  This is clear as well from I Cor. 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”  This is also seen in Rev. 21:7-8 where, “cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, usually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in [hell]”. Obviously Christians will have committed these sins just as all men do before they are saved.  Once we are saved, these things are dealt with.  Robert L. Saucy explains the extremely visual practices of there at the time First Timothy was written and says, “The qualification of ’husband of one wife’ would not mean that the person has never sinned in this area, but that […] they had been purified in these areas so that now they were faithful to their one wife.”  I have found no Biblical grounds for holding any person to sins committed before conversion.  This does away with view two.  The Bible is already so clear about only having one wife that it is foolish to think that Paul’s main concern here was denouncing, so view one is ruled out.  The idea that a pastor must be married, while noble, does not find support in scripture. The Apostle himself was celibate, so it would be very unlikely that he would be teaching his own disqualification here. This leaves us only with view four, concerned with the faithful spirit of the pastor, taking a very figurative interpretation of the text. I support a combination of the second and fourth view. I believe that most divorce occurring after becoming a Christian is sufficient to disqualify a man from the pastoral office.  But I think that the heart issue of faithfulness is more the concern here. Because, “God tests the hearts” (Ps. 7:9), I do not think it is correct to disqualify all from being pastors who have divorced since believing in Christ. Most instances are probably sufficient to disqualify a man, but I think we must evaluate carefully and allow that there may be some circumstances in which the divorce was unavoidable.

Possessing the proper qualifications is a good starting place in evaluating a man’s fitness for the pastoral office. But if he has the qualifications without the proper desire, the consequences upon himself and the flock will be disastrous.  I Tim. 3:1 says, “If a man desires…” inferring that he should desire the work and position.  I Pet. 5:2 says, “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, serving as overseers, not by force, but gladly, not for dishonest benefit, but with anxiety.” Two errors are shunned by Peter. Those who do not desire the role should not take the role, and secondly those who desire the role of the wrong reasons should not take the role.  The word compulsion implies doing the job against your own will.  There may be situations in which there is great need and a person might feel pressed into service out of necessity. There are other situations where some may place so much pressure upon a man to become the pastor, that it is against his own wishes.  Both of these are harmful. The other error addressed by Peter and others in the New Testament is taking the office for personal gain.  One must desire the position of pastor for the benefit of the sheep and not himself.  Jesus addresses this topic in John chapter ten.  He compares His care for His own sheep with the care of a shepherd who is hired to look after the flock. Jesus says, “Whoever is not the shepherd, whoever does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming, leaves the sheep and flees [ … ] The hireling, because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep” (Jn. 10:12-3).  The focus of Jesus’ teaching here is that His care for the sheep is superior because He Himself owns them.  A pastor serving by compulsion or the desire for personal gain is not going to take ownership of the sheep seriously.  When times get hard, they will probably flee.  This is why the desire for pastoral ministry is a necessity to those who will hold the office.  They will love the sheep as their own.

The correct desire for the pastoral office and work should also be viewed as the personal calling from God.  To desire to be a pastor, in full understanding of what the work and responsibility demands, it a very good indication of a personal calling from God.  We should be able to confess with Paul, “I will very gladly spend and be spend for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved” (II Cor. 12:15).  If we cringe at such words, we show our lack of godly desire for the care of God’s flock.  Another way that God delivers His call to pastors is through His word.  For most Christians, many of the passages which make the foundation of this paper seem irrelevant to them.  Chapter three of First Timothy, is to many people a chapter to skip over.  But the one who is called to pastoral ministry will be delighted by these same words, because God has put it upon his heart to gain such character.  The Pastoral Epistles will be well read by them, and many will see themselves as a young Timothy.  These should be seen as evidence of God’s calling upon their life.

I have stated earlier the importance of authority in the pastoral role. Even Jesus did not speak and minister on His own authority, but He made the point to teach that, “I can do nothing on My own authority” (Jn. 5:29). I did not realize until studying the authoritative aspect of pastoral ministry, that many Christians will cringe when I use this phrase.  In fact there is so much distaste for this subject that I am hard pressed to find many Evangelical writings about leadership authority in the Christian church. I am too ignorant on this matter to speak with much insight, but I have observed clearly that many parts of the Christians church have retreated so far as to say that pastors have no unique authority.  I believe this is rooted mostly in fierce reaction to the Catholic doctrine of Papal authority. When I use verses like Jn. 21:16 to enforce the authority placed on the shoulders of the pastor today, do not misunderstand me and think that I intend for the Apostolic authority given to Peter to literally transfer to pastors, as if pastors could call themselves apostles and write us some new epistles, (like Catholic tradition). But I certainly do not believe that the church leadership had authority for only one generation. I believe that Christians have mistaken Sola Scriptura to mean that we have no need of leadership anymore because we have the written word of God.  If this is true then why does Peter bother to say, “Shepherd the flock of God” (I Pet 5:2) to the next generation of elders? Wouldn’t they be able to shepherd themselves? Robert L. Saucy thinks that they can govern themselves once they have the Bible, “There is no ministry which rests on a special group; it belongs to the entire church.” I believe that teaching like this is exactly why we have lost the Biblical role of the pastor today.  In order to minister effectively Christians must have the commission and authority of Christ given to them.  At first Christ gave authority to the twelve, “He gave them power and authority” (Lk. 9:1); Then He gave authority to the seventy, “The Lord also appointed seventy others” (Lk. 10:1); Then he commissions the eleven in this way, “All authority has been given to Me, in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore…” (Matt. 28:18-9).  Not one man in the Bible ever does the will of God without His authority, which comes through His appointment.  I am arguing here for a clear Biblical understanding that God has given shepherds special responsibilities, and because the work is delivered through His command, we are delivered the authority needed to fulfill our ministry.  Without this, any ministry will be in vain.

Even secular forms of leadership will all agree that leadership is impossible without authority. The question is, “Where does our authority rest?“ A Pastor must be very familiar with the word of God which gives authority to the pastor, otherwise he will be weakened and feel like a story-teller and one who suggests good teaching, rather than a shepherd appointed by Christ, leading the flock by the authority of God. The other error, more common today, is the study of the business world and psychology in order to find the right techniques which gain authority with the people you lead.  Let all of our faith rest upon Christ, and the words given by Him, “Shepherd My sheep” (Jn. 21:16).

The calling and appointment of a pastor does not happen in a vacuum. Paul writes in I Tim. 3:10, “Let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless.” It is inferred clearly here that overseers are to be tested just as deacons are. Who else would be testing the candidate than the church to which he already belongs? I think it clear that the calling of those whom are appointed to the pastoral office will already be confirmed by Christians who know them. I believe that if a person’s calling to the pastoral office seems improper to those who know them, then there would be good reason to see that they are further tested before appointing them.  One qualification Paul lists in I Timothy is a good reputation.  A good reputation takes time to build and should be a major indicator of one’s calling to pastoral ministry.  But as with these other elements, this confirmation must not stand alone.  A person could certainly be gifted and well spoken of who has not been called to the office, and to appoint him would be a dreadful mistake.

Appointment is one elder or elders selecting and commissioning a new man into the office of elder. A great example of this is in Acts 14:21-23.  Paul and Barnabas are here returning to cities which they had already preached in. These places had new Christians that had been saved through the preaching of Paul earlier in his missionary travels.  Paul and Barnabas now return here to set leaders for them.  “And having chosen elders in every church, and having prayed fasting, they commended them to the God in whom they believed” (14:23).  The selection and appointment of elders should not been seen as independent of the other elements listed here. Millard Erickson writes, “In selecting people to rule the church, the people were conscious of confirming, by their external act, what the Lord had already done.” This means that God must have already been at work in the man’s life, qualifying him and confirming his calling through others. I believe that appointing men to the office of elder is mainly a matter of authority and protection.  It is a very rare occasion in the Bible when leaders are selected for service to God without the interaction of other Godly men.  I believe this is a matter of authority because it will be evidence to those whom this pastor shepherds, that other leaders in the church recognized him as fit and called unto the ministry. In the Old Testament there are many examples. Moses is more directly appointed by God, but even in his case God told him, “Go, gather the elders of Israel together” (Ex. 3:16) so that his ministry would still be in submission to the other elders of God’s people. Moses was God’s instrument in appointing Aaron and his sons to the priesthood (Lev. 8-9). Moses appointed Joshua (Deut. 31:7-8).  Samuel was used by God to appoint David as king of Israel (I Sam 16:13).  Even after a time when kingship and priesthood was lost and confused, God used the King of Babylon to commission Ezra in returning to Jerusalem where he led the people (Ezra 7:6). Appointment delivers an authority to the pastor which is just as much necessary today in defending our ministry as it was in Paul’s day (I Cor. 9:16). It is also a matter of protection.  Requiring pastors to be appointed by other elders should keep those who are not qualified out of the office.  This was meant to make a clear distinction between those who are orthodox and submit to sound doctrine, and those who are puffed-up wanting the office for selfish reasons. “They came forth from us, but they belonged not to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have continued with us” (I Jn. 2:19).

It does not require much discussion to understand that a Shepherd can’t do his job without some sheep.  If everything else is in accord; If a man is qualified, he desires the pastorate, he has received the calling and authority from the Chief Shepherd, his fitness is confirmed by men, and he has been appointed to the ministry, God will entrust him with His sheep (I Pet 5:3).  Every shepherd must understand the gravity of this responsibility.  Three places in Scripture specifically warn about this special responsibility.  “Brothers, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we will receive a more stringent judgment” (James 3:1). “Therefore whosoever breaketh one of these least commandments, and teacheth men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven…” (Matt. 5:19). “Obey them that rule over you, and be submissive; for they watch over your souls, as they that are accountable” (Hebrews 13:17).The word of God speaks very clearly about this higher standard of judgment awaiting His shepherds.  And it is because this higher standard is placed upon the pastor, that men are called to obey him.  Calvin speaks from the perspective of those being cared for in Heb. 13:17, “As [ the shepherds ] shall give account to God of us, it would be disgraceful for us not to give account of them.”

We have already seen clearly that the shepherd’s work is not what defines him.  But now that we see who the shepherd is and what he possesses, I want to look at the special functions of his role, as they differ from the ministry of all Christians.  Richard L. Mayhue develops a comprehensive list of pastoral responsibilities using the two epistles to the Thessalonians: praying, evangelizing, equipping, defending, loving, laboring,      ing, leading, feeding, watching, warning, teaching, exhorting, encouraging, correcting, confronting, and rescuing. But there are still things here which all Christians are called to do, what is unique about the pastor?

The pastor is called to labor in doctrine and prayer.  These two should be seen as primary, and the basis for other ministries. This was stated when the occasion came to appoint deacons in Acts 6. “But we shall continually give ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (6:4).  This is a special responsibility for the pastoral role because we are not talking about Bible studies and morning devotionals. The pastor must be a leader in his personal spiritual life, and therefore pray more than his sheep and spend more time in the word than his sheep. From this special work of study and prayer flows teaching. “Take heed to yourself, and to the doctrine…In doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (I Tim. 4:16).  About the teachings Timothy had received from Paul, Paul writes, “Commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (II Tim. 2:2).  Involved in the ministry of study and teaching is correction and exposing errors, “That he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Tit. 1:9).  The shepherd needs to be protecting the flock also by watching for wolves and robbers.  Paul instructs Timothy that deceiving spirits and doctrines will come and attempt to destroy the church (I Tim. 4:1). Exhortation is certainly a main function of the pastor.  Every epistle in the New Testament is a letter of exhortation to the church.

This list could undoubtedly go on and on.  I think that it is more important to focus on who and what the shepherd is, than what he does.  If we have a firm understanding of the basis for the pastoral role, I believe that whatever ministry flows out of that should be seen as normative.  But do take note, the emphasis of the pastor’s work is to God and to people.  I think that too many pastors have neglected to see this.  Many pastors busy themselves with so many things which have no direct correlation to God or people, and I think that they are neglecting their duty in this.

The benefit in this research has been tremendous to myself, a shepherd in formation right now. I have a new sense of purpose, and a better foundation upon which to base my calling and qualifications for pastoral ministry. It would be good to examine my own “possessions” in regard to the ministry now, according to the six point outline which was used for this research.

  1. Qualifications and Ability – This is the area where I am being tested the most now.  I have the abilities.  I have most of the qualifications.  But I fail to be temperate at times, and I am drawn away by various     s and passions.  Based on what is found lacking in me, if I was offered a pastorate today I would have to turn down the offer.  But this is far from anything like despair or ultimate disqualification.  I have seen clearly that my time in college is where God is developing my character and refining me, that I will by His grace, be blameless when the time comes to shepherd His flock.
  2. Desire – I have had the desire to shepherd God’s people since the night of my conversion.  I have great fondness for the church.  I long to see Christians born, grow, and mature.  I feel that it would be disobeying the Lord if I was to use my life for anything other than pastoral ministry.  I expect to be poor for the rest of my life, and have no thought of using the office for personal gain.  I am compelled not by men but by God in pursuing pastoral ministry.
  3. Authority – I have  strated from this study that I have a good grasp on the authority given to pastors through Christ Jesus our Lord.  I know these verses well.  I have felt a certain affinity for the two epistles to Timothy through my entire life as a believer.  I received a vision from God upon my conversion in which He told me that I was to be a shepherd to His people.  I do not trust in this prophetic word apart from the truth of Scripture, but find it to be complimentary in every aspect.
  4. Confirmation – I don’t want the following to sound boastful.  I realize that many pastors are called into pastoral ministry in much more natural ways than I, and I do not discount their ministry, or claim their calling is any less authoritative than mine.  God knew that my faith was weak, and that I would need signs to reassure me along the way, so signs I got!  After receiving the calling to become a pastor upon my conversion, I was     arded by comments from other Christians about my calling.  I have been told, “You will be a pastor,” more times than I can keep track of.  As a young Christian I was quickly singled out by elders for discipleship and training, through which I received continued confirmation.  God has given me opportunities to minister publicly in prayer, worship, leadership, and preaching.  In all of these instances, people felt it was appropriate to tell me, “God really works through you, you’re going to be a pastor.”  I praise God for choosing my clay vessel over countless others, through which to minister to His people.
  5. Appointment –  Through this study I have become firmly convinced that it would be wrong for me to begin pastoral ministry without appointment by other Christian elders.  This was not my thinking previously, as I have church planting in mind, which is usually very independent.  I am thankful to have learned this now.  I will seek this appointment before I begin pastoral ministry.
  6. Entrusted with a Flock – While God has given me many opportunities to minister to His people, I believe that these were all episodes of training.  The full responsibility of the care of God’s flock has not come upon me yet.  As I mentioned earlier, I find that I am not fully qualified for the office yet, and I believe that God will not allow me to be a shepherd until His work upon my character, (up to the point of meeting pastoral qualifications), is complete.


  • Stowell, Joseph M. “Shepherding the Church. (Moody)
  • Betten, David W. “Metaphors for Ministry: Biblical Images for leaders and followers.” (Baker).
  • Barron, Bruce. “Putting Women in their Place: 1 Tim. 2 and Evangelical Views of Women in Church Leadership”. from JETS 33/4 (1990) 452-466.
  • Saucy, Robert L. “Husband of One Wife”. from BibSac V131 #523 (Jul. 74) 237.
  • Saucy, Robert L. “Authority in Church”. Walvoord: A Tribute, ed. Donald K. Campbell. Moody (1985) 226.
  • Erickson, Millard J. “Christian Theology 2nd Ed”. Baker, 1086.
  • Mayhue, Richard L. “Rediscovering Pastoral Ministry” MSJ V6#1 (Spring 95) 52.

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