It is by God’s plan that some are called to be pastors and teachers for the equipping of saints (Ephesians 4:11-12). The continuous process of equipping of saints is preparing those called to salvation to glorify God, to spread the Gospel, and to serve in ministry. As pastors oversee their assigned flock and their spiritual needs, the church continues to advance the kingdom of God. It is necessary for a person desiring to be a pastor to have an understanding of the essence and purpose of pastoral ministry as well as qualifications and work involved. It is not my intent to present a complete overview of daily responsibilities but rather an attempt to show some biblical standards of ministry that I will follow when leading the congregation God will assign to my care.
The Essence of Pastoral Ministry
1 Peter 5:1-6 gives a snapshot view of Christian service in light of Christ returning. This and other verses state that an overseer of a church body is called an elder or pastor. A pastor is likened to a shepherd that oversees God’s flock. To pastor is to shepherd willingly and honorably; not lording position over others but humbly leading by example.
It is by God’s grace that sinful man has been given the responsibility to bring other sinful people to salvation and lead them to sanctification. A pastor is one who willingly works in pastoral ministry by the will of God to advance the Gospel while shepherding the flock assigned to oversee and lead them through proper instruction to glorify God.
Purpose of Pastoral Ministry
Paul gives us an insight to pastoral ministry in Colossians 1:25-29: of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.
The primary purpose of pastoral ministry is to teach every person in their care with the wisdom of the Gospel. The ultimate goal is to lead each individual to saving knowledge of Christ and teach them through scripture how to present themselves holy to God. This is a goal that would be too great for any person, however, verse 29 reminds us we are not alone in this task.
Qualifications of a Pastor
The apostle Paul wrote letters both to Timothy and Titus regarding qualifications of overseers. These two lists given by the apostle Paul, the first to Timothy and the second to Titus, are not all inclusive to qualify a person for pastoral ministry.
1 Timothy 3:1-7 Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
Titus 1:5-9 The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.
A willing individual may aspire to do the Lord’s work but only God can truly qualify someone. In the two lists provided as qualifications for pastor, it is clear that a pastor is to live a life worthy of respect both in private and public life. It is doubtful to find an honest individual who can claim mastery in each of the qualities given; however, individuals who are to do the work of pastor must continuously strive toward perfection in these areas. In addition to the qualifications given in 1Timothy 3 and Titus 1, a pastor should be diligent in prayer and study of scripture.
Work Involved in Pastoral Ministry
Exodus 18 reminds us of the hardships a person in ministry will face that attempts to handle all the responsibilities alone. Moses’ father-in-law wisely advised to assign others to help with daily ministry. The three step process was teach the people God’s laws and statutes, show them the way to live and the work they must do, and select qualified men according to their ability to oversee the people.
Acts 6 also gives a model to follow as a pastor. The apostles appointed deacons to allow the apostles to remain steady in prayer and study of scripture. In both examples the men chosen for work in ministry were first trained and approved before authority was delegated to them. Prayer, study, and ministry of the word must be the highest priority of any pastor.
Prayer is an act of worship to the one true God. Prayer is also the way a pastor finds direction and strength to accomplish the work set before him. A consistent prayer life is a requirement to lead others in unity, seek vision for the progress and mission of the church, and intercede for other people. Prayer paves the road for the spreading of the Gospel and bringing the lost to Christ.
- STUDY OF SCRIPTURE
To study scripture is to feed one’s soul. A pastor that allows the demands on his time to keep him from deeply studying the word will not have the strength to lead a flock. The end result will be starving sheep. Deep biblical studies and reading books that enhance that study must be a priority worth fighting for.
- MINISTRY OF THE WORD
The importance of preaching and teaching cannot be overstated. Paul warns of a time when scripture will not be accepted as truth. It is the God-given duty for pastors to teach all scripture with perseverance.
2 Timothy 4:2-4 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
Within Acts 20 Paul advises to preach to “declare the whole counsel of God” without regard to how comfortable it is. Overseers (pastors) are to take heed to self and the all the flock the Holy Spirit has been given them to oversee. Pastors are to shepherd the church of God which he purchased with His own blood. In addition Paul warns of those of those that will rise up to lead people astray. People who are more concerned with having a personal following than the spiritual health of the followers.
Acts 20:20-21 I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
These verses show the two aspects of preaching and teaching the Word which are public and private.
- PUBLIC: This is pulpit ministry. Pulpit ministry is where a pastor shares with the congregation what he has gleaned in personal study of the word. This is an act of worship that a pastor uses to systematically and clearly lay out the whole counsel of God. Public preaching is used to heal the hurting souls, reach those that are lost, and challenge the ones that not living fully for God. The work of pulpit ministry is not an easy task. Preaching requires a great deal of hard work through study and prayer.
- PRIVATE: A pastor must make private tutorial of the Word of significant priority, never growing weary of seeking opportunities to teach and guide people aside from the pulpit. Private teaching and exhorting is the method employed to fully reach the souls and build up the congregation. This can be accomplished through small group settings or individual relationships where the Word is taught. It is not plausible to outline every scenario of how private ministry can be accomplished so a pastor must constantly search for ways to fulfill this task.
In these few pages, I have provided my view of pastoral ministry. A pastor must hold to the biblical standard of the call to minister and not attempt to lead through worldly methods. It is necessary for a person desiring to be a pastor to have an understanding of the essence and purpose of pastoral ministry as well as qualifications and work involved. As stated earlier this is not my intent to present a complete overview of daily responsibilities but rather an attempt to show some biblical standards of ministry that I will follow when leading the congregation God will assign to my care. It is through pastoral ministry that people are brought to an understanding of the salvation message and are led to sanctification. Ephesians 5:26 tells us Christ sanctifies and cleanses His bride, the church, through the washing of water by the word. It is for this reason a pastor commits to preaching and teaching both publicly and privately. This is the main work of pastoral ministry. The consistent teaching of Gods word and living a life of true example so that believers might not follow their own sinful desires is an importance that must not be ignored or marginalized. It is through the work of the pastor that those who are called to Christ will be sanctified and give glory to God.
Rev. Burt Schwab