A Concise Philosophy on the Person and Ministry of the Pastor

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Recently, I sat down for about an hour and jotted out a brief, rough philosophy on the biblical portrait of a pastor. It is not exhaustive or perfect, but I hope it helps both pastors and those they shepherd.

1. Upon his ascension, Jesus gave gifts to his church. These gifts were men who served in spiritual leadership (Eph. 4:8-11) and were given “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (12-15).

2. The term pastor simply means shepherd. That is exactly what a pastor is.

3. The New Testament uses the terms elder, overseer and pastor interchangeably as descriptors for the same office. An elder is a pastor is an overseer. The most common term used by far is elder, the least common being pastor. (1 Peter 5:1-2; Acts 20:17,28)

4. Elder probably refers to the spiritual maturity of the man. Overseer probably refers to the responsibility/authority of the man. Pastor probably refers to the task of the man.

5. Jesus is the “Senior Pastor” of the church. (1 Peter 5:4)

6. The biblical qualifications for a pastor are listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-11. These are not signs of the exceptional, super-spiritual man, but basic traits of a genuinely born-again, spiritually mature believer. In short, these qualifications state that a pastor must be truly converted and spiritually mature.

7. With the one exception of the the ability to teach, all other qualifications mentioned are character qualifications, not skills.

8. These biblical qualifications are not meant to suggest perfection or sinlessness in these areas, but maturity. The character of the man is such that these traits are the obvious patterns of his life.

9. I believe the primary qualification is “above reproach” (1 Timothy 3) and “blameless” (Titus 1), (both terms meaning the same thing) which is the overall character of the pastor. The following terms listed in those texts are descriptors and examples of what it means to be above reproach and blameless, and the list is probably not exhaustive, but simply illustrative.

10.In other words, the two most important qualifications of a pastor is the ability to effectively teach biblical truth (sound doctrine) and his character (sound living). These two are essential and equally important. Character is everything. Faithfulness to Scripture is also everything.

11.A pastor must first and foremost be the shepherd of his home. What is done in public ministry is simply from the overflow of his private shepherding ministry with his wife and children. A man who is not first a faithful husband and father is not qualified to shepherd a local church, regardless of his talent, charisma or success in public ministry.

12a.The nature of the life of the pastor is demanding and ever-changing. He must be intentional to make sufficient time to shepherd his own family. Quality time requires quantity time. His greatest mission field is his home.

12b. The pastor must also be intentional to walk with God, not just work for God. The one whose call is to be a spiritual shepherd must follow the example of the Good Shepherd and spend ample time in solitude with God for prayer, worship, meditation and intimacy with the Good Shepherd. For many pastors, the ideal place for this to happen is not in his office.

13.The role of the shepherd is to lead the flock, feed the flock, correct the flock and protect the flock. Thus he must be bold and humble. Tough and tender. Courageous and compassionate. He must love the Chief Shepherd and love his sheep. The good shepherd doesn’t run from danger, but lays his life down for the sheep. The shepherd must protect against false teaching and demonic division that derails the mission of the church and harms God’s precious people. He must “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction (2 Tim. 4:2).” He must love, and love takes guts, and love takes grace.

14.The pastor is a teacher and a leader. A man cannot teach what he does not know and he cannot lead where he will not go.

15.Jesus’ definition of a leader is a servant. Servant leadership is the ethos and the pathos of the biblical shepherd. He is not a politician and not a people-pleaser. He is a leader and a lover. He models leadership through humble, faithful service. He is first to be last. He becomes great by being small. He teaches through example, not words alone. He is as proficient with a mop and a towel as he is with a Bible and a rod.

16. The shepherd is a servant, not a service provider. He is an equipper, not an enabler. He does not promote codependency or consumerism, but helps produce Christlikeness. He lives to make disciples, not fans.

17.A pastor is a pastor, regardless of his specialization. If a man is biblically qualified and called as a pastor, he is a full pastor. Pastors can be either vocational, bivocational or volunteer. This has no bearing on their biblical qualifications. Even though there is structure within pastoral teams, every pastor is to be qualified, respected and held accountable as any other pastor. (*No one should be given counseling-teaching-shepherding responsibilities over minors if they are not fully qualified to shepherd adults. In fact, given Jesus’ instructions about caring for children and the current cultural crises concerning risk management, this is especially true in regards to those who minister to minors.)

18.The biblical norms of pastoral leadership in the New Testament is team leadership with a plurality of pastors. No one man can shepherd a church entirely by himself. Shared authority, shared accountability, shared encouragement and shared responsibility is the pattern of biblical leadership. Unity, love and mutual respect is essential among a team of pastors. Pastors need pastors. Shepherds need shepherding. A team of pastors is a band of brothers.

19.Pastors have derived authority delegated to them by the Chief Shepherd, to whom every pastor will give an account. That authority is not absolute or beyond question. It is qualified authority, lived out humbly and faithfully, not lorded or abused. Pastors “direct the affairs of the church” and “keep watch as men who must give an account.” When they do this faithfully and biblically, their leadership is to be honored, respected and followed (1 Tim. 5:17, Hebrews 13:7). When they willfully and unrepentantly neglect or abuse their office, they are to be publicly rebuked (1 Timothy 5:20). A pastor is not a master.

20.Pastors are to be examined, trained, equipped and mentored by other pastors over a substantial period of time. They are not to become pastors hastily (1 Timothy 5:22). I believe it is ideal for a local church to raise up its own leaders.

21.Biblical counseling is part of every pastor’s role of shepherding. Pastors must be as skilled at teaching, exhorting, encouraging, correcting and helping on a personal level as they are behind a pulpit. (Again, no one pastor can provide all the personal shepherding needs in a local church, and this is partially why an adequate team of biblically-qualified pastors is needed in a healthy church.)

22.Jesus has clearly given his church her mission and vision. It does not need to be improved upon. The role of the pastor is to equip the saints to fulfill that mission, not replace it with his own agenda. (The mission of the church is to make disciples that make disciples, in our neighborhoods and the nations.)

23.If a pastor teaches the text of Scripture expositionally and faithfully, he will address every relevant topic and felt need in the church. The pastor must not use the Bible as a diving board or as decorative patio furniture, but as the pool in which he swims as he teaches.

24.The church must be built on the person of Christ, not the personality of a pastor. The pastor’s aim must be “He must increase, I must decrease.”

25.The pastor’s ministry must be a gospel-driven, God-exalting, grace-saturated ministry. It is possible to grow a large religious organization through charisma, charm, creativity and consumerism. But only God can grow a church.

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