Monday, June 5, 2017

The Work of a Pastor

What made you become a member of the church where you are? Is it because of the faithful preaching of the word of God? I hope that is a great part of it. Or could it be just because of the tantalizing music? I hope it is because of a godly, faithful pastoral care.
But what do you expect from your pastor? The pastor factor plays a big role in the choice of a church. A pastor is first and foremost expected by to be scripturally qualified, i.e. according to 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. You cannot separate the work of the pastor and his qualifications. Simply put your pastor should be a holy man; above reproach in his personal conduct, above reproach with his relation to his family, and above reproach in his ministry. Unless the pastor is a godly man, he will not do you much good, even if he is an excellent teacher and preacher.
What is his work? Peter, exhorts the elders (this is the most common term in Scripture referring to the pastors), to shepherd the flock of God by exercising oversight (1 Peter 5:2). They are to do this not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have them. They are not to do it for shameful gain or for money, but eagerly. They must not be domineering over those in their charge, but being examples to the flock.

What is shepherding the flock of God?
Shepherding is the same as pastoring – it is the same word. We can discern the work of a shepherd from the rest of the Scripture. In Psalm 23, David, who was himself a shepherd, writes about the Lord as his shepherd. He says the following:
The shepherd makes sure that the sheep are not lacking anything (v. 1). This is the general statement and it plays out in the following areas:
a)       He feeds the flock (v. 2)
b)      He leads them in righteousness (v. 3)
c)       He protects the flock from danger (v. 4)
d)      He keeps, cares or tends the flock (vv. 5-6)
Ezekiel spoke against the elders of Israel because they had failed in caring for the flock of God that was among them (chapter 34). It must be said that there are too many pastors who should face this indictment for the way they have dealt with the flock of God. They devour, destroy and kill the flock. Shame on them!
But we learn from this indictment what God expects the elders to do:
a)       Feed the sheep (vv. 2,3)
b)      Strengthen the weak (v. 4)
c)       Heal the sick (v. 4)
d)      Bind up the injured (v. 4)
e)       Bring back the straying ones (v. 4)
f)        Seek the lost (v. 4)
g)       Rule with gentleness (v. 4)
The Lord called himself the Good Shepherd in John 10:11. We can understand the work of a shepherd from His example. He said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” The shepherd should be willing to lay down his own life, and suffer for the sake of his sheep, to protect them from wolves. This is what Christ did – He laid down His life even to the point of death. He died to purchase the flock with His own blood!
How many of the under-shepherds are willing to do this for the blood-bought flock of God? Unless the pastor is willing to sacrifice his comforts, and sometimes personal cares to tend the flock, he will not be a faithful shepherd. How much is your pastor willing to give in terms of time to serve the church? Pastoral ministry is a 24/7 service. There may be no time to rest. Unless one is prepared to count the cost, and give his all, he cannot be a faithful and effective pastor.

Paul set this example of shepherding in Ephesus. Speaking to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:17-38, he explained how his ministry was among them as the paradigm for theirs. He said:
1.       He served the Lord with all humility and tears and with trials.
2.       He did not withhold anything that was profitable to them, but declared the whole counsel of God. A true pastor must be committed to preaching through the whole Bible – Genesis to Revelation!
3.       He taught them in public and from house to house.
4.       He did not discriminate, but testified both to Jews and to Greeks.
5.       He urged a response of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
6.       He was not afraid of sufferings and persecutions such as imprisonments and other forms of afflictions.
7.       He did not account his life of any value or precious to himself.
8.       He was interested in finishing his course and ministry that he received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
9.       He pleads innocence of anyone’s blood, and very clearly says that he coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel.
10.    He worked hard both in ministry and with his own hands (in tent-making) to cater for his own needs and those of his companions.
Any pastor who is committed to this level of faithfulness will fulfill his ministry. It is on the basis of this pattern that Paul exhorts these pastors to do the following in their own ministry:
1.       Pay a careful attention to themselves and to all the flock.
2.       As overseers appointed by the Holy Spirit, they are to care for the church of God.
3.       To be alert and so protect the church from the wolves (false teachers/prophets) who were to come from within and without.
4.       To admonish people even with tears.
5.       He commends them to God and to His Word of grace which is able to build them up and to give them inheritance.
6.       To work hard and so help the weak
Paul’s instructions to Timothy and Titus in the pastoral letters are instructive to us on the work of the pastor. This work can be classified as follows:

Personal conduct:
a)       Paul gave his own testimony of conversion 1 Timothy 1:12-17). The point is that every single pastor should be one who has been truly saved from his sins, and has been made alive in Christ.
b)      Men who exercise oversight must themselves be godly in their conduct. They must keep a close watch on themselves and their teaching (1 Timothy 4:16).
c)       Private discipline to godliness and study (1 Timothy 4:7).

Care for the flock
a)       Teaching and preaching
b)      Prayer
c)       Visitation
d)      Comforting the grieving and the bereaved
e)       Interviewing new applicants for membership
f)        Private counselling
g)       Providing forum for accountability and discipline
h)      Recommending excommunication to unrepentant members

The teaching ministry
a)       Discipleship – And what you have heard from me … entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2).
b)      Hermeneutics – Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15). A pastor is expected to be careful and scientific (use proven interpretation principles) in his exegesis of passages of the Bible that he teaches. Knowledge of original languages is an added advantage, which must be sought. A serious pastor should own such Bible commentaries that have been tested over the years as faithful.
c)       Homiletics – Preaching ministry. I charge you… preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (2 Timothy 4:1-2)
d)      Apologetics and polemics – Defending the faith. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil (2 Timothy 2:24). Refuting error, rebuking those who contradict sound teaching. It is the work of pastors to charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to fairy tales.
e)       Evangelism – Making the gospel known. do the work of an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5)
f)        Public reading of Scripture (1 Timothy 4:13)
The church should do everything possible to relieve their pastors from material responsibilities such as mercy, property management, administration, etc. so that he can devote to preaching and prayer (Acts 6:4).
During this electioneering year in Kenya, too many pastors may be attracted to politics. Pastors need to realize that this may compromise their position as they take sides.
Various observations:
1.       A church should be shepherded by saved men.
2.       A church should be shepherded by male pastors. Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man, rather she is to remain quiet…Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife… (1Timothy 2:11-12, 3:2). This is an important qualification and it does determine the fatherly care, a caring manly leadership able to admonish, refute error and rebuke those who contradict sound teaching.
3.       A church should be shepherded by multiple pastors, whether it is small or large. It is in multiplicity of counselors that the church will be helped. Be very suspicious of a church where it is a-one-man-show. This is an important and vital check and balances for a faithful pastoral ministry. Many pastors watch over each other, even as they watch over the flock.

This article is published on Grace & Truth Magazine Issue No. 127. 

Various Resources on the subject: