pecaspers: a Blog in transition

October 30, 2012

Prospective Pastor Questionnaire – Part 1

1. What do you perceive as your biblical pastoral duties?

My duty as pastor according to the Bible is to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you,” (1 Peter 5:1). But that begs the question, “what does it mean to shepherd the flock of God?” In 1 Peter 5:1-3, Peter exhorts pastors to exercise “oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” I think Peter has in mind the distinction Jesus made between a good shepherd and a hired hand in John 10:11-13. “…The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” A pastor is an under-shepherd under the authority of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd.

Actual shepherds have three main duties in caring for literal sheep: feed the sheep, protect the sheep, lead the sheep where they need to go. Pastoral duties come in those same three categories. Pastors have the duty to preach and teach God’s word, to feed God’s people on every word that comes from His mouth and to teach them how to feed themselves (Deuteronomy 8:3). 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” The pastor has all he needs in God’s word to meet the varied spiritual needs of God’s flock.

When it comes to protecting the sheep, the pastor must deal with both external and internal threats. Paul explained this to the Ephesian church leaders in Acts 20:28-32:

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

“Fierce wolves” will try to come in from the outside, other threats will arise from within the church, and it is a pastoral duty to keep the wolves away from the flock and to administer the “word of his grace” to confused sheep. Practically speaking, this means that the pastor is the point-man when it comes to issues of maintaining right doctrine and church discipline. This does not mean that the pastor must be involved in every conflict that arises in the church; that’s what deacons are for (see Question 4 for more). According to Acts 6:4, the apostles, the original pastoral team of the First Jerusalem Mega-Church, protected the church by delegating some tasks to spirit-filled men so that the apostles could “devote [themselves] to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” This also points to the pastoral duty to pray for the church, and this too is a protection for the flock.

Now we come to the pastoral duty to lead the sheep where they need to go. Paul wrote about the reason Jesus gives various kinds of leaders to the Church and to churches in Ephesians 4:11-16:

“And he gave…the shepherds and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry for building up the body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

(I’ve removed a few commas which are correct according to English syntax but can cause the reader to misunderstand Paul’s thought.) Pastors have the duty of leading individual Christians and the church as a whole to spiritual maturity. Jesus gave pastors to “equip the saints for the work of ministry,” not to do it all themselves. Which is not to say that a pastor does not do ministry himself, but that he is equipping others as he does his share of ministry.

A final thing not mentioned in my list above is that any good shepherd or pastor is constantly honing his skills, training, and learning. Paul instructs his son in the ministry Timothy to “train [himself] for godliness,” to “practice” certain things before his congregation “so that all may see [his] progress”, and ultimately to “keep a close watch on [himself] and on the teaching.” Paul says that “by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers,” (1 Timothy 4:7-16). It is the duty of every pastor to keep his tools sharp, to always be learning, to always be growing, and in so doing he also is setting an example worth following.

Now, maybe you were wanting a list of things like visiting the sick, counseling the hurting, preaching on Sundays; but I figured all that goes without saying, and precisely what goes on that list depends greatly on the individual church. I can tell you that checking to see if the men’s room toilets have been flushed on Wednesday nights is not a biblical duty for youth pastors nor is it in my job description, but I still try to do it each week so our building doesn’t smell come Sunday morning.

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