In considering what pastors are and are not supposed to do if twenty people are asked, chances are, one might receive sixty different answers. As I reflect on my own years in ministry, I too have changed that answer in many seasons and for many reasons. It goes without saying that culture, tradition, dreams, example and the like, mold one’s view of pastoral leadership. In the corporate mega-church mindset of the “professional” pastor, it’s easy to have many skewed views surrounding the office and duties of a pastor, his role to his family, his flock, and his faithfulness.
For reasons that need no explanation, I hope to expose in brief my own thinking as well as help one who might read this have adequate food for thought concerning the duties of a pastor. With that, I leave the presupposition that all who would journey to these words would see that the whole of the argument does and should come from the Scriptures and therefore, this article reasons in that light.
So, what are the top five duties of a pastor? Let’s see…
Feeding the flock. This sounds very trivial, but the primary role of a pastor is to feed the people who God has put under his care. This feeding is accomplished through the right teaching of the word of God. This teaching is good for the church and for their joy, edification, doctrine, exhortation, admonishment, and maturity. Everything that the church is to do comes primarily through the teaching of the scriptures from the pastors. A church that is not fed the truth is malnourished and finds other meals to eat. This is one of the most vital duties of a pastor and from this all the others follow.
1 Timothy 3:2 (ESV) 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…
2 Timothy 4:2 (ESV) 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
Fending for the flock. This idea is established in the above verses. The pastor’s role is to teach and through this teaching to protect the flock from false doctrine, heresies and weak and contrived or cunning teachings that the world, other pastors, or other “Christians” might suppose. Even the minds of believers fall prey to weary thinking at times and the pastor should fend the flock against false teaching. He should also fend the flock against wolves who come into the fold trying to devour others or cause trouble, discourse or apathy.
Titus 1:9 (ESV) 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
Acts 20:28-31 (ESV) 28 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. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears.
Fighting for the flock. A fight seems to be the last thing one might consider being a part of the church, but Paul is clear that we are fighting every second of our lives. We are in a spiritual battle against the enemies of God in the spiritual realm and the stakes are high, but Christ is already victorious!
Ephesians 6:12 (ESV) 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
The pastor fights for the flock in his STUDIES, his PRAYERS, his TEACHING and his DISCIPLESHIP. These duties of a pastor are all necessary avenues for battle and they must be done for the sake of the church, those who are entrusted into his oversight. Fellowship with the brethren is essential in order to know their hearts and lives. As the flock grows, the pastor must accept the call of other men to the ranks of a shepherd to assist in this battle. A pastor who is faithful to these things will be equipped to handle the calling for which God has called him.
Another aspect of fighting for the flock is to judge rightly the word of truth and administer correct judgment for the life of the church and admonish and exhort them accordingly. God’s grace is given through the proper study of the word with prayer. As one fights he also fights for something that is the reflective outcome of the saints of God having been regenerated by the Holy Spirit – the Joy of the Lord. Joy is one of the highest fruits of true spiritual victory and the pastor should fight for the JOY of his people with all humility as they follow him toward maturity in Christ.
Hebrews 13:17 (ESV) 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Following Christ before the flock. The duties of a pastor will cause him to display his faith and carry his church where God has brought him. He should display the fruits of the spirit of God in all that he does by God’s grace alone, knowing that he is nothing but a slave to righteousness and not a divine leader who rules but a servant who dies. A wise friend once told me that when a man has to say he’s the leader, it is then he has lost the privilege to lead. He continued with a man that goes forth with no one following him is just a “man taking a walk.” Wise. This fourth duty of a pastor is one where all of us fail in our actions, but by the Lord’s grace, we will not fail in our faith, for HE is the author and perfector of it!
1 Peter 5:1-3 (ESV) 1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
Fulfilling faithfully his call to Christ. Without the grace of God, no one would be able to ever be faithful to their calling. And without the grace of God, we would all abandon our faith. God’s grace is the power of the pastor’s success and true success is NOT measured in salvation, baptism, numbers, finances or the like. Any professional could produce the right numbers through the easily manipulated minds of men. And it is surely God that produces the fruit of the labors of any ministry that He alone gets the glory. God called Noah and Isaiah to a fruitless ministry of no conversion and total rejection. What makes us think we’ll see anything different?
The pastor should be faithful to these things above all other duties and if he is gifted in areas outside of these, then, by all means, he should exercise these gifts, however, any man that calls himself pastor, cannot be such without these traits given to him by the Holy Spirit of God.
In conclusion, it is very difficult to finalize something such as this and to God’s glory, we won’t. Please feel free to chime in and add your thoughts on this matter. Let us all, in His grace, become like Christ and display His glory and wisdom in our ministries!
For His Glory by His Grace,