What is the Pastor’s Job?

Erik Raymond —  September 27, 2011

There is no small amount of debate about this seemingly simple and straightforward question. Various books, articles, and conferences have been dedicated to answering it in light of our modern context. However, among the chatter, curiosity and creativity surrounding this question, we have biblical clarity. Since it is God’s church he has the right to speak to how it is to be led. Thankfully he has clearly done so in the Scriptures.

In one remarkably concise passage we read that shepherds are to give themselves to the Word and to prayer (Acts 6:4). This is type of simplicity is very helpful.

But if you were to take the New Testament and what it says about pastors, what general categories would you deploy?

At Emmaus we have broken this down into three categories: Leading, Feeding, and Shepherding. We believe it is not only important that the pastors know what they are supposed to be doing but that the members also are informed and come to expect the biblical pattern to be fulfilled.

The following is from our constitution, which lays ahold of the pastoral priority:

LEADING
The oversight, government, and direction of the church, under the headship of Jesus Christ, shall be exercised by the Elders of Emmaus Bible Church. Their authority as Elders is derived from the order established in Scripture (Titus 1:5-9; Acts 14:23; 20:28; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 5:17).

The Elders shall lead the congregation without compulsion, but with loving willingness, as examples to the church. Biblical authority must be exercised with care exhibiting the gospel-centered, servant-leadership of Christ as a shepherd cares for the sheep (1 Peter 5:1-4).

FEEDING
The Elders shall oversee the teaching of the Word of God, the administration of ordinances (baptism and communion), biblical instruction and exhortation, and protection against false teachers (I Thessalonians 5:12; II Timothy 4:2; John 21:15- 17).

SHEPHERDING
It shall be the duty of the Elders to care for the church in its spiritual condition, to guard the purity of doctrine and life of the church, and to oversee the discipline of the church in accordance with the Word of God (Acts 20:28).

If you are looking for a great book on this subject I recommend Shepherd Leader (my review here).

Erik Raymond

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Erik has been writing at Ordinary Pastor since 2006. He lives in Omaha with his wife and kids while pastoring at Emmaus Bible Church. Follow regular updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/erikraymond

9 responses to What is the Pastor’s Job?

  1. I would add that an overarching quality to all these things is a servant (1 Corinthians 9:19, Galatians 1:10, 2 Timothy 2:24). To me that’s one of the fundamental differences between the leadership God calls pastors to, as opposed to notions of leadership in the world. There a tons of people who have remarkable abilities to lead, but pastors are called to boast only in Christ’s authority.

    Of the aspects you’ve mentioned, I think the one churches struggle with today is “feeding.” So many pastors are feeding from the well of their own wisdom as opposed to the Bible. Without proper nourishment a congregation will be truly unable to live for Christ in today’s world.

    All the things you point out are good guidance to keep pastor’s cognizant of the breadth of their calling. Thanks for the post!

  2. Thank you for posting this. I would agree with the above statement about serving, but I also believe that the things listed require service in order to fulfill them biblically.

    Pastors need to understand their biblical calling and stray not from it, regardless of the desires of their own heart.

  3. Erik,

    But wait a minute: Acts 6 is about apostles, not pastors. On what exegetical grounds would you argue that the responsibilities of Apostles in Acts are the same as the responsibilities of pastors elsewhere?

    In fact, if you want to say that pastors should get their job descriptions from Acts 6, shouldn’t you also have to say that evangelism is a huge part of the job? Certainly the Apostles were teaching new believers, but they also seem to spend a lot of time preaching the gospel to unbelievers. And the “Word” in the NT, it seems to me, is usually a way of saying “the gospel” more than “the Bible” (though of course we see a lot of overlap in the concept of God’s revelation in general and all that).

    Anyway, my first question is the bigger one: where do you get that the Apostles in Acts 6 give us the job description?

    Andrew Faris
    Someone Tell Me the Story

    • Perhaps I could have been more clear. In Acts the church is obviously in transition. The Apostles are leading things. They are the shepherds though (even Peter saw himself this way –1 Peter 5.1). I see a correlation between the function of those leaders in Acts 6 with the pastor in 1 Tim. 3. Does that make sense?

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