The Pathway to Pastoral Ministry – What Does a Pastor Do? (3)

Hiking TrailWe’re talking about the primary responsibilities of a pastor in this series. I hope to encourage and guide young men considering pastoral ministry.

We’ve already looked at the ministry of the Word and care for the people. The third area of responsibility is leadership and oversight of the church.

One of the terms used in the New Testament to refer to the pastor is “overseer.” Or you might see the older word “bishop” in some Bible translations. Overseer is a good literal translation of the original New Testament word. The word in Greek (the language in which the New Testament was first written) is episkopos. If you separate it into two parts, you get epi and skopos. Epi means “over.” Skopos means “to see,” like with a scope. The whole word means “to oversee.”

1 Timothy 3:1 says, “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.”    1 Timothy 5:17 says, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” The word “elders” is another term for the office of pastor. To “rule well” is to oversee. Peter instructs pastors to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight” (1 Peter 5:2).

As an overseer, a pastor provides leadership to the church. He does this through his ministry of preaching and teaching. Pastors also give direction for the ministry and guide it as an organization. They make plans that reflect the church’s mission and lead the church in pursuing them. They equip and enlist people in various positions of responsibility.

A pastor is often the person up front, leading the service when the church gathers for worship and instruction. He also oversees by protecting the church from false teaching, corrupting influences, and division.

Some people are natural leaders. However, not all pastors feel comfortable and confident in a leadership role. Many of the qualities and practices of a leader can be learned. And of course God enables us to do what we could not otherwise do.

In the next post I’ll talk about the call to ministry. What is it? How do you know if you’re called? What do you do if you think you’re called? We’ll answer those important questions. See you then!

The Pathway to Pastoral Ministry – What Does a Pastor Do? (2)

Hiking TrailIf you’re thinking about being a pastor, you should know what a pastor does. The first responsibility of a pastor is the ministry of the Word, both public and personal.

Another of the pastor’s primary responsibilities is spiritual care for people. The word pastor actually means shepherd. A pastor cares for his people like a shepherd does for his sheep. Peter instructed pastors to “shepherd the flock of God which is among you” (1 Peter 5:2).

What does a pastor’s care for his people include? First, he cares for their spiritual growth. A good example is a man named Epaphras. He is mentioned in Colossians 4:12. Many think Epaphras was the pastor of the church in the city of Colossae.

He visited the Apostle Paul, and Paul wrote the church members in Colossae. Paul included this statement: “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.”

This tells us a few things about Epaphras. He had the people on his mind. He prayed fervently for them. And he wanted them to grow spiritually. These same things are true of a good pastor. He has his people on his mind and heart. He brings them before the Lord in prayer. And his goal for them is that they would mature in Christ and do God’s will.

Opportunities to provide care for God’s people come through the normal life of the church. A pastor interacts with his people individually before and after services, seeing how they are doing and encouraging them. He conveys his heart for their spiritual growth in the way he leads the gatherings of the church, the way he prays publicly, and applications he includes in his preaching.

A pastor will want to get to know his people. Paul described Epaphras, mentioned above, as “one of you.” Peter addressed his instructions to “the elders (pastors) among you” (1 Peter 5:1). These descriptions imply that these men spent time with their people and were not isolated from them. Part of being a pastor is getting to know the people through visits, conversations, over meals in his home or theirs, and even having fun together.

A caring pastor will use the circumstances of people’s individual lives to encourage them and help them grow spiritually. The birth of a new baby, special family occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries he’s invited to attend, graduations, and other significant milestones are opportunities to show interest and “rejoice with those who rejoice”(Romans 12:15).

He also enters people’s lives when they are hurting. He practices the “ministry of presence” when his church members are sick, having surgery, lose a loved one, or go through other difficult trials in life.

A pastor often visits people going through hard times, expressing comfort and praying with them. He encourages them to trust God for strength and to see how God is working in their lives through these difficulties.

Have you or your family been helped by a pastor’s personal ministry to you during a difficult time? If you have, you know how helpful it is to have a shepherd providing comfort, prayer, guidance, and help. It reminds you that God cares for you and has a purpose in the trial. While it isn’t always easy to walk with people through challenging times, a pastor is used of God in a great way.

If you’re thinking about being a pastor, you might want to ask your pastor if you can go with him some time when he visits people in the hospital or in their homes. You can observe how he shows care and brings comfort, and points them to God’s purpose in trials. You might find that you have a desire in your own heart to help people in the same way.

Here’s one more important area of a pastor’s responsibility.

The Pathway to Pastoral Ministry – What Does a Pastor Do?

Hiking TrailThis series is turning into a book! Seriously, I plan to compile all of these posts into a book when I’m finished. The Pathway to Pastoral Ministry will encourage and guide young men who are interested in being pastors. Start here.

If you’re thinking about being a pastor, you should learn what a pastor does. 

How does a pastor spend his time? What are his primary responsibilities? The work of a pastor can be divided into three categories. Pastors minister the Word, care spiritually for people, and lead and oversee the church.

The Ministry of the Word
The first area of a pastor’s responsibility is the ministry of the Word. You probably immediately think of preaching. This area definitely includes preaching, but there’s more. The pastor’s ministry of the Word is both public and personal.

Ephesians 4:11 links the word “pastors” (or shepherds) with “teachers.” The work of a pastor includes explaining and applying the Bible. Paul told Timothy to “Preach the Word” and to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching”  (2 Timothy 4:2). Elders (another term for pastors) “labor in preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17).

A pastor may spend between 10-20 hours a week preparing to preach. Studying the Bible occupies a lot of time in his schedule. Pastors work hard to understand the meaning of Bible passages and to communicate the meaning and application clearly and in a way that is interesting and helpful to people.

He may also teach a class or Bible study. Some pastors preach or teach 3-4 times in a week. That requires a lot of studying! A faithful pastor will also pray for guidance and enabling power as he studies and as he gets ready to deliver his message.

A pastor’s personal ministry of the Word includes sharing the gospel with unbelievers and discipling and counseling believers. He will explain sections of the Bible and help people understand difficult spiritual concepts. He uses the Bible to help people who are struggling with conflicts, temptation, and sin, showing them how to apply the truths of God’s Word to their lives.

Let’s circle back to preaching, because it’s a big part of what a pastor does. You can take steps to learn about preaching right now.

  • Listen attentively to good preaching. Take notes on the content of the message. Also observe how the preacher structures his message. You can even pay attention to how he uses his voice, face, and body language to communicate effectively.
  • Learn as much as you can about the Bible. Read through it. You might want to start with the New Testament, then start through the Old Testament. A book I find very helpful in getting the big picture of what the Bible is about is Nelson’s Book of Bible Maps and Charts. This book includes background information and an outline for every book of the Bible.
  • Make yourself available to give challenges, devotionals, and short messages. Let your pastor or youth pastor know you’d like to have opportunities to share the Word. Go ahead and work on a message even before you’re asked to give one.
  • Ask your pastor to show you how to put together a simple Bible message. When you’re given an opportunity to speak, prepare as diligently as you can and pray for God’s help. Enjoy the opportunity and learn from it.

Taking these steps will give you an opportunity to experience this important part of pastoral work. By learning and doing, you will find out if you like it and if you are gifted at it.

Next time we’ll talk about a pastor’s second main responsibility, spiritually caring for people.