Does your church have a job description for the pastor? Most do, and have it written in their by-laws or other foundational documents. Ours does too, but did you know the Bible shares its own job description for pastors? Today, if the weather had allowed, we would have looked at this during our time of worship.
Ironically, the word, as we use it for leaders in the church, is found as a noun only once in the English Bible (Ephesians 4.11). It is , though, found other places in verbal form. The word traces its roots to the Hebrew concept of “shepherd” used of those, like David in the Old Testament, who were actual “protectors of sheep.” Later, Jeremiah to a large extent, and Ezekiel to a lesser extent, used the word as a metaphor to describe the (failed) leadership responsibilities of those guiding and influencing God’s people during the pre-exilic and exilic period.
But it is in the New Testament where its role becomes prominent in the early church. As such, it is used as a synonym for other biblical words which we translate “elder” or “overseer” in English. This is seen in the use of all three words/concepts in passages such as Acts 20 and 1 Peter 5. In these passages and others, we learn that a pastor is primarily a servant of God, not an employee of the church. Thus, a pastor focuses on serving God and His people by fulfilling his “calling” to the best of his ability.
What does the Bible say about his role and work? First, the pastor is called to equip the saints for ministry (Ephesians 4.11-13). This activity, mentioned in the most generic of Paul’s letters, is used as an “umbrella term” encompassing the various sub-roles a pastor is to fulfill. The apostle notes in this passage that the pastor himself is actually one of God’s gifts to the church and, should thus, be treated as such. His role as an equipper has become more prominent in literature during recent years. This role emphasizes his service in training through instruction–whether from the pulpit, in the classroom or through his own modeling–as well as encouraging and empowering others to live out their God-given potential. This preparation is similar to the original word-pictures used of the word to “set a broken bone” or “mend a broken net.” If done correctly, the work does far more than teach; it helps discover, coach, empower and release God’s people for works of service themselves, just as God intended all along.
Second, the Bible acknowledges that the pastor is called by God to lead His flock, under the supervision of Christ Himself (1 Peter 5.1-4). Here, as in 1 Timothy 3, which we looked at last week, he is called an overseer, “one who has a charge or responsibility.” The pastor recognizes that this is a stewardship, for it is “entrusted” to him by the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Himself, who is the Body’s Head. The pastor is to lead through the vision God gives and through his example, as He calls God’s people forward and models what it is to follow Christ, who ultimately leads the charge. Pastors recognize this sacred trust they have under God to lead the flock under their care.
Third, the Scripture tells us that the pastor is called of God to proclaim His Word (2 Timothy 4.1-5). This is done primarily in preaching and teaching, as he heralds the Good News and gives attention to the “full counsel of God.” Three words are used to share his responsibility here: he is to correct, rebuke and encourage. In other words, he is to straighten out the flock when or where it is off the path (correct), he is to stop them from going the wrong way (rebuke) and he is to support them when they are doing well (encourage). He is feeding them the Bread of Life when he does this! His proclamation is to flow out of his own relationship with Christ and must be done with a longsuffering patience (people often take time and resist “getting it”) and instruction (careful exegesis of God’s Word…all of it!).
Finally, the Word of God tells us that a pastor is called to care for His flock (Acts 20.17-31). The word “keep watch over” here literally means to “guard, care for, protect.” He must be one who will always be alert to concerns and threats from both outside and in, as well as nurturing and loving upon the precious sheep of God’s fold. As such he is a Caregiver, a Counselor, a Protector and a Friend. He is a lover of people and recognizes that God’s “assignment” is the people (not really a task) that God has given him to love. To do that effectively he must guard his own life as well as those of others, because he is aware of (1) false teachers who will seek to distort and destroy the work of God and (2) other dangers, including temptation, that can lead the flock astray.
Well, there you have it…a multifaceted job description for an amazingly called man of God. The key is for him and the congregation to stand assured that he is indeed called to the church for “such a time as this,” and that he is ready and willing to live out that calling through the character of his life (what we looked at last week) and the assignment God has given him (above).