The Role of the Pastor- Part 1

This series, The Role of the Pastor, comes from a study that we’ve been doing on Wednesday nights at Second Baptist Church in Warner Robins, GA.

It is absolutely essential that we learn what the Bible says a pastor ought to be.  No doubt we all have our own ideas and opinions, but the Word of God sets the standard. Pastors should know their God-given roles and responsibilities according to God’s Word; and churches should know what the Bible says a pastor ought to be. We must have some objective standard by which to write the pastor’s job description and then to measure it faithfully.  That standard is the Bible.

I want to be clear about what this series is and what it is not. This is not about the qualifications of a pastor.  Those are spelled out very clearly in the pastoral epistles and is not the subject of these blog posts. Maybe we’ll get there one day, but not today.This is a series about the function of the pastor or the job of the pastor; what the pastor must do according to the Word.  So we are not dealing with the requirements but the role; not who he should be, but what he must do.

We will cover four major topics: love, lead, protect and feed.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, but any list that does not include these is certainly not exhaustive.

There are three major words in the NT that are used to refer to the pastor.  They are used interchangeably but describe a different facet of pastoral duties.

  1. Episkopos – “bishop” in English; means an overseer.  This title emphasizes the leading and ruling function of the pastor.
  2. Presbuteros – “elder” in English; refers to age or spiritual maturity. It often refers to the maturity of their spiritual experience.
  3. Poimen – “pastor” or “shepherd” in English; refers to leadership and care.  The word refers to a shepherd who takes care of sheep or flocks, It means more than one who feeds them, but who protects, looks out for, and will give his life for them.

Let’s focus on the first responsibility and role of the pastor – love the people.  John 13:34-35 says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  Let’s focus on three words…

1. There is a requirement: we are commanded to love: 34a

Jesus says, “a new commandment I give to you, that you love one another…” This is not an option; it is a requirement for all believers.  And if it is a requirement for all believers, it is certainly a requirement for pastors. A shepherd cares for his flock and pastors must care for their people.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13 that there are three things that remain, faith, hope and love but the greatest is love. Why? Because faith will be sight and hope will be realized in Heaven, but love will always remain constant.

Love is the first listed in the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5.  We must be characterized by love for one another and love for others.  We should love those within our church and those outside of our church.

And of course, the pastor should faithfully and consistently show love to the people of God entrusted to his care.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to a pastor that he may become its accuser before God and man.”

The great pastor, Martin Lloyd-Jones said, “To love to preach is one thing, to love those to whom we preach quite another.” The trouble with some of us is that we love to preach, but we are not always careful to make sure we love the people to whom we are preaching.

Now remember, love doesn’t always do what you want or tell you what you want to hear; love hurts sometimes. A good doctor will tell you the truth, even when it hurts.  The same is true of a good pastor.

2. There is a reality: we are provided a perfect example of love: 34b

We are to love others as Christ has loved us…that’s a big job! Jesus says here, “love one another, even as I have loved you, that you love one another.” There’s no doubt that some people are harder to love than others.  God uses those people in your life to teach you how to love like He does.

In John 13, Jesus pictures Himself as a shepherd, He provides an example for us all but especially for pastors.He is the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd and the Chief Shepherd; the Shepherd loves and lays down His life for the sheep.The pastor is called to love the people as Christ loves the people.  That’s impossible without the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.

Charles Spurgeon once said, “A man must have a great heart, if he would have a great congregation. His heart should be as capacious as those noble harbors along our coast, which contain sea-room for a fleet. When a man has a large, loving heart, men go to him as ships to a haven and feel at peace when they have anchored under the lee of his friendship.”

3. There is a reward: we are blessed when we love: 35

There is a reward promised here for followers of Christ.  Our love for one another is a strong and undeniable testimony to the world. Jesus says, “By this all will know that you are My disciples.” A pastor that loves his church and a church that loves its pastor is an incredibly strong testimony to a world that’s watching.

I describe a good marriage as one where the husband thinks he’s blessed to have his wife and the wife thinks she’s blessed to have her husband. I think the church is very much the same way.  A good relationship between pastor and people is when they both think they got the better deal!

No doubt there is an eternal blessing when we love as Christ commanded.  But think about the immediate blessings as well.  A pastor who truly loves his congregation will have more joy in ministry and also more influence in leadership.

Next up in this series, we will examine the pastor’s role to lead the people of God.