There are many opinions as to what exactly the role of the pastor is. Every church is different and has different expectations for its pastor. There are also many different opinions within the same church. Every pastor has his own unique set of gifts and his own God-given personality. Churches should not expect their pastor to be something that he is not, at the same time, the pastor should not try to change the church to ‘fit’ more with his style and way of doing things. Pastors and churches should seek to have the proper ‘fit’. A pastor may not do very well in one church, but may be very successful in another. This does not mean the churches involved are right or wrong or that the pastor is not what he should be. Churches need a pastor that ‘fits’ well with them. It should be a perfect marriage, a match made in heaven, so to speak. The thoughts concerning the personality of a pastor and whether or not he is a proper fit for a particular church is a whole other subject that can be addressed at a different time. However, the purpose of this article is to outline the basic biblical aspects of pastoral ministry. No matter what the personality of the pastor may be, these are three things that a man must do if he is to be a good pastor.
1. EQUIP. The primary role of any pastor is to equip the saints. His number one responsibility above anything else is to preach and teach the Word of God. This emphasis is seen in several passages of scripture such as: Ephesians 4:11-16 ; 2 Timothy 4:1-5 ; Acts 6:1-7. In all of these passages the emphasis is given on the responsibility that the pastor has in teaching the Word of God. I often like to say that not every preacher can be a pastor, but every pastor must be a preacher. I have known several men who can preach and teach the Word and is extremely knowledgeable in the Word, yet, they do not have a pastor’s heart. They can preach, but they can’t lead. They can preach, but they are not good administrators. They can preach, but they do not have a pastor’s love and heart for the people. On the other hand, I have seen those who have such a pastor’s heart and love for the people, yet, they struggle in the area of preaching and teaching. Such men may be more suitable as deacons or serving as a caregiver or in some type of pastoral care ministry rather than that of a senior pastor. The pulpit and the classroom is the most important aspects of church life. The church is a place where believers can grow in their faith and be equipped for service. The responsibility for this equipping ministry is placed on the pastor. The pastor must take this responsibility seriously and adequate time must be allotted for the study of the Word and for prayer.
2. ENGAGE. When you read the letters of Paul, you find that he was engaged in the life of the church. He had a great concern for the people in the churches where he preached and served. Paul even gave instructions to Timothy on how to minister to the people and also how the church should be organized. A good pastor is an engaging pastor. He is one who involves himself in every aspect of the church’s ministry. He is a team player who participates with his people in the work. The term ‘bishop’ in the scriptures is the same office as that of ‘pastor.’ The bishop is the ‘overseer.’ In other words, he is the administrator, the leader, etc. How can one properly oversee the church if he is not engaged? A pastor cannot just simply preach on Sunday and go home. He is to be engaged in the total life of the church. If the church has a youth ministry, the pastor should involve himself in that ministry. If the church has a Sunday School, the pastor should be actively involved in Sunday School. The pastor should not sit in his office on Sunday mornings waiting for the worship service time. Rather, he should participate in the Sunday School classes, perhaps even rotating each week to visit and support different classes. If the church has a recreation ministry, the pastor should (when possible) be at the various events and participate as he is physically able. If the church has a missions ministry with regular mission trips, the pastor should go on those mission trips and participate with the missions team. The point here is that the pastor should not be expected to do everything or even to be at every single event, however, the pastor should be engaged. He should show his support. He should not do everything and ‘lord’ over the people. However, he should participate with the people and guide them appropriately to stay focused on the overall mission and vision of the church. A pastor that is not engaged in the work and life of the church will cause much more harm than good. He may make mistakes (like we all do). He may say things he should not (like we all do). He may not always be on his toes and preach the best sermons. But, when he is there, when he is engaged, when he shows that he cares, the people will respond in favor and the ministry will be much more fruitful.
3. ENCOURAGE. This goes along with having a pastor’s heart. The pastor should encourage his people. Now, this does not mean simply to pat someone on the back and give them comforting words (which is sometimes needed). However, the pastor should encourage the people in the faith. He should set the example both in word and in deed. He should encourage them to love one another, to be faithful, to serve, etc. He should encourage and strengthen marriages and homes. He should encourage and uplift the downhearted through the spoken word and in prayer. He should encourage those who find themselves trapped in sin to repent and turn their life around. He should encourage the unbeliever of his or her need to trust in Jesus for salvation. A good pastor, whose relationship with God is strong, will have the right words to say at the right time.
We must understand that no pastor is perfect. Every pastor has his weaknesses and flaws. Just like all of us, a pastor has areas of his life that he must constantly work on. Every pastor has his own unique God-given personality, just like all of us. The church should allow their pastor to serve within his giftedness and personality. Both the pastor and the church should be patient with each other, understanding that none of us has arrived and none of us are perfect. However, every pastor no matter who he is and no matter what his style may be, must equip, engage, and encourage. If these three things are neglected the church will suffer for it.