In previous posts I dealt with the subject of the pastor as a shepherd and the pastor as a teacher. Now, we turn our attention to the oversight ministry of the pastor. The pastor is the bishop or ‘overseer’ of the church. He is not the head of the church, for Christ is the head. However, the pastor has been given stewardship over the church by God. The pastor does not work for the church and is not employed by the church. He does not have an individual or group of individuals as his supervisor. The one to whom the pastor must answer to is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ who is the true head of the church. If you were to create an organizational chart for the church, you would have Jesus Christ at the top and the next in line is the pastor. Out from the pastor, flows all of the other ministries and leadership positions within the church.
The Bible gives very clear instructions concerning the oversight ministry of the pastor. Consider 1 Peter 5:1-4.
“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (ESV)
In this passage we find that the elder or pastor is to exercise oversight in way that is pleasing to God. It is not to be for selfish gain. However, the pastor should eagerly lead the church by setting an example that they should follow. The pastor is not to take advantage of his authority by lording over the church. Rather, he is to lead as a shepherd who leads his sheep.
In considering the pastor as the overseer of the church, I would like to suggest several principles for the pastor as well as a few principles for the church.
Principles for Pastoral oversight:
- Walk with God. The pastor must maintain a close walk with God in order to effectively oversee the work of the church.
- Lead by example. People are watching the pastor’s every move. Therefore, the pastor should live in such a way that he is able to say, ‘live as I live.’
- Know your flock. Various groups of people respond to leadership in various ways. The pastor needs to have an understanding of how his church responds to his leadership and adjust his leadership methods accordingly.
- Always seek what is best for the church. Every pastor has certain dreams and passions. However, the pastor must put aside his own agenda and prayerfully do what is best for the church that he pastors.
- Be flexible. A pastor who has a ‘my way or the highway’ mentality will never be successful. The pastor must choose his battles wisely and be willing to bend but not break. The pastor must be willing to make adjustments according to the spiritual condition and the needs of the church.
Principles for the church in relation to Pastoral oversight:
- Pray for your pastor. Your pastor has a huge responsibility before God. He needs your prayers and he needs to know you are praying for him.
- Affirm your support. Being a pastor can be very lonely. The pastor needs regular affirmation from his congregation. Negative critics are always louder than positive affirmers. The pastor needs to hear that he is doing a good job and he needs to see you following his leadership.
- Let your pastor lead. Many churches do not allow their pastor to do their job. They have expectations of the pastor that are not Biblical. Let your pastor lead you and show him that he has your support and that you are following his leading.
- Remember who you are. You are not the pastor. Biblically, you are not the authority of the church. The pastor is not your employee.
- Encourage your pastor. Your pastor is human. He gets discouraged. He has many burdens. Don’t discourage your pastor with silence. Encourage him with your words and your actions.