What Does a Pastor Do?

Among the many different considerations that occupy the current needs of the church, this one topic must head the list. The simple question, “What does a pastor do?”, is a monumental question to ask. It is crucial for the needs of the church in so many ways. It is also a need for the pastor to “check in” once in a while to make sure he is being faithful to his calling.

Let’s start by stating what a pastor is NOT to do. This little series will predominantly be taken from a perusal through the Pastoral Epistles of the New Testament (1, 2 Timothy, and Titus). All three letters were written by Paul, the old apostle at the time of writing. He bore the task of carrying the gospel of the kingdom of God to the greater areas of the known world of that time. He was the man who, although not single-handedly as he had many co-laborers, took the gospel to the “uttermost parts of the world” (Acts 1: 8). He suffered much and had tremendous disappointment and hardship during his years as an apostle. He writes of himself, reluctantly,

2 Corinthians 11:23–29

23  Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.

24  Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.

25  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.

26  I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;

27  I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.

28  Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.

29  Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?

How many pastors can say this? Not me. However, his task is my task. His responsibility is my responsibility. Therefore, if our work is the same, the proclamation of the gospel, the results will likely be the same as well.

Let’s consider what a pastor is not to do from the Pastoral Epistles, taken predominantly from the portions that begin with “Do not…” (NASB):

1) Do not give your time to learning false doctrines:

1 Timothy 1:3–4

3 As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines,

4  nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.

As an elder, Timothy must resist doing what Paul here is telling Timothy to rebuke in the other erring elders. Timothy must not teach heterodoxy. He must not teach “other doctrines” (ἑτεροδιδασκαλέω, same word as in 1 Timothy 6:3). A “strange doctrine” is one not taught by Jesus Christ. The church seems pummeled by “strange doctrines.” May none of the them come from pastors!

2) Do not neglect your giftedness and calling:

1 Timothy 4:14

14  Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.

It is assumed that a pastor has some kind of internal and external validation of his ministry. A pastor cannot appoint himself (cf. Matthew 23:1). He must be recognized and drawn into the work by his own righteous desires and the approval of other godly men/elders (1 Timothy 3:1). Once verified, he cannot look back. To neglect, here, means to “be unconcerned for; care nothing about.” It is basically apathy towards the reality of the work and need. There is nothing more important than the task of oversight of God’s people. There is no work that matches the work of the preaching and teaching of God’s Word (2 Timothy 4:1-4). What can possibly do what the Word can do? What lasts into eternity like this work? To neglect this calling is to be apathetic towards God Himself as He is not apathetic toward this work. Jesus Christ spent His ministry simply preaching and teaching, of course accompanied by proofs of His ministry. Our only proof is the written Word. When we are in accord with that, our ministry is validated. Our ministries can be neglected in a number of ways:

  • treating it like a job, and not a life-work.
  • pursuing hobbies with greater interest.
  • failing to receive appropriate education/equipping in order to dispense your task with precision.
  • the love of sleep.
  • the love of luxury.
  • the disdain of hardship.

3) Do not wrongfully address others in the church:

1 Timothy 5:1–2

Honor Widows

1 Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers,

2  the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.

A pastor has to rebuke at times, well…often. However, to “sharply” rebuke someone else who demands honor is wrong. That is not to say that they should not be rebuked. It is to say that in doing so, a pastor, especially a younger one, must remember to whom he is speaking. An older man demands, by mere age, respect. He is to be honored. He is to be listened to. He is to be given place as one made in God’s image. However, when he is wrong, or headed the wrong direction, he must be rebuked by one with spiritual authority via the Word of God, the pastor. But, to speak to an older man like he might a younger, inexperienced, foolish, man, is deplorable.

4) Do not listen to hearsay:

1 Timothy 5:19

19  Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.

A pastor must protect and guard his fellow pastors. He must not listen to the complaint of others in the church toward another pastor without examination. That is not to say that they cannot be listened to. It is to say that to formally charge a pastor for wrong-doing on the basis of one complaint is wrong. Look for others who might agree with the complaint by means of factual data. If none exists, do not receive that complaint. It is simply an accusation.

5) Do not place men into leadership too quickly:

1 Timothy 5:22

22  Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.

Over the years, I have heard from other men this recurring comment: “I put a man into leadership way too soon, and it has devastated this ministry. Removing him from ministry has split the church, or is about to.” I never want to be in that position. Take the time to examine a man first (see 1 Timothy 3:10). What kind of man are you looking for to assist in leadership? Here is a short list:

  • Regenerate – he must demonstrate evidence of regeneration.
  • Faithful – the one characteristic that evidences eldership raw material. He is faithful in his home, his work, and with doctrine.
  • Godly – don’t use the leadership position to make a man godly. He must have a level of godliness before entering. Of course, being in leadership sanctifies you, but not from ungodly to godly. Rather, from godly to more godly.
  • Submissive – he is willing to himself submit to other leadership and especially the Word of God.
  • Supportive – he willingly, wholeheartedly, supports the teaching pastor’s doctrine and preaching. To chafe against the public teaching of the Word of God is to evidence disunity and possible hostility/jealousy toward the teaching pastor.

If Timothy were to place a man into that position who was not ready, then Timothy himself would be guilty of the sins that that man may commit while in leadership; sins of pride, laziness, false teaching, or abuse of authority.

If a man simply builds his ministry starting with these preventative admonitions, he will be on his way toward faithfulness to the One who called him into that ministry. I am convinced that Paul knew exactly what he was saying in these letters. And, when followed, these instructions will direct, guide, and commend a pastor in his service to Jesus Christ no matter his location.

Does God Love the World?

Does God love the world? What does the Bible say? Is there any Scripture to teach that He does not? Is there any Scripture to teach that He does? Does it matter? It is important that we are willing to hear and understand what God says about this, not what supports or offends a popular notion about the love of God because every doctrine of Scripture, in one way or another, intersects with the love of God. Here goes:

1) GOD’S LOVE IS described as relationship to Himself. Intimacy and relationship to the Father is the gauge of love. Jesus said,

 
John 14:21–23
21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”
22 Judas (not Iscariot) *said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?”
23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.

Notice the disciples’ response: "You are going to disclose yourself to us and not the world…why?" What is the answer? "Because I love you and the Father loves you. The world does not share in that love."

2) GOD’S LOVE IS conditional. Intimacy and unhindered relationship is only for those who keep His commandments. And, that is not the result of man, but of God’s own will:

John 15:10, 14
10 “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
14 “You are My friends if you do what I command you.
(see also Deuteronomy 7:11-23; Daniel 9:4)

3) GOD’S LOVE IS lesser, much less, in degree for the world than for His own due to the fact that the world does not know God. This kind of love expressed toward the world is not the result of knowing the Father. It is the nature of God expressed to enemies in spite of their rebellion (1John 4:8, 16). This is love, but it is not given back to the Father, sadly. They are still enemies of God (James 4:4)

Matthew 5:44–45
44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

In fact, the love of the world is not the kind of love that comes from the Father. God does not love the world in the sense that His affections are for the world or His pleasure is felt toward the world. It is not. John wrote that the kind of love that the Father has is not resultant in the love of the world:

1 John 2:15–16
15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

4) GOD’S LOVE IS expressed purely and absolutely by the expression of His own will, and not the worth of man.

Deuteronomy 7:7–8
7 “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples,
8 but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

1 John 4:10, 19
10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
19 We love, because He first loved us.

5) GOD’S SOUL HATES the sinner who does violence. And, by the way, every sinner does violence (Romans 3:10-18):

Psalm 11:5–7
5 The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked,
And the one who loves violence His soul hates.
6 Upon the wicked He will rain snares;
Fire and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup.
7 For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness;
The upright will behold His face.

Proverbs 8:13
13 “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil;
Pride and arrogance and the evil way
And the perverted mouth, I hate.

Luke 14:26–27
26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.
27 “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

For many, the issue is not "Does God love the world?" For many the issue is, "How, now, do we relate to the world if indeed God hates those who commit sin? Should we now hate them too? (and since we simply cannot relate to this level of perfection expressed in hate and love in God, we usually have a fleshly definition of ‘hate’)" Jesus said in Matthew 5:43–48,

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’
44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47 “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

We must express mature, perfect, discerning love (Philippians 1:9–11
9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment,
10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;
11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God) to the world. To not do that is to be of no use to God, whether in the church or out of it (Galatians 6:10
10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith; cf. 1 Corinthians 13). However, to set affection upon the world is not wise either and is not God’s kind of love (1 John 2:15-16).

God’s people, who have the love of God shed abroad in their hearts (Romans 5:5) and who have been reconciled to God into a level of intimacy with the Father equal to that of the Son (John 14:23; 16:26-27!), can rejoice and praise God for His mercy in loving them first so that we might receive this love AND be able to return it back to Him in fulfillment of His commandment, "You will love the Lord your God with all your heart…" To Him belongs all praise, dominion, and affection!

Romans 11:33–36
33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!
34 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR?
35 Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN?
36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

Rules For Trusting Your Pastor’s Teaching

Acts 17:11–12

11  Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.

12  Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.

As a pastor, it would be nice if everyone who ever hears a sermon, reads a blog post, says, “Wow! Thank you so very much for causing understanding of this topic.” Even though there will always be those who do say that, and those people are a refreshment, there are also those who simply doubt the conclusions that have been reached. That is not to say that I wish no one would question my conclusions. It is simply a statement of praying and wishing for everyone who hears the Word of God, once having been given the evidence of the Word of God on any one subject, to completely believe it themselves, no matter what needs to be changed in their lives. It is not the desire of the true pastor/elder to have a cult following. Although it is popular today to follow a pastor simply because of his persona or style of dress (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:1-4), that is a very embarrassing activity to say the least. But, it certainly would be commendable to follow a pastor after having verified his accuracy in doctrine and righteousness of life.

It is very important to speak to this here. One of the most important realities that a pastor faces is this: he never knows if anyone will be convinced of his teaching. You teach after having studied. You know the text and thus God’s mind on any given subject. You examine your own thinking and conform it to the Word. You read other men of God, and listen to their teaching so as to further examine your own. But to do all of that in the minds and hearts of God’s people is, in a word, impossible. No pastor is the Holy Spirit, Who alone teaches and enlightens (1 John 2:27). However, that does not preclude that we should not examine, scrutinize, study, and expound the written Scriptures. They are inspired, objectively fixed for our examination. Thus, we know that when we come to the meaning of the text, that is the heart and mind of God Himself. 

But. how do the people KNOW that a pastor’s teaching is accurate? How can they know that he has done the work to arrive at that level of accuracy for himself and is not simply parroting some other teacher he is fond of? Let me give 5 guidelines to examining a pastor’s teaching in order to verify if he is teaching the truth or not.

First, listen to him.

Second, take extensive notes.

Third, go to the passages of Scripture to which he refers.

Fourth, repeat.

Fifth, once verified that his teaching is exactly what is presented in Scripture, submit to that teaching without fear..

  • Listen to him.

What I mean by that is to listen with a mind to understand exactly what he actually is saying and not what you are afraid he might be saying, or what you want him to say. I will periodically hear of some who listen to me and misunderstand what I mean. Either there is a slant taken that I was not intending, or the entire sense was missed for whatever reason. That’s okay. Once they come to me and ask for clarification, I can then do so and that is wonderful. However, much of that can be alleviated by careful listening. In our day, listening, as well as thinking in general, has become so superficial and shallow. It would seem the church needs to be taught how to listen carefully with a biblically literate frame of reference. So, listen to what he is saying. If possible, find the main point of his teaching and make note of it.

  • Take extensive notes:

Once you have the main point, develop his supporting points as he develops them. Hopefully, that pastor does this. If he does not, it will be hard to be sure of what he means. Some pastors like to be vague so as to avoid accountability. However, a skillful preacher will make his point from the text, substantiate it from the text and other texts, and then repeat it again in sum. It should be fairly easy to track with a preacher. Write down his main passages to which he refers. Highlight them in your notes. Write extensive questions. Star the ones that you really need clarification on. Then go on to the next step.

  • Go to the passages:

Once you have your notes, read and study the passages, at least the main ones, to which he referred. Examine them. Read the passages, and compare them with others by means of cross-referencing. Use a study Bible or books such as The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (R.A. Torrey; Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 1983). Examine the passages in their proper contexts and come to a conclusion about the meaning of those passages apart from trying to see if it means what the pastor says. That will be obvious.

  • Repeat:

Take these steps and repeat them where necessary in order to learn good habits of discipline and learning. This is the normal Christian behavior in the life of the church. The only other option is the idea that the saints gather and watch the pastor perform.

  • Submit:

Once you have verified that the pastor is speaking accurately and comprehensively, take what he says as the Word of God. Paul commended the Thessalonian saints this way:

1 Thessalonians 2:13

13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.

When a man is proven credible by means of his accuracy and his own obedience (Hebrews 13:7), then it must be concluded by God’s people that he is speaking with the authority of Jesus Christ on that passage and the only option is…submission. Submission to him as God’s man:

Hebrews 13:17

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

Submission to God’s Word as it speaks with divine authority:

2 Peter 1:19–21

19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.

20  But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,

21  for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

Humble submission to the authority of Jesus Christ is THE demonstration of a regenerate heart. A willingness to strive toward a maturity that displays submission to God is the desire of every true believer. If that is your desire, the path toward it is given here. It begins with the Word of God. The very Word that is preached by fallible men.

Spiritual Desperation

There is a level of desperation in the true believe in Jesus Christ. He or she does not approach life the same as one who does not believe in Jesus Christ, or even one who says he does but is still unregenerate. We approach life as a desperate battle for righteousness and the pleasure of God. It goes like this:

 

  • We learn a portion of Scripture
  • It holds up for us a level of righteousness that we must obtain.
  • It also reminds us of that impossibility of obtaining it.
  • It then reminds us of our profound, and desperate, need for Jesus Christ.

 

That is the life of the true believer. The vanity of living a life of superficial commitment to a Jesus that only appears on Sundays or during times of distress is simply not enough. We are driven to daily, hourly, desperation…and gladly so. That is the paradox.

2 Corinthians 1:3–11

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,

4  who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

5  For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.

6  But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer;

7  and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.

8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life;

9  indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead;

10  who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us,

11  you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.

And,

 

1 Peter 4:18–19

18  And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?

19  Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.

 

The pursuit of the kingdom does not always make this life better. However, it ensures for us a far better life to come. This pursuit, the relentless drive away from sin and toward righteousness with all of its trouble, is not over until we are taken to the heavenly kingdom. And with that hope, we endure – with joy.

Therefore, endure! Look forward to your meeting with Jesus Christ, the Father, and the Spirit, in that day that, without shame, you will see Him as He is and stand in His presence. No trial, failure, weakness, or debilitation in this life can compare.

Matthew 5:3–6

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Whom Jesus Chooses

This post will be brief.

In John 6, we have a narrative of tremendous importance. In the context, the disciples had returned from their first solo ministry tour (Matthew 10; Mark 3; Luke 9) describing to Jesus all that God accomplished through them. Jesus Himself was continuing in His own ministry and the combination of the two ministries was drawing quite a crowd. In fact, John identifies about 5,000 men (John 6:10-with potential for another 5,000 women and even more children). These were fed by Jesus, healed, shepherded, and taught all by the Lord or His delegates. This was a crowd which followed Him across the Sea of Galilee, interrupted their lives for Him, believed in Him, to a limited degree, and for all intents and purposes, were His disciples.

However, as Jesus’ teaching reaches the point that He identifies what He already knows (v.64), that not many of them truly believe, they become increasingly uncomfortable (vv. 26-40). Ultimately, teaching in the synagogue, His teaching hits them hard (vv. 59ff.). He tells them that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood (vv. 48-58). Not only was this unsettling, but He goes on to say that this crowd is grumbling at His teaching (v. 61) and will only get worse (v. 62). He finally drops the news that many do not believe in Him truly and in fact they cannot even follow Him unless it is granted them to do so from the Father (vv. 64-65). The result? Many of the disciples, the crowd, left Jesus, grumbling no doubt, and stopped following Him. There were only twelve left. Jesus tells them that, upon Peter’s confession that He has the words of eternal life (cf. v 63), He chose them to follow Him. Not only that, but He even chose one who is a devil (v. 70). Jesus chose a devil, slanderer, to follow Him. Was this man ever saved? No. He had a part to play, however. Jesus chose him still. He also chose the eleven as well, and they went on to become the apostles.

What does all this mean? It means that “many are called, few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). In fact, of the potentially 20,000 men, women, and children, only twelve were chosen of Christ, drawn of the Father. And, one of them chosen was an enemy of Christ. The direct implication is that at that time, Jesus did not choose the other 20,000 “disciples.” They chose Jesus, and thus were never true disciples.

The sovereign will of Christ and the Father is evident here. Too vast to summarize. Just know that Jesus chooses those whom He desires, even some who remain an adversary, by His own will motivated by the will of the Father.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: