T.M. Moore is the editor of the Worldview Church and serves both as a writer and a theological conultant for the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.
Do not neglect the gift you have which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 1 Timothy 4:14
And he gave...the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry… Ephesians 4:11, 12
We are considering the Biblical criteria that relate to being faithful in the work of ministry. We must take care, as did the Apostle Paul, to ensure, to the best of our ability, that our labors in the Lord are not in vain but, rather, bear the fruit He intends. To this end, we must not be misled by false measures of effectiveness. It is required of those who have been given stewardship over the household of God that they should be found faithful, and for pastors to be faithful, they must understand the resources available to them, and they must put these to good use toward the ends for which they have been called to their ministry.
We are examining the tools which have been provided a pastor for the work to which he has been called – his personal life and example, the ministry of the Word, and the work of prayer.
Thus far, with respect to the pastor’s personal example (1 Pet. 5:1-13; 1 Tim. 4:12), we have seen that the pastor must strive to embody the character, condition, and consequence of the Kingdom of God – righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17, 18). Thus he will serve as a constant point of reference for the people in his care as they take up their daily calling to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Then we saw that the pastor must model the example of Christ in loving service. He must be sensitive to the needs of those in his care, and humble and swift in doing whatever he can to meet those needs, so that the people of God may enjoy the full benefits of His salvation in loving service to one another (Heb. 6:9-12).
The pastor who is able to embody the Kingdom and reflect the lifestyle of the King will thus provide an excellent example for those who have been entrusted to his care.
There remains yet one more comment to make about the pastor’s personal example, and this relates to his diligence in doing the work of ministry to which he has been called. Since God has called all His people into His Kingdom, to share in and refract His glory to the surrounding world (1 Thess. 2:12; 1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 1:27), pastors must model a lifestyle of ministry for the people of God, so that he may equip them for their own callings and the works of ministry those will require (1 Pet. 4:10, 11).
So here we want to take a brief overview of the work of ministry which constitutes the calling of the pastor. The people of God are not pastors; they have their own callings and works of ministry to fulfill. But if they are to be diligent and effective in their own works of ministry, they must be led by a pastor who exemplifies what faithfulness in this matter requires.
For the pastor this means being faithful as a shepherd, an equipper of the saints, and a servant of the Word of God.
The pastor as shepherd
Because I have written fairly extensively about the work of shepherding (see, for example the many listings provided here), I will only summarize this primary work of the pastor. Pastors are shepherds of God’s flock. God promised to send shepherds to work with the Good Shepherd in caring for the Lord’s sheep (Jer. 23:1-4), and the apostles Paul and Peter embraced that title and the duties that go along with it for themselves and other elders and pastors in the church (cf. Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:1-3).
The pastoral work of shepherding involves six disciplines, outlined by our Lord Jesus in John 10, where He proclaimed Himself to be the Good Shepherd and explained what the Good Shepherd does for the sheep entrusted to His care. We may summarize these disciplines as follows (verses from John 10 in parentheses):
- The shepherd must work to know his sheep, to develop with the people in his care relationships of mutual trust and love, after the example of Jesus (3-5, 14, 15, 27).
- The shepherd must lead the people in his care to where they can feed and enjoy the safety and security of one another’s mutual care and concern (3-5, 10, 27). The shepherd leads by his teaching and example, of course, but also by his work of leading the people in worship.
- The shepherd lays down his life for the sheep, giving priority to their needs and making the kinds of sacrifices of time and commitments which demonstrate the reality of Christ’s self-denying love (10, 11; cf. Phil. 2:5-11).
- The shepherd defends the sheep against the ravages of the world, the flesh, and the devil (10-13). He teaches them to recognize and resist temptation, and he makes certain that they know the comforting love of Christ in their times of need, and can share that love with one another.
- The shepherd gives eternal life to the sheep, enabling them to know more of the Lord’s salvation and indwelling presence and power (10, 28; cf. Jn. 17:3).
- The shepherd brings other sheep into the flock through the work of evangelism (1).
The disciplines of shepherding provide the large framework within which pastors do all their work. If we would be found to be faithful in our ministries, we must take seriously the call to work as shepherds of God’s flock. The pastor who takes as his model in ministry the CEO, coach, general, politico, entrepreneur, or anything other than shepherd cannot, it seems to me, justify so cavalier a disregard for the Lord’s plain teaching and example. Nor can he expect the Lord’s fullest blessing on his work. The calling of the pastor is to shepherd the flock of God. We cannot expect God’s people to be faithful in their callings if we refuse to be faithful in our own.
The pastor as equipper
Pastors and teachers are given to churches in order to equip the followers of Christ for works of ministry. Everything a pastor does in shepherding the flock of the Lord must be directed to this end, and God’s people must understand that all their teaching, training, trials, and travails are provided for them by the Lord in order that they may increase in righteousness and thus fulfill their own callings in ministry (Heb. 12:3-11).
This requires a degree of intentionality in the work of ministry that is often lacking among contemporary pastors. The goal of preaching is not just clear exposition of the text. It is to equip the saints for ministry. The objective of hospital and other kinds of visitation is not just to make an appearance and offer some succor or encouragement. It is to equip the people of God for works of ministry. The end we seek in marital counseling is not just peace in the home, but couples ministering the love of Christ to one another in unique and effective ways. Everything a pastor does in fulfilling his calling as a shepherd must be aimed at the outcome of seeing the people in his care becoming more perfectly fitted for and consistently engaged in those good works of ministry their own callings require.
The pastor must therefore make sure he understands what this work of equipping entails. The followers of Christ are people whose minds, hearts, consciences, words, and deeds are to be devoted to serving others for the Lord’s sake. How does one equip the heart? The mind? The daily conversations of God’s people? What good works are appropriate for these members at this time in their lives?
Without a keen understanding of the nature, needs, and ministry niches of the people in his care, a pastor’s ministry runs the risk of becoming an end in itself. He preaches to fulfill the work of preaching. He leads worship because it is required of him. But pastors and teachers only really fulfill their callings as shepherds when the people of God in their care are doing the works of ministry unique to their own circumstances and callings. The pastor must show diligence and care, and an unwavering focus on ministry, in all his work on behalf of the people entrusted to his charge.
The pastor as minister of the Word
Of course, the pastor is above all the person entrusted with the ministry of the Word of God. The Word of God is the second tool in the pastor’s toolkit, and when he wields the Scriptures from within the context of a life of faithfulness in Kingdom living, Christ-like service, and diligence in ministry, his use of the Word will be all that much more effective.
We will begin to discuss the pastor’s ministry of the Word in more detail in our next installment.
Effectiveness in ministry begins with the pastor’s life and example. If we fail to live out the demands of Kingdom, King, and calling in our ministry with God’s people, we will not be able, through the Word and prayer alone, to accomplish the task appointed to us in building-up the Body of Christ.
Next steps: What would be some examples of the kinds of “works of ministry” the people in your church might daily be asked to fulfill? Are you equipping them for these? Talk with some of your church leaders about these questions. How can you become more focused in your own work of ministry?
For a good overview of the work of pastoral ministry, order a copy of "The Christian Ministry", by Charles Bridges, a classic in the field of pastoral studies. You can order it from our online by clicking here. You might also read the article, “Watch Yourself: The Discipline of the Self-watch,” by T. M. Moore.