Exploring the Profound Nature of Pastoral Ministry
Exploring the Profound Nature of Pastoral Ministry
How is a pastor to identify himself biblically? What are his biblical roles and duties? In essence, this article will attempt to define the nature of a biblically-based pastoral ministry. We will examine the major terminology used in reference to pastoral ministry, primarily focusing on I Peter 5:1-3, while giving an occasional glance at other New Testament passages. We will then attempt to show any relation these terms may have and what implications they may provide in identifying the identity of pastoral ministry. Then, based on the findings of our research, we will draw some conclusions as to the nature of pastoral ministry.
Are you ready? Let’s get our zealous on!
“The Holy Ghost makes men bishops or overseers of the Church….God hath determined
in his Word, that there shall be such an office, and what the work and power of that office
shall be, and what sort of men, as to their qualifications, shall receive it.” 1
We Have a Desperate Need for Spiritual Leadership
One does not need to be a scholar to recognize the desperate need for spiritual leadership in the church today. The pastoral office is, without a doubt, the greatest responsibility God has called any man to undertake. The pastor’s role contains an abundance of duties and tasks that require a great deal of thought and prayer. Although the pastor’s responsibility is great, his eternal reward, if he faithfully administers his office, will be greater and he will be full of joy in his service (1 Pet. 5:4; Heb.13:17).
Seeing that this is such a great service to the Lord and His church, it begs the question: why is today’s church found wavering in the position of desperately needing spiritual leadership to fill such an awesome office? Wagner believes that we as pastors have subtly “sold our biblical birthright as shepherds called by God for the pottage of skills and gimmicks designed by humans.”2 He offers a plausible reason why, as he adds…
We have misunderstood the role of pastor and defined it incorrectly. We have left our biblical and theological moorings. The result? Our churches are struggling mightily, Christians are wandering from the faith, and pastors are burning out at alarming rates.3
In fact, the Bible warns that this will be the result in Zechariah 13:7, which states “Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered.” Oden agrees that pastoral ministry is defined by Scripture as it “provides the primary basis for understanding the pastoral office and its functions.”4 Mayhue also argues that pastoral ministry is involved in a severe identity crisis in his chapter on Rediscovering Pastoral Ministry.5 Piper has also joined this call for a biblical pastorate in the publishing of his book titled, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry.6
Since it is blatantly obvious that pastoral ministry is suffering from an identity crisis, and that the church is responding in like form, what is the pastor’s true identity? Is he to be considered a shepherd only, or in part? Is it inaccurate to describe a pastor as a CEO? Is he not considered a professional after all of his specialized seminary training? After all, isn’t that just being more relevant in our modern context? How is a pastor to identify himself biblically? What are his biblical roles and duties?
Biblical Terminology Specific to the Pastoral Office
Throughout the history of the church, the minister has been known by a wide variety of names, including, but not limited to: bishop, clergy, elder, evangelist, minister, pastor, preacher, priest, reverend, shepherd, and teacher. One can be overwhelmed when he considers all of these terms used to describe this office. Which terms are biblical and which are traditional? For the remainder of this article, we will employ the term pastor, for the sake of consistency, when referring to the ministerial office.
Stitzinger reveals five distinctive terms which refer to the pastoral office, including: elder or presbuteros, bishop or episkopos, pastor or poimēn, preacher or kērux, and teacher or didaskalos.7 It is important to note that, according to Stitzinger, “First Timothy 5:17 and Hebrews 13:7 associate the terms teacher and preacher with each other” and “Ephesians 4:11 connects shepherds (pastors) with teachers, as do 1 Timothy 5:17 and Hebrews 13:7.”8 In light of this, our attention will be upon the remaining three words which contain the essence of the New Testament understanding of the pastoral office. All three of these words appear to be used synonymously in I Peter 5:1-3.
1″Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the
sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2
shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion,
but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with
eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to
be examples to the flock.
1 Peter 5:1-3 (NASB)
Continue Reading on the next page.
- Word of the Week | James 1:1 | Part One - June 21, 2023
- Exploring the Profound Nature of Pastoral Ministry - June 16, 2023
- Lessons on Zealous Living Learned in the Garden! Part Four - May 20, 2023