I am often asked for a sample job description for a pastor especially by churches who are trying to figure out exactly what a pastor does. This usually sparks some conversation because I find there is a distinct difference between what the Bible describes as the attributes of a pastor and what church people expect a pastor to do.
Instead of job descriptions and professional profiles the Bible offers mentors who serve as living examples of the meaning of pastoral ministry. St. John, the pastor, identified himself with this description: “I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus…” (Rev.1:9). John expressed how a pastor should feel toward those he serves in Christ. Pastoral ministry thrives in the context of this shared identity (your brother and companion), and a sense of mutual responsibility (suffering) and a commitment to common goals (patient endurance). Living out our faith together and Biblically is what draws pastor and people into the right kind of relationship.
The words of Jesus are important for today: “…You are not to be called ‘Rabbi’; for you have only one Master and you are all brothers…The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Mt.23:8,11,12). This kind of humility is essential to true spiritual authority.
Pastoral leadership is distinguished by a person’s spiritual gifts, character, training and support. The body of believers is involved in every aspect of in recognizing and developing each of these areas. The Apostle Paul wrote, “It was he [Christ] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the Body of Christ may be built up…” (Eph 4:11-12)
The pastor does not have all the spiritual gifts necessary for the church. “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us…” (Rom 12:6) For the church to rely too heavily on one person, or for one person to assume too much responsibility distorts the healthy development of the church. We burn out pastors by piling too many responsibilities on them. The pastor may be quick to assume ministry responsibilities that would be far better handled by others in the congregation or called from outside to join the ministry team.
The church sets apart the person gifted by the Spirit of Christ, not to do the ministry for the church but to prepare the church to minister.
Many thanks to Doug Webster for sharing the “core thoughts” on this topic. Doug’s gracious and wise input in my life continues to prepare me to minister. Dr. Webster teaches pastoral theology and preaching at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, AL.