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Principles and Practices of the Pastoral Ministry

Principles and Practices of the Pastoral Ministry

What Is a Pastor to Be and Do?

A vast amount of material is available to advise pastors on how to conduct their ministries.  Books, tapes, journals, and seminars abound.  In fact, so much material is available that a pastor could easily spend all his time absorbing it – and have no time left for actual ministry!  How can a pastor sift through this mountain of information to discern what is really important in ministry?  Can what a pastor is to be and do be boiled down to a few basic principles?

What Is a Pastor to Be and Do?

A vast amount of material is available to advise pastors on how to conduct their ministries.  Books, tapes, journals, and seminars abound.  In fact, so much material is available that a pastor could easily spend all his time absorbing it – and have no time left for actual ministry!  How can a pastor sift through this mountain of information to discern what is really important in ministry?  Can what a pastor is to be and do be boiled down to a few basic principles?

The apostle Peter read no books or journal articles on pastoral leadership.  He attended no seminars and heard no tapes.  However, with the wisdom of long years of experience, Peter distilled the essence of pastoral leadership into two simple admonitions: be humble, and do the work of shepherding the flock.  He expressed these foundational principles in 1 Peter. 5:1-3:

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, 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; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.

Peter modeled the humility he enjoined for pastors.  Although the acknowledged leader of the twelve apostles, he humbly described himself as “your fellow elder.”  He refused to lord his exalted position over the other elders.  And in verse 2 he gave the pastor’s calling, to “shepherd the flock of God” entrusted to his care.  Humble shepherds are what God requires to lead His flock

A  Pastor Should Be Humble

We live in a world that neither values nor desires humility.  Whether in politics, business, the arts, or sports, people work hard to achieve prominence, popularity, and fame.  Sadly, that mind-set has spilled over into the church.  Personality cults exist because pastors and Christian leaders strive for celebrity status.  The true man of God, however, seeks the approval of His Lord rather than the adulation of the crowd.  Humility is thus the bench-mark of any useful servant of God.  Spurgeon reminds us that “if we magnify ourselves, we shall become contemptible; and we shall neither magnify our office nor our Lord.  We are the servants of Christ, not lords over His heritage.  Ministers are for churches, and not churches for ministers . . . Take heed that you be not exalted above measure, lest you come to nothing.

A Pastor Has to Shepherd the Flock of God

Of all the titles and metaphors used to describe spiritual leadership, the most fitting is that of shepherd.  As shepherds, pastors are to guard their flocks from going astray, lead them to the green pastures of God’s Word, and defend them against savage wolves (Acts 20:29) that would ravage them.  The shepherd metaphor is the one chosen by Peter in 1 Pet. 5:1-3.  There he discusses the primary objective of shepherding and gives wise counsel on how to shepherd and how not to shepherd.

The Primary Objective of Shepherding

A shepherd who fails to feed his flock will not have a flock for long.  His sheep will wander off to other fields or die of starvation.  Above all, God requires of His spiritual shepherds that they feed their flocks.  In fact, the one ability that distinguishes an elder from a deacon is that an elder must be “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:9).  Charles Jefferson writes,

That the feeding of the sheep is an essential duty of the shepherd-calling is known even to those who are least familiar with shepherds and their work.  Sheep cannot feed themselves, nor water themselves.  They must be conducted to the water and the pasture . . . Everything depends on the proper feeding of the sheep.  Unless wisely fed they become emaciated and sick, and the wealth invested in them is squandered . . . When the minister goes into the pulpit, he is the shepherd in the act of feeding, and if every minister had borne this in mind, many a sermon would have been other than it has been.  The curse of the pulpit is the superstition that a sermon is a work of art and not a piece of bread or meat.

Taken from Chapter 1

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