A Philosophy of Ministry for Pastoring

Ephesians 4:11–12 (NLT) Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.

The local church is God’s Plan A for accomplishing His mission in the world. There is no Plan B. The local church is the means by which God has intended to mature believers and reach the world with the gospel. In order to accomplish this, God has given gifts to the church. One of those gifts is the pastor.

The Apostle Paul left his disciple Titus in Crete so that he could “appoint elders in every town.” Those elders were to lead and guide the church towards full maturity in Christ. Over and over in scripture we are instructed to mature in our faith (Ephesians 4:11-16; Colossians 1:28 1 Corinthians 14:20; Philippians 3:15) and pastors stand in a key role to guide that maturing process.

In this article, I will present my philosophy of ministry for pastoring. We will see the qualifications, responsibilities, and the roles required by a pastor.

Qualifications of a Pastor

Scripture tells us that desiring to be a pastor is a good desire (desires a good thing) but it should also be pursued with caution (James 3:1). The ethical or moral bar for pastors is a high bar in scripture.

Pastors are expected to be mature and trustworthy, faithful to their family, self-controlled, hospitable, able to teach, and display blameless character (Titus 1:5-9). He or she is expected to set an example for the church in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity (1 Timothy 4:11-16).

These moral qualifications for pastoring are far more critical any skill competency. Paul instructs pastors to “pay careful attention to yourselves” before taking care of “all the flock” (see Acts 20:28-29). A pastor must prove to be of blameless character before being considered for church leadership.

Responsibilities of a Pastor

Pastors are required to be in disciple-making relationships with their people. That means the people in his or her church are being equipped to do ministry and make disciples as they mature into fully devoted followers of Jesus.

Scripture gives us several ways to accomplish this. Pastors are told to “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13). Pastors must “give instruction in sound doctrine” and “rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). Pastors lead the people of God (1 Peter 5:1-5) in a way that equips them for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12). Pastors should be evangelists (2 Timothy 4:5), counselors (2 Corinthians 1:3-6), and spiritual directors (Hebrews 13:7).

Roles of a Pastor

This is surprising to some, but the word “pastor” never occurs in your New Testament. It’s written that way in English, but the title is translated from three different Greek words: Shepherd, Overseer, and Elder. These three terms sum up the three primary roles of a pastor and are used interchangeably.

As a shepherd, the pastor knows his flock, cares for their souls, and equips them for ministry. The following verses in the New Testament use the Greek term for “shepherd” to describe a pastor: Ephesians 4:11; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Matthew 9:36; John 10:11-14; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25.

An overseer monitors the health of his/her people (Acts 20:28), manages the group (1 Tim. 3:1-5), and leads (Philip. 1:1). The following verses in the New Testament use the Greek term for “shepherd” to describe a pastor: Acts 20:28; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1-2; 1 Peter 5:1-4.

As an elder, the pastor exhibits model character (Titus 1:5-9) and offers spiritual guidance (1 Tim. 4:11-16). The following verses in the New Testament use the Greek term for “elder” to describe a pastor: Acts 14:23; Acts 20:17-38; 1 Timothy 5:17-20; Titus 1:5-9; James 5:14; 1 Peter 5:1-4.