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The Office of Pastor


Paul's epistle to the Ephesians tells us that some are given to be pastors. Here I show how by looking to the Holy Spirit we can discover in scripture exactly what the role and job of the pastor is.


A visitor to this web site asked:

What are the duties of the pastor? What are some things that a pastor should not do? Yours, Chris


The meaning of the Greek word we translate as pastor is shepherd. The job title pastor therefore refers to a spiritual shepherd. (See Ephesians 4:11)

In this way, Jesus is referred to as the great Shepherd of the sheep. (Hebrews 13:20) He is the role model for all of God's pastors. Jesus is the great Shepherd and all of His pastors are the lesser shepherds.

By looking at how Jesus shepherds the sheep we can see how a pastor should shepherd the flock of God - God's people.


In Paul's letter to the Ephesians we learn that the office of pastor (spiritual shepherd) is one of the offices that contributes to the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry for the building up of the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11) In the same letter, we learn some important aspects of how Jesus Christ carries out his role as the great Shepherd.

Paul writes,

"Husbands love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of the water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church."

Ephesians 5:27-29 - NKJV


This exhortation, although it is directly applied to husbands, also applies to pastors and exhorts them to follow the model Christ provides.

Christ is the great Shepherd of the Church, the husband is the shepherd for his wife and, likewise, the pastor is the shepherd for his flock in the church. The pastor is to give his life for the flock in ministering the Holy Spirit and the Word to them. He is to nourish and cherish (that is, tenderly look after) his church.


The role of pastor - it is important to recognise - is not peculiar to the New Testament church. We see it also in the Old Testament church of God. God had high expectations, even back then, of His pastors and He upbraided them when they did not fulfil those expectations.

As the mouth piece of God Jeremiah declares,

"For the shepherds [of the people] have become like brutes, irrational and stupid, and have not sought the Lord or inquired of Him or required Him [by necessity and by right of His word]. Therefore they have not dealt prudently and have not prospered, and all their flocks are scattered."

Jeremiah 10:21 - Amplified Bible


From this we see God expects His pastors to -

  • seek Him
  • inquire of Him
  • require Him - which is to petition Him in prayer.


We also see that He expects, as a consequence of doing this, that they will -

  • conduct themselves wisely
  • ensure that the flock stays together in unity


Ezekiel also provides us with a similar understanding of God's expectation for His pastors. He writes,

"Thus says the Lord God to the shepherds: 'Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks?'"

Ezekiel 34:2 - NKJV


What does God expect from His shepherds, His pastors? He expects them to spiritually feed (that is, nourish) God's people.

Ezekiel continues,

"The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them."

Ezekiel 34:4 - NKJV


From these two verses from Ezekiel we see that God expects his pastors to -

  • feed the sheep
  • strengthen the feeble
  • heal the sick
  • bandage the hurt
  • bring back those driven away
  • seek those who are lost


In the New Testament section of your Bible, you see yet further clarification of the pastor's role in ministry. The letter to the Hebrews ends with an exhortation to the church about the believers' attitude to the pastor and with it you get further insight into what a pastor has to be engaged in. Paul writes,

"Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account."

Hebrews 13:17 - NKJV


So from this we see the pastor - who is the overseer of the flock - must watch out for his members' souls. This is bound to involve at times exhorting against sin. Exhortation usually involves correction - a call to dispense with the bad or less than best in order to take hold of God's best for you. Correction isn't easy to take but it is necessary. Those who accept it and are improved by it will receive a good reward. Heb.12:9-11.

Here's how Paul puts it in his second letter to Timothy,

"Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching."

2 Timothy 4:2 - NKJV


God clearly expects a lot of His pastors but He doesn't leave them to do it on their own in their own strength and sufficiency. (Phil.4:13; 2 Cor.3:4-6)

In Jeremiah God gives a wonderful prophecy,

"I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge (of God) and understanding (of His ways)."

Jeremiah 3:15 - NKJV - [Words in parenthesis are mine]


You also asked me about the boundaries of the pastor's duties. I think God's job description of the office of pastor - as we have seen it here through scripture - sets well the boundaries of his duties.

In a given church situation, however, the pastor may have to take on other roles besides that of pastor. His challenge is then to maintain the effectiveness of his pastoral role in the face of the pressure on time made by the other roles.

At times the congregation may have to be confronted with the time and role problems a pastor may be having and together they'll have to look for a solution. In such a case, you have a situation very similar to the one we see faced by the apostles and the church as it is recorded in Acts 6:1-7.


May the people of God be blessed with pastors according to the Lord's own heart!

(Content of this section: Supplement - Church structure and order)


A pastor wrote to me with the following request,

I am in my first pastorate and need guidance along the journey on how to maintain consistency and the way in putting a structure and order to the church. Your help would be a blessing.


This pastor has raised a very important matter that often gets pushed out by the busyness of person-to-person and pastor-to-congregation ministry. However, any church that fails to address the matter of developing structure and order in the church is going to soon find itself engaging in constant "fire fighting" in the face of incidents and crises.

Below is an outline of how to go about setting up good structure and order in your church so that such "fire fighting" can be minimised.


Good structure and order in your church has to be established in four realms:

  • Governance - Formation and adoption of policies, frameworks and plans
  • Management - Setting up leadership and oversight structures and establishing the style and ethos they are to have
  • Foundation of faith - Establishing a basic statement of faith which summarises the essential beliefs
  • Finances - Setting up auditable, robust accounting and a sustainable, equitable budget that leaves nothing out


In establishing good structure and order in your church in the above four realms you will need to:

  • Thoroughly research and think through every aspect involved in each realm
  • Discuss in sub-committees and in the main church committee aspects of each realm as they are developed
  • Commit to paper all that is developed and agreed upon
  • Publish what is committed to paper as guidance notes for the whole church

(Content of this section: Supplement - Pastor to wife and children)


A pastor's wife wrote to me asking,

What is the function of a pastor to his wife and to his children?


A pastor of a church must always first of all be pastor to his wife and to his children. The church pastor if he has a wife and children must show himself a good pastor to them first and foremost. After all what message does it give to the congregation if the pastor's wife and children are spiritually malnourished and without guidance for their Christian walk. I would say to any pastor, "Don't tell me you can pastor a church if you can't pastor your own family."

All the principles I set forth for the duties of a pastor in this web page article apply to the role of the pastor with his family and well as with his church.


I will close with a quote from Eugene H. Peterson,

"As a pastor I am responsible for preaching and teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. In that preaching and teaching I have a text - the Christian scriptures of Old and New Testaments - and I have been vowed to faithfulness to that text. I am not permitted to make up whatever I think might promote the general good will. The church has given me an assignment: to accurately and patiently and stubbornly work from this text and no other."

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