From Paraklesis, a resource of Baptist Bible Seminary (Summer, 2014). Used by permission.
What exactly is the pastor’s job? Some churches expect their pastor to speak 20 times a month. Another church demands only three sermons each month. In some churches, the pastor cannot delegate the setting of the temperature on the thermostat. Different churches go to the other extreme and require the pastor to preach and do not let him do anything else.
One pastor took a survey of his church members to find out what their expectations were for how he spent his time. One person put down more hours than there are in a week for the pastor’s average work week.
While tradition plays a role in understanding what a pastor’s job description happens to be, it is the Bible that should prescribe the details of the pastor’s job. God has designed the office of pastor, elder, or overseer. If churches are out of balance or are missing some of what is needed, they will suffer loss in their ministry. The acronym POET is a helpful learning device for remembering what the Bible teaches about the pastor’s role in the local church.
First, the “P” in POET refers to the need for the pastor to pray. In Acts 6, the apostles serve as models for modern day pastors. They devoted themselves to the Word of God and prayer (v. 4). There are times when one can witness a great stirring of God’s work through prayer.
One church had a prayer meeting in advance of a youth rally. The prayer meeting lasted from 7 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. or so, with God doing a work in the hearts of the ones praying. When the youth rally came, 55 teenagers made professions of faith. Some of those teens are in the ministry today.
More often, however, prayer takes the form of daily, hard work as pastors pray in detail about the concerns of the flock. The pastor must not only develop the habit of prayer in his own life, but he must lead his congregation to be a praying church.
Second, the “O” in POET refers to the pastor’s role of overseeing the workings of the congregation. There is a ruling function the pastors of churches carry out as they lead the church in its overall ministry (I Pet. 5:2, Acts 20:28, Heb. 13:7, 17). For example, shepherds must bring the Bible to bear upon all issues the church is facing.
This is not the absence of congregational church government. Neither is it grounds for dictatorial pastors who attempt to lord it over their flock (1 Pet. 5:3). But the orderly working of the church requires the administrative skill of wise and able men. That is why seminaries must train men in leadership skills and not just Bible content.
Third, the “E” in POET refers to the fact that the pastor should equip believers in his flock to do ministry (Eph. 4:11-12). Out of all the many things a pastor is supposed to do, this may be the hardest. Many pastors treat this as if it is simply Bible study. That is, they have equipped the saints when they have taught them the Word of God well.
While this is no doubt part of what it means to equip the saints for ministry, there is more to this task. The pastor must show the people of his church “how” to do ministry. He must train them in the task of it, not just the head knowledge about it. That is how Jesus trained his disciples to do ministry in the Gospels.
To any extent possible, the pastor must assist believers in working through their natural and spiritual giftedness and then put them in roles within the church for which they can succeed. This task includes the pastor leading the church in intentional evangelism as the flock is encouraged and trained to reach the world for Christ.
Fourth, the “T” in POET refers to the most pleasant task the pastor undertakes—the teaching of the Word of God. This is for most pastors the “fun” part of the ministry. Most of the training that pastors receive from seminaries is appropriately in Bible and theology. The content of the Bible properly interpreted gives the basis for understanding all things about the Christian faith including the tasks and qualifications of the pastor.
One of the qualifications of the pastor is that he should be able to teach the Word of God. The pastor is not to preach his opinions but the opinions of the One who gave the inspired and inerrant Book through forty different men over about 16 centuries. This means the pastor will always have something to say.
Baptist Bible Seminary was started primarily to train pastors. Specifically, the Master of Divinity degree has for many decades been the gold standard degree for preparing men to function well in the local church as pastors. BBS in its M.Div. has intentionally focused on the whole picture of what a man needs to be a pastor.
Christianity in the West is in great decline. There is a need now more than ever for well-trained, qualified, spiritual men to lead our churches.
Although there are no perfect pastors, every pastor should be a “POET.” For most men, this requires serious training.
Dr. Michael Stallard is the Dean of Baptist Bible Seminary and Director of Ph.D. Studies. As a professor of systematic Theology, his main areas of teaching are dispensational premillennialism, ecclesiology, Baptist distinctives, apologetics, and theological method. He is the author of two books and numerous articles and served as a pastor for several years.