What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up? A Word to Young Wannabe Pastors

Dear Young Seminarian,

Have you thought about your future? Of course you have, you think. You are in seminary, or headed to seminary, or just finished seminary. You are hoping for a pastoral position, or looking for one, or maybe even in one.

But what do you want to be?

Do you want to be a pastor? Or do you want to pastor?

At first, glance that may seem like a strange question. But it actually flows from an old, perhaps cheesy, thing that was making its way around college back in the day. It was a little statement about relationships and dating, and people who were “in love” with being “in love” rather than being “in love” with a person.

Now, dear seminarian who has learned to exegete Greek and Hebrew (at least you better have learned to if you have a seminary degree), don’t over exegete the words “in love.” I am not really sure what they mean myself, and I am pretty sure that these words are the cause of a lot of broken marriages and broken hearts.

But the point of the little saying was about people who wanted to be in a relationship. They were less concerned about who the relationship was with. They were looking for a feeling, not a person. They were “in love” with the idea of being married; they were not in love with the person themselves.

So I fear it is with many young pastors. They are wanting to be a pastor; they are not necessarily wanting to pastor. They have constructed a little house of pastoral ministry in their minds, and having graduated, they want to live in that house. In fact, they feel entitled to live in that house. They long for the days when the books are neatly arranged on the shelves, the boxes with class notes are finally in file cabinets, color-coded and alphabetized. They love the idea of preparing messages, and reading things over which there will be no quiz.

But they are dreadfully fearful of actually pastoring, that is to say, shepherding people. Sheep are sometimes dirty, no offense to our woolly friends who eat grass in the meadows. They make a lot of noise, again, no offense to our woolly friends who can surely drown out conversations in the evening coolness with their incessant braying. They have certain odors about them. And quite frankly, sometimes they bite causing significant pain, and often lasting damage.

But what shall we do? Shall we inhabit the office of pastor with the hopes of tending the sheep from afar, and only at set times? Shall we love the trappings of chief undershepherd while attempting to avoid the traps that surely await those who have been called more to a work than an office?

On the other hand, sheep can be tremendously delightful. Encouraging. Joy-inducing and thanks-producing. Those who volunteer to to work alongside can bring untold encouragement. They make the work easier and the burden lighter. But you will never know until you shepherd them.

My dear friend, if all you want to do is be a pastor, please think carefully before taking a position at a church. You will surely have the accolades of some, along with a certain amount of respect both in the church and in the community. People will admire you for your position, and they will often treat you well. But God has not called you to simply be a pastor. He has called you to pastor.

It’s a fine distinction, to be sure. Perhaps too fine for you at this point. But while seminary is still out for the summer, and perhaps for good, do a quick study on the word for “pastor” in the New Testament. It’s the Greek word poimaino (though if you need the transliteration, you’re not done with seminary yet). In the New Testament, it is used in reference to the church just a few times.

In Ephesians 4:8, it is noun referring to a gift of Christ to the church.

In the other occurrences (Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:2), it is a verb. It is something you do.

And that, my friend, is why I say, God has called you to pastor—to do something for church of God which he has purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28), for the flock of God among you (1 Peter 5:2).

Yes, you are a gift to God’s people. That’s the point of Ephesians 4:8. But it is not a gift that is wrapped neatly waiting breathless young tots to open you up. It is a work in which you open yourself up, for the glory of God and the good of others.

There is one other, unexpected, use of the word shepherd. It usually doesn’t show up in most discussions of pastoral theology, though it probably should show up. It is found in the book of Jude, who is well-known for his excoriating language addressed to false teachers. It is a brutal assessment and condemnation of pastor-wannabes, those impostors who “shepherd themselves” (Jude 12). Yes, it’s actually there in the text. These are men who pretend to be leaders in the church, but rather than pastoring people, they pastor themselves. They tend to their own needs at the expense of those for whom Christ died.

The images that surround this statement in Jude 12 make it quite clear that Jude is not referring to pastors who, in the words of Spurgeon, take seriously “The Minister’s Self-Watch” (chapter 1 in Lectures to My Students, something that should be required reading for every pastor each year, more often if necessary).

No, these are strong words of condemnation for those who turned the work of ministry inward, and used the flock of God for their own gain, rather than giving of themselves for the flock of God.

Contrast this with the heart of Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 who, with the heart of a mother imparted not just the gospel but his own self for the good of the people. And with the heart of a father, he was exhorting and encouraging and imploring them to walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

With the heart of Paul we must charge into the battle for souls. We dare not sit idly by, preparing homiletical masterpieces, while the sheep wander aimlessly for lack of a shepherd.

Rather with the tenderness of a mother and the firmness of a father, we pastor people because that is what we have been called to do.

If that’s not what you want to do, then find a job, be faithful in church, and love people. But don’t be a pastor unless you want to pastor.

[node:bio/larry body]

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There are 33 Comments

Jay's picture

I wish I'd seen this back when I was in Seminary.  Pastoring is - and are usually portrayed as - two different things...the exciting preaching side that everyone wants and then the not so exciting administrative and counseling side that is 95% of the minister's timesheet (I'm including sermon prep in the non-preaching side).

Thanks, Larry, for a good post!

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

T Howard's picture

Some church leaders would propose that pastoral care is not the primary role of a pastor. Those pastors who spend most of their time with pastoral care are actually hurting their church. According to these individuals, shepherding imagery used in the OT and NT describes leadership more than pastoral care. 

Aubrey Malphurs wrote:
As I work with various leaders, I’ve come across a fundamental assumption on which some base their pastoral paradigm. It’s the assumption that the primary and foremost role of the pastor is to provide pastoral care for the congregation—to take care of the sheep. This expectation includes such hands-on care as visitation in the hospital and at home, counseling, and care during a crisis. I challenge this assumption both biblically (exegetically) and practically. I believe that while pastoral care is a function of the pastorate, it’s not the primary or the foremost role of the pastor. The primary responsibility of the pastor is to lead the congregation, which includes such things as teaching the Scriptures, propagating the mission, casting a vision, strategizing to accomplish the church’s mission, and protecting the sheep from false teaching.

Malphurs, Aubrey. Nuts and Bolts of Church Planting, The: A Guide for Starting Any Kind of Church. Baker Publishing Group, 2011.

Joel Tetreau's picture

I disagree with Aubrey - It's just not possible to look at the shepherd motif's from either testament or for that matter to look at the at least 16 different "tasks" that a pastor is given to do and to say he can do it without getting in and around and amongst "the sheep." It is true that pastors must be careful not to become so involved in the ebb and flow of the sheep that they cannot spend the necessary time in sermon and lesson preparation to feed the sheep doctrine and teaching. But there are just too many passages that speak to the individual relationship between a pastor and those in his congregation to suggest that there can be this "non-touch" leadership of the pastor. If you are spending 20 to 30 hrs a week per sermon - you probably have no business in the pastorate because you are probably neglecting your own soul - the spiritual, emotional and other needs of your own family and children, let alone the massive demands of leading, mentoring and working with other leaders in the congregation. I will say this - the longer a pastor is in a ministry and the longer he can train up those in the diakonate as well as the prebuteroi - then sure he can pass on those shepherding responsibilities to fellow shepherds - but that takes a significant period of time. No - a pastor can share much of his bishop tasks to the deacons - he can share some of the presbuteroi tasks to the other elders - but there will be times - typically regularly that God's children need to hear from their pastor - the one that teaches and leads the congregation. To say a lead pastor doesn't have to do that is in my opinion creating an office we just don't see in the New Testament. The words of Christ are instructive, "Peter do you love me - feed my sheep." Notice he doesn't say - Peter - be an exceptional "administrator!" No he says "feed them!" Shepherd them! There is no way that only happens as we organize, administrate and then teach/preach from the pulpit. Sheep hear and know the voice of the shepherd.

To see more of my rant - check out my chapter on the lead pastor in "The Pyramid and the Box" just published by Resource Publications - a wing of Wipf and Stock publishers.

Thx

Straight Ahead!

jt

 

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

TylerR's picture

Editor

I like the point of the article, and I applaud it. The tone, however, is insufferably arrogant and snobby; the author gives the impression he is like a proud, aristocratic father speaking to a particularly earnest but dim-witted child. Larry's advice for "wannabe pastors" might be taken more seriously if he dispensed his advice with a bit more grace. 

Don't over exegete the word "arrogant," however . . . 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I didn't read the tone that way. More of a voice of experience aimed at righting some wrong thinking.

There's a pretty old debate about how one generation should talk to the next. One view says talk to them as equals. On the other hand, it's arguably more respectful to refrain from pretending--respect them enough to tell them the truth which is that they really don't know what they're doing yet.

Looking back, I knew that theoretically. Eventually knew it experientially. I have yet to meet an experienced pastor who doesn't acknowledge that he was pretty clueless in the early years.

T Howard's picture

Joel Tetreau wrote:

I disagree with Aubrey - It's just not possible to look at the shepherd motif's from either testament or for that matter to look at the at least 16 different "tasks" that a pastor is given to do and to say he can do it without getting in and around and amongst "the sheep." It is true that pastors must be careful not to become so involved in the ebb and flow of the sheep that they cannot spend the necessary time in sermon and lesson preparation to feed the sheep doctrine and teaching. But there are just too many passages that speak to the individual relationship between a pastor and those in his congregation to suggest that there can be this "non-touch" leadership of the pastor.

Joel, I don't think Malphurs recommends a 'non-touch' leadership approach to pastoring. What he does recommend is a "lesser-touch-than-most-expect" approach to pastoring:

"The view that the pastor’s primary responsibility is pastoral care becomes a problem if the pastor of a church pours most of his time into pastoral care and little, if any, into other areas, such as communicating and encouraging the church to pursue Jesus’s mission for the church—the Great Commission. It is also wrong if people insist that the primary role of all pastors must be the pastoral care of the flock. My purpose in writing this article isn’t to diminish the importance of pastoral care but to put it in proper biblical perspective."

 

Joel Tetreau wrote:
If you are spending 20 to 30 hrs a week per sermon - you probably have no business in the pastorate because you are probably neglecting your own soul - the spiritual, emotional and other needs of your own family and children, let alone the massive demands of leading, mentoring and working with other leaders in the congregation.

Apparently, JMAC had no business in the pastorate when he came to Grace Community Church. If I remember correctly, he told the elders when he came that he wanted to spend 30 hrs a week on sermon prep and that they would need to handle most of the pastoral care.

Frankly, I agree with Malphurs that pastors and congregations who expect the pastor to spend a majority of his time with counseling and pastoral care will end up hurting the church.  Malphurs provides several reasons why:

Aubrey Malphurs wrote:
There are several practical reasons we must be careful about overemphasizing the pastoral care side of a pastor’s ministry.

1. Research teaches us that some pastors who are strong in pastoral care tend to resist healthy, necessary growth in their churches, because if the church adds more people through evangelism or some other means, then it grows too big for the pastor to be able to care for all the people. This would put an unreasonable demand on his time. He asks, “How can I visit and care for all these people that I love? There aren’t enough hours in the day.” Thus, often unconsciously, he resists healthy growth and the church stays small in size and fails to reach lost people.
2. Some in the church, often the older members, expect the pastor to visit them, particularly when they’re in the hospital. If he fails to visit them for even a legitimate reason, they are often offended. This promotes the false idea that if the pastor doesn’t visit you, you haven’t been visited.
3. Others in the congregation may have gifts in the pastoral area (Eph. 4:11 applies to laypeople as well as pastoral leaders!) and often use these gifts when visiting some of these very same people in the hospital. However, still the same mistaken view prevails: if the pastor hasn’t visited me, then I haven’t been visited! This diminishes and even discourages this important ministry of the laity in the church.
4. Some ministries in the church are better at providing pastoral care than the pastor, who may not be gifted in this area. For example, one of the advantages of a small group ministry is that it provides hands-on pastoral care for its members. I recall visiting one of the ladies in my church who was in the hospital. When I arrived, I found several of the people in her small group there ministering to and caring for her. I suspect that I was more in their way than a help to her.
5. Finally, some churches are too large for the pastor to visit and offer pastoral care to all or even some of the members. So how can his role be primarily that of pastoral care? If it is, his congregation should demand that he visit everybody.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

I tend to see pastoral responsibility divided into three spheres - teaching, administrating, relationship building. Of these, I think there is strong biblical evidence to support the thesis that teaching is far and away the most important of the three. Indeed, Jesus says "feed my sheep." That is done first and foremost in the teaching of God's Word. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

T Howard's picture

To add to what I've already posted from Malphurs, I think the Biblical counseling movement is both a boon and a bane to pastoral ministry. It is a boon because it better equips the body of Christ to handle messy / thorny life issues. It is a bane because usually it's the pastor who takes the classes and does most of the counseling. In other words, the pastor takes the classes and then finds himself spending more and more of his time in personal counseling situations. It would be better for the church and the pastor if the church paid for qualified men (i.e. other elders) and women in the congregation to take these classes and then provide this one-on-one counseling / discipleship. This would free up the preaching elder to spend his time with preaching and leading the congregation.

Joel Tetreau's picture

So there may be someone here at SI that loves and appreciates the ministry of Mac more than me - but I don't know who that is. I love him in the Lord and I look up to his ministry and approach and am very grateful. There are two or three disagreements that I have with John - This is one of them. Every time in Shepherd's conference - he or Phil stands and praises the 30 hours per sermon model - I grown - because that is horrible advice for a young pastor or a middle age pastor or an older pastor who has himself, maybe one or two other elder, pastor types - maybe 3 or 4 deacons - or 1 or 2 deacons. This is the vast majority of conservative evangelical and balanced fundamentalist men who pastor. And if that guy prep's 30 hrs per sermon - he is failing elsewhere. It just is. As a leader at IBL I see this all the time guys who went to seminary and learned the 25 step exegetical Greek and Hebrew method and some seminary prof told him that he wasn't doing God's Word justice unless he spends 20 - 30 hrs in preparation for that one sermon - oh my word. This only works if all you do is study and you delegate everything and I mean everything to other leaders. Of course Mac can do that - God for him - God bless him - that's wonderful........but the vast majority of guys shepherding simply cannot do that because they don't have the help a guy like Mac has.

Spend as much time as you can in the text - but you cannot ignore the "face-to-face" shepherding, the oversight of the larger ministry, the actually 20 + categories of "stuff' the average lead pastor must do (I said 16 the other day - it's actually like 24 - I'll have to dig that out for you guys).

I will say that Grace Community is unusual - It's my opinion that because GCC breaks down the congregation into smaller "groups" and each "group" is pastored by an elder on the elder team - I'm sure that congregation is getting pastoral care. Typically in these large churches - even with good men - the congregations are built around a singular personality - the guy in question is worshipped or followed in large part because he is outstanding at ....... whatever. So his church becomes something of a large gathering of "groupees." But if you ask the question - is real body life taking place? In many occasions l- too many occasions it's not. The ministry is a sharp and slick 501 c3 non-profit religious organization that calls itself a church - but really doesn't act like a church. And you can have that and have the lead guy spend 30 hours a week in study.

A counter thought to a counter thought.

Straight Ahead!

jt

ps - it's a problem when your own pastor doesn't know you by name!

 

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

T Howard's picture

Joel,

I agree that JMAC's ministry today is hard, if not impossible, to replicate in the average 100 member congregation. That being said, JMAC made 30hr sermon prep a priority in his ministry at Grace from the very start, before he became JMAC, before he had the following, before his church was larger than the average church. For him it was a matter of priority. Did Grace suffer from his lack of pastoral care, probably to some degree.  However, JMAC realized that pastoral care wasn't the priority that many people thought it should be; biblical exposition was. He chose the more needful thing and delegated the rest to the men he had around him (which, if you remember, weren't the best qualified).

It comes down to priorities and a willingness to train and delegate. Most churches and pastors of 100 member churches would be better served if the pastor spent less time in pastoral care and more time in proclamation and leading and equipping the church to make more and better disciples. Isn't that what Ephesians 4:11-12 teach us?  Pastors are to equip the members in the congregation so that the members can do the work of the ministry.

Jim's picture

T Howard wrote:

To add to what I've already posted from Malphurs, I think the Biblical counseling movement is both a boon and a bane to pastoral ministry. It is a boon because it better equips the body of Christ to handle messy / thorny life issues. It is a bane because usually it's the pastor who takes the classes and does most of the counseling. In other words, the pastor takes the classes and then finds himself spending more and more of his time in personal counseling situations. It would be better for the church and the pastor if the church paid for qualified men (i.e. other elders) and women in the congregation to take these classes and then provide this one-on-one counseling / discipleship. This would free up the preaching elder to spend his time with preaching and leading the congregation.

On Biblical counseling:

  • I don't have a statistic but I would surmise that the vast majority of counsellees are women. AND
  • The Bible has an answer for that: "the older women ... admonish the young women to love their husbands ... [et cetera]" (Titus 2:3-4)
  • The vast majority of counseling is just Biblical "common sense". 
  • Admittedly there are some who have a medical condition and probably should see a Christian psychiatrist. The wise counselor will quickly steer those cases appropriately
  • Some pastors & some congregants want to give too much advice .... receive too much advice. 
  • Advice to any seminarian who studies Biblical counseling: 1.) Find that role in the Bible. Search real hard ... it's not there; 2.) Good luck making a living 
  • A personal anecdote. I'm far from normal .... never needed counseling! 
TylerR's picture

Editor

I've taken three counseling classes in Seminary, and they're really nothing more than applying theology to practical life. It's about sanctification. It's really good stuff. It's really nothing more than helping people grow through applying Scripture to their life. You could probably replace the term "counseling" with "Pastoring" and be just fine. Jay Adam's book A Theology of Christian Counseling is really nothing more than a practical theology book. Very good stuff.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jim's picture

TylerR wrote:

I've taken three counseling classes in Seminary, and they're really nothing more than applying theology to practical life. It's about sanctification. It's really good stuff. It's really nothing more than helping people grow through applying Scripture to their life. You could probably replace the term "counseling" with "Pastoring" and be just fine. Jay Adam's book A Theology of Christian Counseling is really nothing more than a practical theology book. Very good stuff.

I'm not sure the rate per credit hour but .... if those counseling classes were three hour classes and the rate per credit hour was $ 300. You paid $ 2,700 for what you could have gotten out of a $ 30 book! KaChing! 

Jay's picture

Jim wrote:

TylerR wrote:

I've taken three counseling classes in Seminary, and they're really nothing more than applying theology to practical life. It's about sanctification. It's really good stuff. It's really nothing more than helping people grow through applying Scripture to their life. You could probably replace the term "counseling" with "Pastoring" and be just fine. Jay Adam's book A Theology of Christian Counseling is really nothing more than a practical theology book. Very good stuff.

I'm not sure the rate per credit hour but .... if those counseling classes were three hour classes and the rate per credit hour was $ 300. You paid $ 2,700 for what you could have gotten out of a $ 30 book! KaChing! 

But Jim, reading that $30 book won't get him a M.Div (which is what I think TylerR is working on).  So that $30 book might be good for you, but not good for TylerR.

JMac, I think, is the exception that proves the rule.  BECAUSE he was willing to put such a high priority on exegesis early on, he was able to raise up godly elders at GCC to take some of the load off of his desk, he was able to turn his messages into his books (very few of his books are original - many of them are re-edited copies of sermons), and he's been able to have the influence that he's had.  Exegesis and study are good, but if your church is as small as JMac's was originally - he's said that his church just happened to be in the right place at the right time to grow exponentially like it did - you can't expect to rocket to the point where you can lock yourself away in a study because you've got dozens of people under you doing things like managing the property/plant, getting the bills paid, counseling, and dealing with the administrative minutiae.

I'm not saying that study is bad.  Exegesis is HARD work.  But if a seminarian - and I can say this as one who has graduated from one - thinks that Pastoring is largely sermon preparation and delivery, they're in for a rude awakening in the real world.  And that, I am fairly sure, was Larry's entire point.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Garry Geer's picture

I would add, as a side note, that it will be difficult for you to effectively teach your people unless you have cared for them immediately and personally. While I do appreciate the stress on teaching/exposition, I think that it can be counter-productive if it is not properly balanced. I am commanded to lead my people by example. If they don't "know" me outside of the pulpit, that is hard to do.

 

Counseling has been incredibly important in my own spiritual walk. As I deal with these various issues I strive to examine my own heart and see what echoes I hear. It has revealed some deficits in my own life.

 

With all of that being said, there needs to be a stress on exposition/teaching and a pastor can take on too much discipling himself. That is pretty obvious.

But, I know many good expositors who are mediocre pastors. While your people are changed by the Word, taught properly, they are also changed as they see that same Word changing your life, as you struggle with the reality of what you just taught.

 

TylerR's picture

Editor

They were electives! It didn't cost me anything - the GI Bill rules! 

I would also reiterate that I understand and agree with Larry's overarching point. There is much more to pastoring than simply preaching finely honed messages. I've not yet been a senior pastor, but I've been in youth ministry for several years and been through a lot of . . . interesting situations at the many different churches I've been a member of over the years. It is hard work. A lot of young Bible College students and soon-to-be Seminary grads probably have rosy, nostalgic and lofty expectations of ministry that don't fit with reality. I am very glad I didn't follow the traditional route to ministry, but came to ministry and Seminary after serving in the military for 10 years. I think it gives me a more mature and different perspective on things. The 22 year old Tyler wouldn't have been good for any church! 

 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Joel Tetreau's picture

T. Howard,

In the main I agree with just about everything you are saying - I would probably only quibble with you over the hours. With learning how to use the Greek and Hebrew and other study tools - I'd be happy to see guys spend 10-15 hours per sermon. Most guys will have two of those each week (some three) depending on if they teach SS - or a mid week study. Even with delegation (which I'm a large proponent of) A pastor has massive responsibility just working with the other elders and deacons. Even if he has help counseling - if he's working with new believers - they are typically messy today. I spend hours most weeks just working with leaders! Most of the newly saved or newly discipled are being discipled by other leaders. There is the whole business of planning, and problem solving, peace making, identifying people gifts and organizing the congregation thusly. As much as I love Mac - and I'm happy for his impact - I still disagree with the 30 hr target. It's not responsible or even Biblical in my view because most of us simply will not be able to oversee the rest of "the work" of a pastor. One more point - over the years of working with seminary trained guys - I can't tell you how many of them got an A in exegesis and an F in people work - and guess what almost everyone of them told me - "well at ......... I was told a responsible pastor will spend X amount of hours exegeting the text." Yes - but they should have told you it's better to develop a relationship with Deacon Brown before you told everyone in the congregational meeting publicly that "Deacon Brown" was a heretic! I've watched these guys one after another get fired - and others just quiet pastoral ministry all together. Now I get it - You are right - we have guys grabbing some outline book thirty minutes before he preaches. I'm not there either - I'd rather have the 30 hrs extreme than the 30 minute joke. The following is from a post I wrote here in December of 2007 - This is from the article entitled, "Shepherding the Dysfunctional - Part 2" - These are those categories that I say a lead pastor is responsible to lead his congregation in - it doesn't mean he does it all - but the implications of this list is some of why I'm emphatic that Heaven doesn't want the average pastor plowing 30 hours into a sermon (in the main).

  1. Ministry Planning—“planning the work.” See our Lord’s example of planning and leadership in Luke 14:28-31.
  2. Preaching—“feed” (Acts 20:28; 1 Tim. 5:17).
  3. Teaching/Doctrine—“feed” (Acts 20:28, 1 Tim. 3:2; 5:12, 13, 17).
  4. Discipleship—(Matt. 28:19-20).
  5. Evangelism—(Matt. 28:19-20; Phil. 1:27).
  6. Leading With Discernment (Acts 20:17; Phil. 1:9-10, 3:2) and Without a Heavy-Handedness or “Lording it over” (1 Pet. 5:3).
  7. Loving Christ’s Body—(Phil. 1:9). The Type As who want to tag this doctrine as “new-evangelical” need to understand that Gaius, not Diotrophes, was the “good guy” in 3 John!
  8. Mentoring and Training New Leadership—(1 Tim. 2:1; 5:22; 2 Tim. 2:2).
  9. Mentoring and Training Present Leadership—(1 Tim. 5:22; 2 Tim. 2:2).
  10. Missions Work—See Antioch model (Acts 13:2-4).
  11. Communicating and Working With Deacons—(Phil. 1:1, Acts 6; also see working with deaconesses [Phoebe in Rom 16!] without a heavy-handedness or “Lording it over” those deacons [1 Pet. 5:3]. Oh yeah, I said that already.)
  12. Reading and Studying the Scriptures (Acts 6:4; Phil. 1:9)
  13. Visiting Those Who Are “Weak”—(James 1:27, especially the fatherless and widows).
  14. Delegating—Using believers’ giftedness (1 Cor. 12, 14, etc.) without a heavy-handedness or “Lording it over” (1 Pet. 5:3). Here a senior pastor can actually submit to those structurally or organizationally “underneath” him because the other leader and/or member has been gifted in an area where he, the pastor, is not. Unless his submission in some way undermines the health of the congregation, he should submit to the wisdom of the brother or sister in question. By the way, when a pastor delegates continually, he will have all the authority he needs because the congregation will trust him and will actually enjoy submitting to a leader who has consistently been “Spirit-controlled,” not “power-controlled or driven.” (No, I do not believe in “evangelical feminist egalitarianism,” but feel free to read Eph. 5:21.) Another side thought: If fundamental churches have “power-controlled or driven-oriented” leaders, dysfunctional families will flock to them like flies to trash! We especially see this tendency in the way “spiritually abusive” pastors reproduce “spiritually abusive” husbands. It’s a sad deal! The real losers are the poor sisters in Christ and their children who get saddled with these so-called “men of God.”
  15. Comforting—(1 Thess. 5:11; Rom. 12:15—“mourn with those that mourn”).
  16. Nurturing, Shepherding, Defending, or Watching—(Acts 20:28-30).
  17. Ruling or Administrating (1 Thess. 5:12-13; 1 Tim. 3:5; 5:17) Without a Heavy-Handedness or “Lording It Over”—(I did it again. I don’t know why I keep mentioning that one.)
  18. Hospitality—(1 Tim. 3:2; 3 John 1-4).
  19. Pastoral Seasons of Prayer—(Acts 6:4).
  20. Leading the Church With a Goal Toward Consensus—(Acts 6:5).
  21. Leading in the Ordinances of the Local Church—(Matt. 28:19-20).
  22. Leading the Body in Stewardship—(1 Tim. 6:17).
  23. Correcting, Rebuking, and Restoring (Gal. 6:1, 1 Tim. 5:13) Without a Heavy-Handedness or “Lording It Over”—(Sorry, that phrase just keeps coming up!)
  24. Leading and Loving His Own Wife and Children—(1 Tim 3). By the way, pulpit committees would do well to privately ask the wife and children how the “pastor-to-be” does by way of consistent loving, nurturing, playing, correcting, singing, and having great times together.

Last thought - It's my observation that those guys plowing 30 hrs per sermon simply do not have enough time to lead the other elders and deacons, adequately communicate to them and the congregation, as well as spend the necessary time in touching the sheep in discipleship, counseling, visiting, praying - let alone any time left over for plowing relationship time into non-believes and believers outside of the congregation that we are reaching out too.

That's my take - I actually say more about this in my book - which mentioning that here on and off again is part of my marketing plan (lol).

Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

TylerR's picture

Editor

Good list. Appreciate it. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Larry's picture

Moderator

Thanks to all for reading and commenting. A short (or not) response is in order, perhaps ...

First, This article really isn't intended to be about pastoral care, per se, about home visitation, hospital visitation, or the like.  It's not about counseling (biblical or otherwise, though feel free to keep discussing it).

The main point of this article is that ministry cannot be divorced from people in whatever context we engage with them. If someone doesn't like people, they will have a very difficult time pastoring. So I wanted (however indelicately it might have been done) to remind us that pastoring is about people in whatever context we encounter them. We cannot get away from them if we are going to pastor.

Even (especially) our preaching must take the people into account: Who are we preaching to? What are their lives like? What are they experiencing? What are they struggling with? What do they need to know from this text? Phillips Brooks has an excellent section on this in his "Lectures on Preaching."

Here's a few helpful quotes and one from Pearce who gives Brooks' three rules essentially in reverse:

"The work of the preacher and the pastor really belong together, and ought not to be separated" (Brooks n.d., 75).

"These three rules seem to have in them the practical sum of the whole matter. I beg you to remember them and apply them with all the wisdom that God gives you. First. Have as few congregations as you can. Second. Know your congregation as thoroughly as you can. Third. Know your congregation so largely and deeply that in knowing it you shall know humanity." (Brooks cited in Rummage, 175)

"In a sense, if a man knows one congregation he knows all. The matter of age, culture, intellect, and talents, the sinner and saint, the lonely, the sad, and the adjusted, may vary in degree and quantity, but the elements are present in every congregation. This is a place to begin. It is not the place to end. ... If the minister is to preach to people's needs, there is information that he can get only through being a faithful pastor. This kind of planning and preaching can only be done effectively by the man who live with his people, live with them in length and in depth. That is, a long pastorate is required, and during the long pastorate the pastor must become deeply involved with his people" (Pearce 1979, 84).

I have always been a big proponent of "lay" people doing the work of ministry. It is unfortunate that someone may receive fifteen phone calls and three visits, but they feel neglected if the pastor hasn't come by yet.

But whatever the case, we must never forget that ministry is about people.

Second, I agree that pastoral care is not the primary role of a pastor. I am not sure, biblically, that there is a "primary" role per se. I am not sure that I agree with Chip that "teaching is far and away the most important of [his] three," if by that he means only public teaching. What of the place for evangelizing (2 Tim 4:5)? Or prayer (Col 4:2)? Or personal growth (1 Tim 4:15-16; 2 Tim 2:15)? Or caring for the sick (James 5:14)? Can we suggest that these things (and others) are secondary? I am not convinced there is a solid biblical case for it. I think all these things make up various necessary and important facets of pastoral ministry.

I think preaching and teaching is important, and indispensable. It's "far and away" my favorite part of pastoral ministry. But I wonder if we haven't confused the biblical notion with a modern notion of a large lecture format. The pastoral office requires a number of things. including teaching in smaller and individual sessions.

And Tyler, thanks for your comments as well. Hopefully some can overlook the perceived flaws and gain some benefit from it.

I think the appeal or comparison to JMac is probably unfortunate. Most of us are not JMac, or Tim Keller, or [pick your favorite pastor]. Most of us are much closer to Don Carson's dad which he wrote of in Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor. It's worth reading, if for no other reason than it gives a more realistic view of what most pastors will likely face in ministry.

T Howard's picture

Larry, I want to thank you and Joel for your posts. I'm coming at this topic as a future bi-vocational church planter (Lord willing) and want to make sure I have a proper understanding of pastoral ministry both for myself and for those whom God may allow me to pastor. As a bi-vocational church planter, I certainly don't think I'll have 30 hours to devote to one area of ministry, even though I will be part of a church plant team. That being said, I think it important that our future congregation have a proper perspective on ministry; that is, every believer is called to minister to one another. We plan to teach and equip our congregation to disciple and care for one another and to delegate much of the pastoral care ministry to our small group leaders (which we will lead at first and then train others to take over). While we all agree to the benefit of biblical counseling (however that is defined), we also agree that making biblical counseling a focus of our bi-vocational ministry (especially in the early stages of church planting) can stunt and even hurt the church. Instead, we will focus on ministry vision, preaching, leadership development, discipleship processes, and community outreach.

Perhaps this focus is also misguided, but that's why we're reading, learning, and getting mentored by veteran church planters.

As to the quotes by Brooks and Rummage, I would argue that the best way to fulfill the three rules is to better study and expound the Scriptures. Scripture will give you (and your congregation) a truer understanding of humanity and the needs of your congregation than personal observation or experience. That doesn't mean, of course, that we remain aloof from our congregation. Rather, we should be enjoying the privilege and responsibility of mutual ministry alongside other believers in our congregation.

As I said before, Larry and Joel, thanks for your helpful posts.

Larry's picture

Moderator

As to the quotes by Brooks and Rummage, I would argue that the best way to fulfill the three rules is to better study and expound the Scriptures. Scripture will give you (and your congregation) a truer understanding of humanity and the needs of your congregation than personal observation or experience.

My only caution on this is that the Scripture will not tell you what your community is like contextually or what the people you are trying to reach are experiencing in their lives.

The Bible will give a true understanding of man's real condition, but only looking at and talking to people can show how that condition manifests itself in one's particular context. A key part of preaching is application, but if you don't know your audience you can't apply it to them. You can only make very general applications.

Consider the pattern of Scripture. Virtually all of it is in the context of human relationships. The prophets, Jesus, and the apostles did not teach in the abstract. They taught to specific people at specific places in their lives. And they said different things depending on to whom and when they were talking. The epistles themselves are sometimes called "occasional documents," written to address particular occasions. That is only possible because of congregational knowledge. For us, that will not come through Scripture. It will only come as we talk to, listen to, and observe the people that we are ministering among. Tim Keller says that preachers will preach to the people they read and the people they talk to. That may be why a lot of preaching sounds like commentaries and ODGs, both of which are immensely helpful and in fact indispensable. But I would suggest that they are only the start, not the end.

I am sort of bi-vocational myself. I work apart from the church though the bulk of my time is church. But I am trying to up my time spent with people (though this summer has been a little different because I am trying to finish a degree). I would say as a church planter, the two ministry priorities getting started are people and preaching/prayer. I would be very cautious of cutting short the people time because that is how you will have people to preach to, and it is how you will know what to preach to the people that are there.

Thanks for the exchange.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

On the earlier questions of "what about so and so?" etc., much depends on the church setting. Larger suburban churches can divide up the labor in such a way that the pastoral team has different areas of specialization. Why not? I don't see any biblical problem with this. On the other hand, your small one-pastor congregation needs more of "jack of all trades and master of... well, several." In a one-pastor setting, you have to be a generalist, not a specialist.

But to balance it all out, you also have to be who you are while working on becoming who you are not. I've met plenty of very people-oriented pastors who handle the Word badly. And other's handle the Word reasonably accurately, but don't know how to be personal with it at all. There's no substitute for knowing who you are, recruiting others in the cong. to help do what you're less good at, and aiming to grow in areas of weakness.

T Howard's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

There's no substitute for knowing who you are, recruiting others in the cong. to help do what you're less good at, and aiming to grow in areas of weakness.

Aaron, I read a book called Strength Finder 2.0, written by Tom Rath. The premise of Rath's book is that people should spend less time trying to improve their weaknesses and instead spend more time maximizing their strengths. Rath writes, "The reality is that a person who has always struggled with numbers is unlikely to be a great accountant or statistician. And the person without much natural empathy will never be able to comfort an agitated customer in the warm and sincere way that the great empathizers can. Even the legendary Michael Jordan, who embodied the power of raw talent on a basketball court, could not become, well, the 'Michael Jordan' of golf or baseball, no matter how hard he tried."

I think this may be a helpful perspective on pastoral ministry as well. Pastors / elders need to recognize their strengths and spend more time maximizing them while spending less time on shoring up their weaknesses. Although Larry may not find JMAC's example helpful, this is the exact approach he took when starting his pastoral ministry. This also is one of the advantages of a plurality of elders, or at least in equipping and delegating to others in the congregation the work of ministry. Certainly, I don't think any pastor can avoid pastoral care altogether. However, both he and his congregation need to recognize that he will be most effective in the areas of his strengths, gifting, and abilities. Congregations should first recognize the strengths of their pastors/elders then they should allow them to function within those areas of strength and giftedness.

This leads me to another, but related, issue. Much of the dissatisfaction with pastors by the congregation and much of the dissatisfaction with congregations by the pastor come from a lack of transparency / honesty during the candidating process. Pastoral candidates want to impress the church, and the church wants to impress the candidate. Wouldn't it be refreshingly honest if a pastoral candidate admitted his strengths and weaknesses to the church and the church hired him and allowed him to minister based on his strengths instead of expecting him to minister as if he should have no weaknesses? Better yet (and more biblical), wouldn't it be great if the church raised up it own elders and pastors... Smile

Joel Tetreau's picture

Tom, Larry, Tyler and the rest of you all on this thread,

This has been a good back and forth - Tom I'm thrilled for your interaction on this. For the record I'm not that different from what you are saying. Also for the record I love your approach as you guys are teaming up together in a bi-vocational ministry. Frankly some of the big values you men have in front of us is some of the same for SVBC - We also run much of our brother-to-brother ministry through our small groups - we have 8 or 9 small groups of various shapes and sizes that do ministry throughout the week. We also key up on leadership - especially with my connection with IBL (Institute of Biblical Leadership). We also are big believers in allowing elders, deacons and other significant leaders to minister based on their strengths. We also like the idea of as much as possible equip the body to minister to each other. Also....I'm a big believer on the lead pastor sharing as much ministry leadership as he can in a decentralized approach to ministry. He still has to be a bishop making sure that we aren't dropping important balls that are in the air all at one time.

Good stuff bro's!

Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Larry's picture

Moderator

The premise of Rath's book is that people should spend less time trying to improve their weaknesses and instead spend more time maximizing their strengths.

Generally speaking I agree with this, but I would caution against ignoring weaknesses, particularly as pastors. We have to cultivate the skills necessary to do what God has called us to do. We can all get better at everything. Let's build on our strengths, but not be lazy about our weaknesses, particularly in ordinary contexts of ministry. Remember, in typical churches, pastors have to do more than they do in larger churches. If a church can afford to hire a variety of pastors, all the better. But many cannot, and never will be able to.

Remember, the reason why I don't find MacArthur's example all that helpful is because of his uniqueness, both personally and contextually. When he went to Grace, the church was already several hundred, I believe (about 400 if I recall correctly), and in his words, he was "in the right place at the right time." He wasn't starting from scratch. That changes what you do. When you already have people, and people who bring people, you don't have to spend as much time going to get people. Furthermore there are some who are just uniquely gifted in certain ways. Also remember that spending 30 hours a week in sermon prep was probably not spending 75% of his time in sermon prep. It was probably much more time involved in other things as well.

Furthermore, there are probably a lot of people who spend similar amounts of time in study who have churches that are dying.

So let me wind this down by saying this: Be careful about discounting the biblical instruction on the work of pastoring in pursuit of some other ideal, however noble the intentions might be, whether that idea is gleaned from other examples or one's own mindset about what he does best or wants to devote his time to. The Bible gives pastors responsibilities, and we must fulfill them all, not just the ones we like or feel that we are gifted in.

Thanks again to all, and to Aaron for posting this.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

On strengths vs. weaknesses, I also think there is alot to be said in favor of maximizing what you know you do well vs. focusing "too much" on developing weak areas. But an important factor is what sort of weakness are we talking about? There are weaknesses of ability and weaknesses of character. The two may be intertwined. And among the weaknesses, some only exist due to neglect and lack of personal interest. Then you have others that are just hard wired cognitive limitations.

When it comes to the "pastor character and skill set," there's quite an array of abilities that can be learned with intentional effort and the help of other men who are strong in these areas... and the flock may benefit greatly from growth in these areas. No, the weaknesses will probably never turn into strengths, but they can become strong competencies.

T Howard's picture

Yes, I've found this discussion very helpful. Thanks to all.

This weekend, I was rereading Preach: Theology Meets Practice by Dever and Gilbert, and I came to page 48:

Quote:
It's, without saying, too, that when the preaching of God's Word shapes the agenda of the church's life as a whole, the congregation begins to learn the importance of protecting the pastor's schedule so that he has sufficient time to prepare to preach. Every church needs to understand what the Bible teaches about its leaders, especially about the central role that God has committed to ministers of the Word of being preachers and teachers of that Word. Too many pastors find themselves unable to give themselves to preparation for the ministry of the Word because they are too busy waiting tables (Acts 6:2). Other leaders in the church and the congregation as a whole need to have their expectations set. They need to understand that the sermon is the center of the pastor's responsibility. If we're honest, we should admit that practically everything else could be done by other qualified leaders in the church, but the main teaching of the church is the particular task of the preacher. Not only so, but it is that central need of the church, too. Those overlapping centralities -- the need of the church and the task of the preacher -- should be clearly understood and owned by the congregation as a whole. Not only will that prevent confusion and discouragement, but it will also encourage the spiritual growth of the church.

I found this quote very helpful and relevant to our discussion here. Of course, this is found in a book on expository preaching, but I don't think Dever or Gilbert were using hyperbole. Pastoral care, at the end of the day, is really congregational care. It's the responsibility and privilege of every member. The pastor, being a member of the flock he leads, shares in that responsibility and privilege, but he should by no means be the main source of that care.

Have a good labor day weekend.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Coming back to the priority of preaching (and its adequate preparation), the apostles didn't institute the presence of deacons in order to provide the apostles with more face time with the congregation. In fact, the deacons were taking over some of the face time the apostles already had so that the apostles could dedicate themselves to study and prayer. Seems like they were maximizing the amount of time the undershepherd needed to spend "in the study."

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Larry's picture

Moderator

Good comments. 

Just to repeat myself for those who are reading that these comments regarding preaching vs. pastoral care are not what my article is addressing. I agree with these comments largely, with the exception of the priority issue. That seems a little bit like saying, Which should we do, Refrain from stealing or refrain from adultery? Well, we should do both because they are commanded.

So with the pastor, the contrast between preaching and people is a false dichotomy. We have been commanded to do both. A pastor who does not put adequate time into sermon preparation is doing wrong. But so is a pastor who does not put adequate time into evangelism, into visiting the sick, into caring for widows, into prayer, etc. These are all commanded, and to quote Jesus, "These things you ought to have done and not have left the others undone."

What the apostles delegated in Acts 6 was the daily service of material needs. They didn't delegate others things, at least that we are told. Their point was that it is better for us to preach and pray than cook lunch and make sure everyone gets something to eat. That doesn't indicate the the apostles therefore never had contact with people, and preached totally disconnected from them. The NT shows the contrary: They were regularly with people, and their epistles show a great familiarity with their situations, and the narrative of Acts shows the apostles in contact with people.

The quote of Dever is good (and the book is too). Dever actually started my thinking on this several years ago when I heard him speak. (Blatant self-promotion warning: You can read about at http://stuffoutloud.blogspot.com/2008/12/mark-dever-on-evangelism.html.). He said (paraphrased) that pastors who did not want to be with people should not be pastors. He talked about young guys who want to be pastors so they can get away from people and just study. But they can't do that, and I agree.

To this point of priority, I would say that the NT gives the pastor responsibilities and all of them must be done. You can no more quit evangelizing, praying, visiting the sick, administrating, or leading than you can preaching. Again, "These you ought to have done and not left the others undone."

I have long taken the view (and said it publicly) that there are certain I won't do, and if no one else does them, they won't get done. But I won't let the church burn down (figuratively or literally), though I may let some things go. But I am not going to do everything.

It is a helpful reminder that all believers are to do the work of ministry, and the pastor is not excepted from that. He is, at the very least, to do as much as all believers should do.

But in the end, my article is really about the idea that pastoring is about people, and the pastor must not be separated from the people God has called him to minister to.

Thanks again for the comments.

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