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The House Church Network: Dedicated to Kingdom Expansion
What is the Job of a Pastor?

This week's question has been raised in a number of churches of late -- "Just what is the job of the pastor?"

The word "pastor" occurs only one time in the New Testament in Ephesians 4.11 and is derived from the biblical word for shepherd. Since Jesus is the "Good Shepherd" most people of the church believe their pastor should strive for the same qualities of Jesus and do the same ministry as he did. Both of these assumptions ought to be correct. However, tradition has added a wealth of other responsibilities to the pastoral job description -- so much so that most pastors have very little time to do the job of the shepherd.

What has been added? The pastor of the early church was a lay person who led lay people. However, as the church became institutionalized the pastor took on the role and duties of a priest. This added a wealth of new responsibilities like marrying and burying people, visiting the sick, praying on behalf of the church, baptizing, and serving communion -- tasks the lay people of the church had been doing up until then. Still, even with these additional tasks, a pastor who was set aside by the church and supported by them she/he could still accomplish the primary duties of the shepherd.

The problem came when the church began to assume pastors were the "ministers" of the church -- it looked like they were doing all the ministry anyway. And so the pastor took on the role of the chaplain.

But a chaplain's job is supposed to be different than a pastor. A chaplain visits the sick, comforts the dying, does the counseling, prays for those in need, preaches, teaches, serves communion, baptizes, marries, and buries.

This sounds pretty much like today's pastoral job description. The difference is the chaplain's job is for a transient or temporary gathering of people who, for whatever reason, cannot do ministry among or for themselves. A pastor's job is much different.

What does the Bible say a pastor's job is? First off, a pastor is a Christian with all rights and responsibilities. And what are those responsibilities? The same as every Christian: (1) to love the Lord their God; and (2) to love their neighbor as themselves (Matthew 22.37-39). Then, since it as assumed they have the spiritual gift of being a pastor, they have additional responsibilities -- and these responsibilities are listed in the one place we find the word "pastor" in the New Testament: Ephesians 4.11-13 "The gifts [Christ] gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ."

The biblically directed job description of pastors (and indeed, all professional church workers -- and a good number of non-professional church workers) is to prepare the saints, that is, the members of the church, to do ministry. Pastors are not called to do the ministry for the church, but to equip the members of the church by training, vision, and inspiration, to do the "chaplain's" job in the community and in the world.

The day of the pastor being hired to do the ministry for (and to) the church needs to be over. No longer can a pastor be the chaplain and still have time to equip the church for evangelism and ministry -- tasks that rightfully belong to every person in the church.

It is time for the church to evaluate whether it needs a chaplain or a pastor. If the Church is to survive and succeed in its God-given Waters of bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, letting the oppressed go free, and proclaiming the year of the Lord's favor (Luke 4:18-19) then it needs to allow the pastor to do his/her job as dictated by the Bible -- not by popular acclamation and tradition.

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