January 2006 Issue
of a Pastor
by Roger D. Willmore
I recently celebrated my thirty-fifth
anniversary in the gospel ministry. Shortly after surrendering
to God's call upon my life I accepted my first assignment as a
pastor. I was a nineteen-year-old college student who had a passion
to serve God and to be obedient to His call upon my life. Although
my knowledge of the biblical guidelines for pastoral ministry
was limited, I did assume my first pastorate knowing the Bible
contained my job description.
My first objective as a pastor was to acquaint myself with
God's expectations of me. It was important to me to fulfill the
biblical mandate for pastoral ministry. Strictly from a human
perspective I saw God as my boss. He was my primary employer.
With these thoughts in mind I endeavored to be knowledgeable of
my biblical job description. I studied the Scriptures to know
what a pastor is to be and to do. What does a biblical pastor
look like? That was the question I sought to answer.
Now, almost thirty-five years later, I feel that I have a healthier
understanding of the biblical requirements and responsibilities
for pastoral ministry. However, I have learned in this pastoral
pilgrimage that the people I serve have their personal opinions
about what a pastor is to be and what he is to do. The person
in the pew also has a mental picture of a pastor.
One of the primary reasons I feel compelled to address this
subject is because of the tension that can arise in church life
when the pastor and the people he is called to serve have differing
views on what it means to be a pastor. Why would a pastor and
his people have differing, and at times conflicting, views on
the pastoral job description? We assume that both pastor and people
are reading the same Bible. The problem occurs when other factors
effect our thinking. What other factors shape how we view the
pastor's role? The answer: the same factors that influence and
shape our thinking in every other area of life. Whether it is
the pastor or the person in the pew, our opinions are shaped by
personal experiences, culture, traditions, personal preferences,
and countless other factors. Personal expectations, on either
side of the pulpit, should not be equated with biblical mandates.
Now that we have acknowledged that our mental picture of the
pastor can be affected by a variety of issues, our objective is
to discover the biblical portrait of a pastor. My burden for the
pastor and the layperson alike is that we yield to the biblical
requirements and that we put our personal preferences in perspective.
I am captured by the words of E.M. Bounds: "The preacher
is not a professional man; his ministry is not a profession; it
is a divine institution, a divine devotion."1
John Piper extends a strong admonition to pastors to think
correctly about themselves. He said:
"We pastors are being killed by the professionalizing
of the pastoral ministry. The mentality of the professional is
not the mentality of the prophet. It is the mentality of the slave
of Christ. Professionalism has nothing to do with the essence
and heart of Christian ministry. The more professional we long
to be, the more spiritual death we leave in our wake ....
"Our first business is to pant after God in prayer. Our
business is to weep over sins...our business is to strain forward
to the holiness of Christ and the prize of the upward call of
God ... to pummel our bodies and subdue them lest we be cast away
... to deny ourselves and to take up the blood spattered cross
"The aims of our ministry are eternal and spiritual. They
are not shared by any of the professions. It is precisely by the
failure to see this that we are dying.
"The world sets the agenda for the professional man; God
sets the agenda for the spiritual man."2
In our effort to see the New Testament picture of the pastor
we will examine six different areas of the pastor's life. When
put together, these form a composite portrait of the pastor.
The Pastor's Character
The Apostle Paul's words to the church at Corinth certainly
apply to Christian ministers: Test yourselves [to see] if you
are in the faith. Examine yourselves. Or do you not recognize
for yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you? - unless you fail
the test. And I hope you will recognize that we are not failing
the test (2 Corinthians 13:5-6, HCSB).
The test of true Christian faith and character must be passed
by all who would be servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul declared:
...we are not failing the test.
Peter White of Scotland, in his book The Effective Pastor,
writes: Are there prerequisites for being in Christian ministry?
If so, what are they? The list deducible from the New Testament
is surprising at first sight, containing as it does few specific
skills. On reflection, however, the wisdom of this becomes apparent.
Christian work has such a variety that the gospel lays down few
qualifications that have to do with particular tasks, although
the ones it does name are significant. As Alec Motyer observes,
The New Testament does not give a job description but a character
Many, many times I have heard Dr. Stephen F. Olford, Founder
of Olford Ministries International, in Memphis, addressing ministers
say, "God is more concerned about who we are than what we
do, and if who we are does not please Him, then what we do is
Character issues that demand attention are: personal relationship
with Jesus Christ; disciplined personal discipleship; personal
holiness; faithfulness and loyalty to wife and family; peaceful
temperament; financial responsibility; and biblical and doctrinal
The Pastor's Duties
The pastor's ministerial responsibilities are a significant
part of his job description. Discerning what these duties are
presents the challenge. David W. Wiersbe provides a helpful and
insightful list of duties:
Nourishing - Providing a balanced and healthy diet is
a primary shepherding responsibility. God's people must be fed
with the truths of His Word, and our preaching should center on
Protecting - Protecting a flock from false doctrine
and wolves in sheep's clothing is not an easy task...we have no
choice. This involves proclaiming the truth and warning against
what is wrong.
Seeking - Wandering sheep must be sought and found.
Sacrificing - A shepherd (like Jesus) must be willing
to sacrifice himself for the sake of the sheep.
Knowing - Know the sheep.
Model Integrity - A pastor should be a person others
Managing - Managerial skills are necessary.
Healing - Life's wounds are inflicted in many ways.
A pastor who knows his people can often tell there is a problem
just by looking into someone's face.
Loving - Good relationships.
Leading - Set the pace.
Uniting - A shepherd is responsible for keeping the
The Pastor's Relationships
Relationships are chief among all the pastor's duties. Ministry
is about people and relationships. Spiritual leadership built
upon relationships requires availability, commitment, and trust.
The Pastor's Priorities
D.L Moody once said, "This one thing I do ..., not these
forty things I dabble in." This statement strikes at the
heart of the pastor's struggle. What do I do?
Erwin Lutzer suggests the following priorities: praying is
more important than preaching, preaching is more important than
administration, the family is more important than the congregation,
faithfulness is more important than competition, and love is more
important than ability.5
The Pastor's Example
The tenth chapter of the Gospel of John contains a vivid description
of the example a pastor should follow. That example is the Good
Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ. In this chapter Jesus mentions
five specific aspects to remember in shepherding: His Sheep
(vss. 14 and 27); His Voice (vss. 16 and 27); His Life
(vss. 15 and 17); His Hand (vs. 28); and His Father
(vss. 17-19 and 25).
The Lord gave His total life to His ministry to others. So
The Pastor's Importance
Is the pastor's role in the overall ministry of the church
important? Absolutely! Dr. Thom Rainer documents some interesting
findings regarding the importance of the pastor's ministry. Speaking
of interviews with 353 formerly unchurched people, Rainer indicated
that in response to the question, "Did the pastor and his
preaching play a part in your coming to the church?" nearly
all the respondents (97 percent) answered in the affirmative.
When asked, "What factors led you to choose this church?"
90 percent said, "The pastor and his preaching."6
As you can see, the pastor wears many hats. He has many responsibilities.
However, in the process of fulfilling these responsibilities,
it is of utmost importance that the pastor keep his eyes on his
biblical job description.
1. John Piper, Brothers We Are Not Professionals,
Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville, TN, 2002, p.1.
2. Ibid, pp. 1-2.
3. Peter White, The Effective Pastor, Christian Focus Publications,
Ross-Shire, England, 1998, pp. 19-23.
4. David W. Wiersbe, The Dynamics of Pastoral Care, Baker
Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2000, pp. 26-33.
5. Erwin Lutzer, Pastor to Pastor, Kregel Publications,
Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1998, pp. 102-107.
6. Thom S. Rainer, Surprising Insights from the Unchurched,
Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2001, pp. 55-57.
Roger D. Willmore is senior pastor of Deerfoot
Baptist Church in Trussville, Alabama, and vice chairman of the
Trustee Board of LifeWay Christian Resources. He also serves as
minister at large of Stephen Olford Ministries International,
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