As theologians, something that we need to have a real biblical view of is what the pastor in the local church looks like. Lots of young men aspire to be in the position of shepherding the flock that they could be given to by God. However, to fulfill the role that God has for these individuals, they must understand the biblical backing of the pastor. To not have a healthy view of sound biblical shepherding is something that plaques many people who attain the office. In the current context that we live in, healthy local church leadership is something that is not practiced as much as it needs to be. From the strong Bible believing churches, to the ones to teach a false gospel, the Christian church has lost the idea of what the biblical pastor looks like. The aim of our discussion is to lay the foundation that the Church needs to build its idea of the pastor on. Before we dive into the main themes of this topic, one counter cultural aspect of biblical pastor needs to be addressed.
Biblical leadership does not exclude women, there are plenty of examples in the story of the scriptures that have leading women. To demean and put down women is not even slightly supported in the Bible. Shortly before Jesus was going to be sent to the cross, a woman anointed him with perfume that she could have sold for a large sum of money.
Mark 14:6 says, “But Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing for me.”
To people who say that women have no place in helping lead a church is completely inappropriate. Christ gives us the perfect example for how we are supposed to treat the women in our churches. However, the Bible gives us a clear view of what person can exercise authority in the context of the local church gathering.
1 Timothy 2:12 says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”
Without context, this makes Paul look like an extreme sexist, let us quickly provide some clarity. This letter that Paul was writing to a young pastor named Timothy, was to provide God-inspired details about how the church was to put in order. Because God has authority to make every rule, we can completely trust this portion of scripture. Admittedly, we say that some of the things in this larger portion of scripture are contextual. However, some of these things were purely part of culture, such as head coverings. These more so talk about the heart condition than the actual covering itself.
But, exercising authority over individuals in the local church is something that people did two thousand years ago, and still do today. This view that we as believers hold is not our opinion, not Paul’s opinion, but is God’s final ruling. Now that we have laid out a specific counter cultural aspect of the role of a pastor looks like, we can look at the biblical role of a pastor, first looking at character.
In the Pastoral Epistles, Paul lays out instructions that a man must aspire to for being a pastor.
1 Timothy 3:1 Paul says, “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.”
Here, Paul lays out that if a man wants to be in a position of authority, he must act like it. Nobody wants to be led by someone that has no enthusiasm. God is calling us to be leaders who cultivate a level of excitement about His word. In the same portion of scripture Paul lays out more aims for the pastoral role.
1 Timothy 3:2–5 says, “Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for it someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?”
This text shows that to be an aspiring overseer one must have a certain level of self-control. Something that lots of men lack is this level of self-control, especially in the current context that we live in. However, thanks be to God that this list is not a laundry list of essentials, but an aim of which to strive after.
1 Timothy 3:6–7 says, “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”
The pastor must be mature, the idea of maturity is twofold, personal maturity and social maturity are required for leading God’s church. To have personal spiritual maturity is to go through difficult experiences with hoping in our savior. Nobody can say for sure what length of time that is. However, discussing the next two themes of this topic can clear up when personal maturity is at a level worthy of the office.
To have social maturity is to make sure that you can interact well with people who differ with what we proclaim. We are to walk in caution when interacting with people who have not been won over by King Jesus. Especially if they are trying to catch people with authority in the church with a false truth. Being wise and spirit led in regular every day communication is a very important part of being a pastor. Now that we have discussed the idea of character, we can now move on to the idea of competency.
Before we begin to talk about the competency of the pastor, we must explain that not one of these themes makes a man ready to dive headfirst into a pastoral role. The combination of all three aspects is necessary for a pastor to thrive in the role that God gives to him. However, one of the most crucial aspects of the role of the pastor is to preach the Gospel faithfully. The book of Acts is a whole story of the church beginning and preaching Christ crucified to the nations. So, it is essential for the person who is leading a local church to possess the ability to interpret scripture and preach with authority. Something else to consider with competency is the idea of staying true to the idea of sound doctrine.
Titus 2:1 says, “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.”
In the context of this whole book of Titus, Paul is encouraging this young leader despite other false leaders teaching things that do not align with the cross of Christ. Titus had to be frustrated with having other people who claim a similar ideology to him that was false. More than we like to admit, Bible believing churches and pastors in this society feel more like Titus than ever. Something that a lot of churches have lost in the past ten years is the idea of the one true Gospel. People with this school of thought have itching ears and want to hear things that align with what their flesh wants. Sound, in the original language, of the verse translates to “healthy” as ministers we need to make sure that the people we are leading have healthy doctrine spoken over them.
One more factor to take into consideration when talking about the idea of competency is the pastor’s ability to set vision. The best expression of the ability to cast vision came from our Lord and savior.
Matthew 28:18–20 says, “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Christ is the ultimate picture of what casting a vision looks like. He was clear and direct in what he wanted his followers to remember right before he left to be in union with the Father. This vision is what all pastors should completely fall under. To cast vision for a local church is to deeply invest in what discipleship looks like in the context of that specific body of believers. There are many biblical interpretations of what discipleship looks like. As a pastor the man needs to make sure that he casts a clear vision for other people to follow. Now that we have talked about the aspects that pertain to the person, we can look at what outside affirmation looks like.
The setting in which affirmation happens in the choosing of a pastor is in education and the local church. Something that we need to remember is that competency is very important in choosing a pastor. One expression that competency is strengthened, is through higher theological education. Seminary is a refining tool to see if a man can lead and shepherd people well. It, however, is not a requirement for a person to be a pastor, another expression of improving competency is leading, and learning God’s word, without a vocational role. This is a much more authentic representation of affirmation. The leadership of a church sees this person leading where he should, and at the same time growing in knowledge of God’s word. While competency is important, the aspect of the local church holds most of the weight. The local elders of the church hold direct authority to make the decisions on new leadership in the body.
This idea can be supported by the replacement of Judas depicted in the Scriptures.
Acts 1:21–25 says, “’So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us — one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.’ And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Mattias. And they prayed and said, ‘You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which turned aside to go to his own place.’”
Affirmation from a local church to raise up new pastors, or leaders, should be marked by prayer and reliance on God. Nobody has ever decided something that they have not put some thought into. Why then, would you not call upon the Father of lights to speak wisdom into the shepherding role of a local church? We need to continue to seek out God in how we continue to affirm and raise up leaders to serve his church.
The biblical role of a pastor is something that has been lost in our current context. It is saddening to see the office that seminary students aspire to be belligerently defiled. To lead and counsel people in our current context is something that requires knowledge of God and his scriptures. If we continue to cultivate a culture of equipping men to aspire to the office, we will continue to see our churches transformed into disciple making environments where the gospel is saturated. God has something to say about the biblical office of the pastor, and his word is final and authoritative. By continuing to see men’s character, competency, and outside affirmation grown will see the role of the pastor return to the health that God wants it to be.