THE PASTOR’S CALL TO LEADERSHIP
The mandate of every man called of God to preach is to “stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands” (2 Tim. 1:6). When God calls a man to pastor a people, He does not send him forth ill-equipped for the task at hand. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7). He empowers him! He embraces him! He educates him! When God calls a man, He gets him ready!
A Call to Authenticity
In the first place, a pastor’s call is a call to authenticity. What makes his ministry authentic? By whose authority and in whose name does he minister? The Bible tells us that a pastor’s call is authenticated by its origin. It is a divinely endowed gift of God, a “grace gift.” “And he gave some . . . pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4:11).
The Greek word poimen means shepherd and is translated “pastor,” indicating that the local church is a flock of sheep (Acts 20:28). It is the pastor’s responsibility to feed and lead the flock (1 Pet. 5:1-4). A pastor/shepherd ministers in the Name of Jesus Christ who is the “chief Shepherd” (1 Pet. 5:4). The writer of Hebrews declares our Lord Jesus to be “that great shepherd of the sheep . . .” (Heb. 13:20). In order to understand the importance of the role of the shepherd, we need to look into the Old Testament where the
When God calls a man to pastor a people, He does not send forth ill-equipped for the task at hand.
shepherd played a significant role in the life of the Hebrew people.
One of the great shepherds in the Old Testament was David, whom God declared to be “a man after his own heart” (1Sam. 13:14).
God sent Samuel, His prophet, to anoint David as king over Israel. David’s only mentioned qualification was that “he keepeth the sheep” (1 Sam. 16:11). We know that David took the nation of Israel to great heights of glory and power. How could a shepherd boy come to accomplish so much? Could it be that principles of leadership are incorporated in the life of a shepherd?
It is the pastor’s responsibility to feed and lead the flock
(1 Pet. 5:1-4)
Perhaps a look at the Twenty-Third Psalm will give us a clue.
David begins the Psalm by saying, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” He needs no more, he wants no more. A shepherd must be rightly related to the chief Shepherd, our Lord Jesus. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me” (Jn. 10:27). Jesus must be shepherd to the pastor before he can properly tend his flock. When the rulers of Israel saw the boldness of Peter and John, the scripture says, “they took knowledge of them.” Why? Was it because of their reputation? Was it because of their education? No, it was because the rulers perceived “that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). David knew the source of his ability. He knew that his authenticity rested in the Lord!
Psalm 23 describes seven functions of the shepherd that can be related to the pastor’s role. “He maketh to lie down” (rabas, v. 2) means “to stretch out” or “recline.” A shepherd guides the sheep to rest in pleasant, green pastures. The pastor guides God’s people to “lie down” in order that they may have peace and rest in the Lord.
“He leadeth” (nahal, v. 2) denotes a shepherd’s loving, concerned leading of his flock, especially the young (Isa. 40:11). The pastor lovingly leads his people, he takes them by the hand and guides them to “still waters” where their thirst for the things of God may be satisfied.
“He restoreth” (shûb, v. 3) means “to turn back.” The Hebrews verb shûb is the twelfth most frequently used verb in the Old Testament, appearing over 1050 times. A pastor helps his people to restore the joy of salvation (Ps. 51:12), to recover their enthusiasm in the Lord, to refresh themselves, and to return to their first love!
“He leadeth” (nahâ, v. 3) describes the normal activity of a shepherd whereby a shepherd leads the flock in an orderly fashion to an intended destination by going before
Jesus must be shepherd to the pastor before he can properly tend his flock.
them. A pastor is to go before his people, thoughtfully and prayerfully guiding them in worship and service.
“He comforts” (naham, v. 4) reflects the idea of “breathing deeply.” A pastor is called to tend the sheep out of a heart of compassion that they might be comforted. As a person is made aware of God’s protection and provision, he breathes a sigh of relief.
“He preparest” (´urak, v. 5) expresses the idea of “setting in order,” or “to arrange.” Nothing is hurried, there is no disturbance; the enemy is at the door and yet God prepares a table for the believer who sits and eats as if everything were in perfect peace. The business of the church must be planned, set in order and arranged in priority (1 Cor. 14:40). A pastor who defaults in administering the church will soon find a church in confusion. Often he may administer by delegation, but administer he must.
“He anointest” (dashen, v. 5) literally means “to make fat,” and is used as a description of the blessing of God. When a pastor faithfully preaches the Word of God and shepherds his people with the wisdom of God, the people will experience showers of blessings. “. . . a good report maketh the bones fat” (Prov. 15:30). God’s blessings bring spiritual health to His people.
David, the shepherd boy, became a man after God’s own heart. In describing the chief Shepherd’s relationship to His sheep, David has given us a pattern for pastoral leadership. Jesus Christ is our pattern (Jn. 13:15). In Him we find our authenticity.
A pastor is to go before his people, thoughtfully and prayerfully guiding them in worship and service.
A Call to Authority
Second, pastors are called to exercise spiritual authority. When the subject of pastoral authority is mentioned, two questions immediately come to mind: (1) Is there a biblical base for pastoral authority? (2) Is pastoral authority to be exercised in the church today?
A. Existence of Authority
The Bible speaks about pastoral authority in 1 Pet. 5:1-3.
The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.
The term “elder” (presbuteros) in the New Testament is used to refer to church leadership, as are the words “pastor” (poimen) and “bishop” (episkopos). Peter uses all three words to describe the role of the pastor. In the early church “elder” was a descriptive term for pastoral leaders. They were men of maturity, although sometimes young in age, and they were highly respected. The two other words which Peter employs explain the pastoral functions of an elder. He is:
(1) To shepherd (paimaino) the flock, and
(2) To oversee (episkopeo) the congregation.
“Pastor” describes the ministering responsibility of the elder within the local church and “bishop" defines his administrative responsibility. Clearly, we can see in 1 Pet. 5:3 that elders are forbidden to “lord over” the flock, that is, to exercise a high-handed, autocratic rule. However, this in no way eliminates a God-ordained authority which should be administered in the local church by the pastor.
The pastor is not to “lord over” the flock assigned to him, but he is to become an example to the entire flock. Kenneth Wuest translates the word “example” to mean “a print left as an impression after a blow has been struck.” The pastor’s life is to be a pattern for the flock to imitate.
“Pastor” describes the ministering responsibility of the elder within the local church and “bishop” defines his administrative responsibility.
No shepherd could care for the sheep if he were weak and timid. He protected the sheep against the weather and against the wolves – even those dressed in sheep’s clothing! The pastor likewise cannot be weak, but must exercise authority in leadership -- an authority that is God-given, and not self-appointed. The authority comes by the declaration of God and not by the demand of His servant. When a man has to demand headship in the home, he can be assured that he is not the head of his home. Likewise, a
A pastor who defaults in administering the church will soon find a church in confusion.
Pastor who has to demand authority in his church will find that he possesses very little of it. The pastor’s position in the local congregation is one-of-a-kind and God has instructed His people to follow their pastor (Heb. 13:17). The pastor must love God’s people and he must lead them. And he is to lead intentionally, not accidentally. The pastor who lightly regards the awesomeness of the responsibility which God has given him will quickly become ineffective, if not immobilized.
B. Example of Authority
When a pastor of a church meets God’s qualifications, the people are called upon
Does the pastor submit himself to the authority of the Bible?
to follow him (for example, Paul in 1 Cor. 11:1). In the tenth chapter of John’s gospel, he lists five characteristics that are true of Christ’s sheep. These same characteristics should be true of the flock which is led by a pastor who patterns his life after the Good Shepherd, who “giveth his life for the sheep” (Jn. 10:11). (1) They know their Shepherd; (2) They know His voice; (3) They love Him; (4) They trust Him; and (5) They follow Him.
What are the qualifications stipulated in God’s Word for the person who is to exercise pastoral authority? The Bible says, “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God; whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation” (Heb. 13:7). Here we discover three qualifying questions for the one whom God has set apart for spiritual leadership in the church.
1. Does he preach a word worth declaring? (13:7a). Believers cannot afford the luxury of uniting themselves with a fellowship that does not honor the Scriptures. Does the pastor submit himself to the authority of the Bible? God’s Word challenges the pastor to “Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2). Unfortunately, some have misinterpreted the call to preach as a commission to please the people while they pass the punch! The Bible warns us about the hardship which will come in preaching the truth. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine . . . and they shall turn away their ears from the truth. . . .” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). An erroneous philosophy is being perpetrated to this generation which gives rise to the notion that when you preach for God’s Spirit to bring conviction, He will fail to bring contentment. Not so! Christians are to have convictions about the great truths of the faith and not trade them for comfort or convenience. In this we can be content because “he hath said, ‘I will never leave thee nor forsake thee’” (Heb. 13:5). And we know that fellowship with Him brings joy. “In His presence is the fullness of joy” (Ps. 16:11). Does he preach God’s Word? This is the first great qualification.
When the faith of a spiritual leader is well-founded, he will be easily followed by the genuine believer whose fellowship with the Lord is real.
2. Does he have a faith worth emulating? (13:7b). God’s people are told to follow men of faith, men whose faith is anchored in the Lord Jesus Christ. “But without faith it is impossible to please him” (Heb. 11:6). When the faith of a spiritual leader is well-founded, he will be easily followed by the genuine believer whose fellowship with the Lord is real. Does he have a faith worth emulating? This is the second great qualification.
3. Does he live a life worth imitating? (13:17c). “Considering the end of their conversation” means “to observe closely the manner of their lives.” The life of a spiritual leader certainly should be an example characterized by the Christian virtues mentioned in Heb. 13:1-6: (1) compassion (vv. 1-3), (2) chastity (v. 4), (3) contentment (v. 5) and (4) courage (v. 6). Does he live a life worth imitating? This is the third qualification. If a
God ordained the church to be a theocracy over which God rules through spiritual leaders.
pastor can answer affirmatively to these three qualifying questions, he will surely be a worthy example for his flock.
C. Exercise of Authority
A pastor’s counsel is invaluable to the church. He will be deeply respected and his thoughts will be highly regarded by those who understand the biblical principles of pastoral authority. Often there is more than one way to accomplish a specific mission for our Lord. For instance, a person might choose one of at least five modes of transportation when traveling from San Francisco to Seattle. He may go by car, boat, bus, train or plane. Any of these would take him to his destination, but he must first make a choice. In a congregation there are always a number of varying opinions about the direction of a church’s ministry and its implementation. The pastor’s objective is to guide the people to board one vehicle by which a particular ministry might be accomplished. God has given a pastor to His people to lead them lovingly in obedience to His will for the flock.
God’s Word says, “Obey them that have the rule over you and submit yourselves. . . .” (Heb. 13:17a). Such a word is especially needed in the church today because resentment against authority is commonplace in the world. God ordained the church to be a theocracy over which God rules through spiritual leaders. In our churches we employ the principles of a democracy for the purpose of discovering the mind and will of God among the Body of Christ.
Sooner or later, a member will be faced with a decision of consequence for his church.
The pastor, deacons and committee members all should come to a proper understanding of the critical nature of their responsibilities in spiritual leadership. A pastor who teaches his deacons and committee members the applied principles of spiritual leadership is putting into place some of the necessary ingredients for growing a dynamic fellowship. Any group of persons in the church charged with making a decision should prayerfully seek God’s Will. Sooner or later, a member will be faced with a decision of consequence for his church. What should be his response? He should vote his convictions and then go out to support wholeheartedly the majority opinion.
For example, if a committee member is not in favor of a proposition that is passed by the majority of the members, he should join the majority and become supportive of the
When a pastor “keeps watch over” a soul with loving concern that is free from any motive of gain for himself, most people respond.
measure when recommended to the deacons. If a deacon’s first opportunity to support or oppose a measure is in deacons’ meeting, he should vote his conviction. But if the majority votes otherwise, he should join the majority in the recommendation to the church. When the issue is brought to the floor of the church in business session, it should come with the unanimous support of each committee member and each deacon who previously voted on the matter.
When a committee member or a deacon leaves a meeting to oppose the recommendation agreed upon by a majority, he is taking action that undermines spiritual leadership and authority in the church. He has chosen not to give spiritual leadership and in the process he shows little or no respect for those who are attempting to exercise responsible spiritual leadership.
What then are conclusions which may be drawn from our study of pastoral authority? (1) A biblical foundation for pastoral authority does exist. (2) The pastor is to be a man after God’s own heart in word, thought and deed. Thus, he becomes an example for his congregation to follow. (3) As a pastor graciously, but firmly exercises pastoral authority, he should train his people in the principles of spiritual authority and leadership that are critical to maintaining unity in the flock.
A Call to Accountability
The third aspect of the pastor’s call is accountability. We have seen that the Bible teaches authenticity and authority, but what does it say about accountability? What does
The cost of losing God’s power is too great a price to pay for the expediency of becoming “men pleasers.”
God’s Word say that would encourage a church member to love, trust and be totally supportive of his pastor? The writer of Hebrews says, “They (pastors) watch in behalf of your souls, as they must give account” (13:17b). A pastor watches over God’s people under the consciousness that he must one day render to the “chief Shepherd” an account of the care he has taken of the Lord’s sheep. Pastors must shepherd the flock, provide spiritual food, care for the sick, encourage the weak and guide the strong. God’s people are urged to make the pastor’s task easy in order that he may give an account “with joy and not grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13:17c).
When God’s people pray for the pastor, rejoice in his preaching, follow his counsel, and respond to his urgent appeal to commitment and service, the pastor shall report with joy. When a pastor “keeps watch over” a soul with loving concern that is free from any motive of gain for himself, most people respond. Through the years a few persons may attempt to disrupt your effectiveness in ministry. Should you encounter
The curse of the church has always been immature Christians.
resistance, ask for the Lord’s divine wisdom, seek the counsel of a few spiritually mature persons, and be gracious to those who are disgruntled. A pastor should approach matters with an open mind, but he should never forsake convictions that are born of God in his heart. The cost of losing God’s power is too great a price to pay for the expedience of becoming “men pleasers.” The pastor is a “servant of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (Eph. 6:6).
Although God’s people are not made to enjoy apathy, they may not be prepared for the commitment nor the magnitude of inconvenience necessary to reach their world for Christ. The curse of the church has always been immature Christians, Christians who never grow up after being born into God’s family. The Christian who fails to grow up is like the little boy who fell out of bed. When his mother asked what happened, he said, “I don’t know, I guess I went to sleep too close to the place I got in.” Thus the pastor is faced with the challenge to feed his flock to ensure their growth and to lead his flock with an eye firmly fixed upon Christ to whom he will give an account. Through it all he is admonished to “. . . be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5).
Jesus said, “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man, according as his work shall be” (Rev. 22:12). The obedient, God-called pastor/shepherd is promised a special reward. “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (1 Pet. 5:4). The crown given to an
The obedient, God-called pastor/shepherd is promised a special reward.
Olympian is a corruptible crown, but the “crown of glory” which the Lord Jesus will give to His faithful under-shepherds is an eternal, incorruptible crown that will not fade. The crown of glory shall be laid at the feet of Jesus (Rev. 4:10) in worship and praise of Him, “that great Shepherd of the sheep” (Heb. 13:20). What a day of glory that will be!
The pastor’s life is to be a pattern for the flock to imitate.
Morris H. Chapman
Shophar, pp. 17-22
Criswell College for Biblical Studies