Dr. Willis Newman, Esmeralda Newman, bible-teaching-about.com

Bible teaching about
pastoral responsibility

The Bible teaching about the nature of pastoral responsibility helps the servants of God to sort out their tasks, and to focus on the important things. There are multitudes of interruptions that cross their path, all calling for immediate attention. Priorities are critical. 

Perhaps you are of the clergy, or want to become one, or just need reaffirmation on your calling. I will focus on several key words that describe the essential nature of what you are called to do. 

Given to the Church

Paul tells us that pastors are gifts that God has given to the church, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11). 

God specifically calls and assigns certain gifted people to the church – not to government, General Motors, United Way, or any other organization. This declaration by Paul narrows the scope of pastoral responsibility. 

Don’t get me wrong, pastors can be involved in other activities. Sometimes they have to take a second job to support themselves and their family. Other times volunteer work in the community can spread Christian influence. There are also responsibilities to other Christian organizations such as mission agencies.

However, The Bible says that the primary responsibility of the pastor is to the church – and in this study, I refer to the local church.

Equipping the Church

The Bible teaching about pastoral responsibility explains that the clergy are, “for the equipping of the saints for the work for service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). 

Equip means to outfit or to make fully ready, like outfitting a ship to sail to another port. Equipping the church seems to involve two categories: a work of service, plus spiritual and theological maturity (Ephesians 4:13-16). The general umbrella of the Great Commission (link) in Matthew 28:18-20 covers these categories. Maybe I could restate it: we work to produce numerical and spiritual growth, and common good to our community. 

All the offices (pastor, evangelist, teacher, etc.) are geared to this equipping task. However, I nail down the pastoral responsibility further. 

Focus of Pastoral Responsibility

The Bible teaching about pastoral responsibility is reflected by the job titles recorded in the Bible. From these we can learn much about pastoral responsibility. For example, the title, “accountant,” or “truck driver” generally describes the work of a person holding that designation.

The office of pastor, elder and bishop evidently referred to the same entity, because they are used interchangeably (Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Timothy 3:1; 4:14; 5:17, 19; Titus 1:5, 7; 1 Peter 5:1, 2). 

We are told that in Ephesus, Paul called the “elders” of the church (Acts 20:17). He said, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (bishop), to shepherd (pastor) the church of God which He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28). 

Elders

From the Bible teaching about pastoral responsibility, we learn that the title “elder” means literally an aged person, and probably means mature in life and the Christian Faith. It is a person who demonstrates wisdom and good judgment as hammered out in the crucible of life experience. 

In ancient nations and tribes the older men were accepted as rulers. The term gradually came to designate a group of rulers regardless of age. The word emerged to describe a ruling office in the New Testament (Acts 4:8; 14:23).

For example, Peter was called a fellow elder (1 Peter 5:1), and John was an elder (2 John 2). You and I learn, then, that pastors should be spiritually mature people, endowed with wisdom, faith and common sense. Pastors need an ample supply of these qualities. Make sense? It does to me.

Bishop

This title refers to oversight, administration, and leadership (Acts 20:28; Philippians 1:1: 1 Timothy 3:2). Our Lord is called a bishop (1 Peter 2:25). 

Paul instructed Timothy, “It is a trustworthy statement; if any man aspires to the office of overseer (bishop), it is a fine work he desires to do” (1 Timothy 3:1). 

Pastoral responsibility includes the exercise of leadership. (link) Leaders cast vision and lead. They organize avenues of Christian service (link). They supervise church services, and direct outreach ministries. They are the official representative of the church to the community. The wise pastor will exercise leadership within the governing guidelines of their respective denominational or local church framework.

Peter describes pastoral leadership, “shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2, 3).

Pastors

Pastoral responsibility includes shepherding. A shepherd feeds, nurtures, cares for, and protects the flock of God from enemies. The immediate context of Acts 20:28 refers to those who pervert the Christian Faith. 

The Bible teaching about pastoral responsibility emphasizes counseling (link). Pastors stay in personal contact with their charge; they help, heal, preach, teach, worship, motivate and pray for their flock. They bury the dead, encourage the sick and discouraged, and marry the happy young lovers. 

Paul reminded Timothy of his pastoral responsibility, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (1 Timothy 4:2). 

Faithful Servants

The Bible teaching about pastoral responsibility involves servant hood to God. Paul wrote, “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy” (1 Corinthians 4:1, 2).

Stewards were slaves who managed the affairs of their master’s household. An example is Joseph in the house of Potiphar (Genesis 39:2-19). Pastoral responsibility is carefully handling the message and ministry God has entrusted to you. 

I have broken down for you a general overview of the work of the clergy. Pastors do a wonderful work, hold a dignified position, and have a special reward that awaits them (1 Peter 5:1-4). You stay faithful. Stay encouraged. Stay busy. God has called you to His work, and to shepherd His people for His glory.

With this, Esmie and I pray and wish you the very best in your wonderful efforts in the cause of Christ. 

Dr. Willis and Esmie Newman

BIBLE STUDY QUESTIONS

1. How would you describe pastoral responsibility?

2. Write out the functions of equipping the saints (Ephesians 4:12-16).

3. Jesus called Himself the, “good shepherd” (John 10:1-18). What can you learn from Him about the nature of pastoral responsibility?

4. Psalm 23 is about God as our shepherd. From His example, what can you apply from that Psalm to the role of the clergy?

5. From Paul’s example as a Christian leader, what can you gather about the kind of people pastors are to be?

6. From 1 Peter 4:1-4, describe how a pastor is to minister to the people under their charge.

7. What principles can you identify that relate to ministry in 1 Corinthians 4:1-5?

8. From what you have learned, what are the motivations of a pastor?

9. Why do you suppose God appointed pastors to churches?

10. What stands out the most to you in this Bible study?

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