The role of the pastor is something about which everybody seems to have an opinion or belief. Unfortunately these opinions and beliefs are often based on personal preference, tradition, and unwritten rules rather than gleaned from Scripture. This has led to much frustration and conflict for both pastor and church. As Carson and Woodbridge observe,
"The modern pastor is expected to be a preacher, counselor, administrator, PR guru, fund-raiser and hand-holder. Depending upon the size of the church he serves, he may have to be an expert on youth, . . . something of an accountant, janitor, evangelist, small groups expert, and excellent chair of committees, a team player and a transparent leader."
It is sad and unfortunate that this description is often the norm rather than the exception in most churches. Since the pastor is a significant part of the church and its health, understanding his role and duties has an impact on pretty much everything the church does. The beautiful thing about where we are as a church is that we get to set the ground rules for what the pastor is and what he does without any formal baggage. Our desire at Covenant is to follow the Scriptures wherever they lead us.
The pastor is an elder in the church. The biblical job description of an elder is to shepherd, oversee and teach the congregation together with other elders (cf. 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 1 Peter 5:1-5; et. al.). The biblical mandate for the local church is that it is to be led by a plurality of elders (we currently have 3 that form our elder group). The specific role of the pastor within this structure is to serve as one of the elders, but he does so in a different way than the other elders. He fulfills a particular role that no other elder has within the church. He is the first among equals (primus inter pares if you want the Latin to impress your friends) among the elders. The Bible seems to accord a specific place for the teaching pastor. For example, 1 Timothy 5:17 says, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” This distinction is, I think, purposefully vague, but it does speak to the functional difference between the elders as an overseeing, teaching and shepherding group and the one elder (or multiple elders) whom we call 'pastor' who is responsible for the teaching ministry of the church.
Further to this, the specific job description of the pastor can be gleaned in two passages.
Ephesians 4:11-12 - "And he gave... the shepherds and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up of Christ..."
We don't have time for a detailed exegesis of this passage, but essentially Paul is making the argument that God has given Christ as the head of the church and in turn Christ has gifted the church with specific roles / people in order that his work might be done most effectively in the church. The pastor / teacher is one of these gifts Christ gives to the church. The job of the pastor, then, is to minister the message and work of Christ to the church, so that the people in the church might be equipped for ministry and reach their maturity in Christ.
This has massive implications for the way in which the church functions and the role that the pastor takes in the church. The role of the pastor is to equip the church to do God's work, NOT to do it all himself. His role is very specifically outlined by Paul in this regard. Ligon Duncan articulates this well,
Notice how he [Paul] puts it: These “...apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teachers are given to the church [why?] for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ....” Notice that the pastor/teachers are given to the church not so that they do all the ministry of the church, but so that you — the rest of the people of God, as the body of Christ — can be equipped to do the ministry that God intends you to do. And don't you love the way that that ministry is described here? It's called “the work of service.” Isn't it glorious how we are all called to serve in the Christian church? And the pastor/teachers are here to equip us to give ourselves away in service and to do things that only we can do for the service of the church.
He goes on to say,
Paul is emphasizing the pastor/teacher is here preaching and teaching the word of truth to the congregation not because that's the only important work of service in the church, but to equip you to do all the important works of service in the church that need to be done. We are here to equip you.
2 Timothy 4:2 - "Preach the Word"
This text is explicit, clear and weighty. These verses are Paul’s instructions to a young pastor regarding how he should act as the pastor of his church. He doesn’t mince words in his instruction – "Preach the Word". The theme of the word of God and sound doctrine is rampant throughout Paul’s instructions to Timothy (1 Timothy 1:3-11; 4:6, 11, 13-15; 2 Timothy 1:13-14; 2:1-2, 15, 22-26); the Bible is to be the foundation for Timothy’s ministry and that upon which the church itself is built. That is why exegetical preaching from the biblical text is so important.
Paul gives two specific reasons why this focus is non-negotiable for the pastor.
Because of the danger of sin in the church. Look at the immediate context of this instruction in 3:1-9 and 4:3-5. Paul says that there are “evil men and impostors” who “will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” The church has people within it who are lovers of self and lovers of money and as a result are driven to be sinful people who do sinful things. There are false teachers who offer what appears to be religion, but it is not actually true godliness. They pass themselves off as learned, but do not actually offer the truth. In doing so they oppose and reject true Christianity. In light of this danger the preaching of the word is a necessity.
Because it is the only way to true discipleship. Look at 4:3-5 in particular. The problem of sin is ever-present even in a church who desires continued sanctification so Timothy must use the word at all times (“in season and out of season”) to “reprove”, “rebuke” and “exhort” his people with all “patience and instruction.” The gospel as displayed in the Bible is the antidote to our sinfulness, so the Bible must always be taught, meditated on and obeyed.
So this is what the pastor's role, my role, is to be at Covenant Reformed Church. To preach and teach the Word of God so that all of you will be equipped for the work of ministry and thus the body of Christ will be built up.
I'm not sure how this will exactly look, but I know some general things that will be involved. They are:
Preaching expositional sermons each Sunday.
Teaching, and overseeing the teaching, in other avenues of the church.
Mentoring and discipleship - of the elders and others.
Writing blogs and other material for the church.
Leadership together with the other elders.
I praise the Lord for the opportunity God has given me to serve all of you. Please be patient with the elders and I as we work out the details of my role. Tanya and I are excited to be a part of this church and we both look forward to what God will do at Covenant as we remain faithful and obedient to his word in all things.
Soli Deo Gloria