By Adam Brown –
Every church comes to that moment when they have to hire a new lead pastor. A search committee is usually formed and the first order of business, which can take weeks and months, is to figure out what kind of man the church is looking for. After that task is completed, the second order of business is to decide what the church wants that man to do.
The book of 1 Timothy can save these fledgling search committees a lot of time. Every church is looking for a pastor with the character qualities listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. Look no further, though feel free to supplement with Titus 1:5-9. Having identified the kind of man the church is looking for, quickly type out the pastor’s job description by copying 1 Timothy 4:6-5:2. Again, look no further, though feel free to supplement with Acts 6:1-7.
The tenth instruction to the church is the pastor’s job description, which can be divided into four sections:
- Pastoral Commission (4:6, 11)
- Pastoral Training (4:7-9)
- Pastoral Purpose (4:10)
- Pastoral Activity (4:12-5:2)
Let’s take a look at each of these pieces to the Pastor’s job description.
Pastoral Commission (1 Timothy 4:6, 11)
The pastoral commission is a summary of what you are calling your pastor to do. In short, pastors are commissioned to put the Word of God before the church. This is, predominantly, what is meant by, “Feed My sheep” (e.g. John 21:15-17). In 1 Timothy 4:6, Paul writes:
If you put these things before the brothers, you will be good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.
Similarly, in 1 Timothy 4:11, Paul repeats:
Command and teach these things.
The common feature of these two verses are the words, “these things.” What are these things? The immediate context suggests that “these things” are sound doctrine found in 1 Timothy that stand in contrast to the “teachings of demons” mentioned in 1 Timothy 4:1-5. “These things,” then, are the Words of God explicitly delivered to Timothy by the apostle Paul. In principle, this necessarily extends to the whole counsel of God, namely, the Bible.
Thus, pastors are commissioned to put God’s Word, the Bible, before the church. This sums up the main responsibility of vocational pastors.
Pastoral Training (1 Timothy 4:7-9)
No one ought to wake up one day and decide to self-qualify as the pastor of the local church. Pastors need to be trained. In this section Paul includes a negative exhortation (what not to do) and a positive exhortation (what to do).
Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths (1 Timothy 4:7a).
Pastors ought not waste their time learning about all kinds of irreverent and silly myths, though heresy must be studied in order to refute it (Titus 1:9). Nevertheless, as a regular diet, time is too precious to fritter away on stupid silly myths. There are too many good books to be read; too many hours needed in the study of God’s Word. A good seminary training will supplement pastoral preparation by directing the pastor-in-training to good books and by spending time interpreting the Bible.
Rather train yourself for godliness (1 Timothy 4:7b).
Pastoral training includes, but goes beyond, head knowledge. A pastor must devote himself to the pursuit of godliness. What is godliness? The Bible sums up the pursuit of godliness in Ezra 7:10:
For Ezra had set his hear to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach His statutes and rules in Israel.
Godliness includes (1) a careful study of God’s Word; (2) personal application of God’s Word; and only then, (3) the teaching of God’s Word. Pastors will not be perfect men. They must, however, like Ezra, set their heart to study and practice before they endeavour to teach.
Pastoral Purpose (1 Timothy 4:10)
What is the goal, the objective, of vocational ministry? Every occupation has a purpose. What is the purpose of pastoring? Paul gives it to us in 1 Timothy 4:10:
For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, especially of those who believe.
To this end, says Paul, we pastors (along with Paul and the apostles), toil and strive. What end? The answer is in 1 Timothy 4:7-9. That is, we work hard in order to produce godliness in ourselves and in the churches entrusted to us by God. Why is godliness the goal of the pastor’s work? Simply this, we know there is a God in heaven. We know that He is a saving God. But, we also know, that God only saves those who believe. Therefore, we toil and strive for godliness so that we, and those entrusted to our oversight, might be saved.
It can be awfully difficult to gage how effective our ministry is day by day. Like persistent shepherds, however, we must work hard to lead “our sheep” from this wilderness all the way to the eternal promised land. How many will make it? How many will we lose along the way? The purpose of the pastor is to safely bring as many into glory as the Holy Spirit should enable. The day will come when the pastor will see the fruit of his labour.
Pastoral Activity (1 Timothy 4:12-5:2)
This final section is divided into two subsections.
The first subsection is that pastors are to set an example (1 Timothy 4:12). If the pastor is not setting the believers an example, then all the preaching in the world will be of little value. The most important example to be set is a humble awareness of daily need for grace. Love covers a multitude of sins, but few things are as dangerous as a self-righteous pastor.
The second subsection is that pastors are to invest themselves fully in the ministry of the Word. Notice the string of imperatives in 1 Timothy 4:13-16:
13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Devote yourself . . . do not neglect . . . practice these things . . . immerse yourself . . . keep a close watch . . . persist in this. . .
All of these exhortations are related to the ministry of the Word. Specifically, Paul mentions (1) the public reading of Scripture; (2) to exhortation; and (3) to teaching. Thus, a pastor must vigilantly guard against unnecessary distractions that, well intentioned as they may well be, distract him from his primary obligation.
This last section about the activity of a pastor is balanced by 1 Timothy 5:1-2, which reminds the pastor to execute his duties as a son and brother in the faith. The pastor is not to be a tyrant or an overlord. Rather, he is to be one in the family of God who is called by Christ and the church to “put these things before the brothers,” namely the Words and full counsel of God.