A Shepherd's Job Description
Where do you go for the pastor’s job description? It’s not easy to nail down exactly what the job of a pastor really is. Different churches, and even different people have very different ideas. Here’s somebody’s idea of the perfect pastor.
He preaches 20 minutes and then sits down.
He works from 8AM in the morning to 10PM at night, doing everything from preaching sermons to sweeping floors to unstopping toilets.
He makes $60/week, gives $30/week to the church, drives a late model car, buys lots of books, wears fine clothes, and has a nice family.
He is 36 years old, and has been preaching fro 40 years.
He is tall on the short side, heavy in a thin sort of way, and handsome. He has eyes of blue or brown (to fit the occasion)and wears his hair parted down the middle, left side dark and straight, right side brown and wavy.
He has a burning desire to work with the youth, and spends all of his time with the senior citizens.
He smiles all the time while keeping a straight face, because he has a keen sense of humor that finds him seriously dedicated to his work.
He makes 15 visits a day to church members, spends all his time trying to win the lost, and can always be found in his study when you need him.
He is the perfect preacher. The only problem is that he burnt himself out and died at the ripe old age of 32.
The purpose of this silly illustration is to make a serious point: there is no such thing as a perfect pastor- just as there is no such thing as a perfect church. But I do know our perfect God uses imperfect people to bring glory to Christ and do His will.
So, if you cannot expect me to be a perfect pastor, what can you expect from me? More importantly: what does God expect from a pastor? I want to explore this idea tonight from 1 Peter 5:1-4, where the Bible gives us a 3 point job description of the pastor.
I. THE PASTOR MUST LEAD THE FLOCK (v. 1,3)
A farmer’s mule once got very sick, so the farmer called in a vet who, after a thorough examination, gave the farmer some very large pills. “Give the mule one of these pills 3 times a day, and he’ll recover.” The farmer takes one look at the pills and says, “Hey doc, how am I supposed to get these pills down the mule’s throat?” The vet smiles and says, “Easy. Find a piece of pipe wide enough to fit the pill into. Put one end of the pipe into the mule’s mouth, put the pill in, and blow on the other end. Before he knows what’s happening, the mule will swallow the pill.” The vet drove back to his office, but a few hours later the farmer comes staggering in looking terribly sick. “Man, you look awful! What happened!” The farmer replies, “THE MULE BLEW FIRST!”
The moral of this story is somebody has to take the initiative—even in the church. One of the leaders of the church, according to the Bible, is the pastor.
In this verse, the pastor is synonymous with the word elder. In the early church, the word elder described not just an older person, but a leader who presided over the assemblies (or churches) The NT uses the term bishop, elders, and presbyters interchangeably[i] In vs. 2 he uses the word overseer in much the same way. Both words correspond to our modern term pastor, which literally means a shepherd or herdsman. Like a shepherd leads his flock, so also the pastor is responsible for leading the people of his congregation.
But it’s very important to understand the concept of Biblical leadership is radically different from the world’s idea of leadership. In the ancient world, shepherds never walked behind their sheep and drove them; they walked in front of their sheep and led them. This is the model of leadership for the church- especially for those who would be called pastor.
Jesus made this clear to His own disciples:
Mt 20:25-28 25But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
From Jesus’ words, I have developed a simple concept that expresses my philosophy of pastoral leadership: pastors lead by serving, and serve by leading.
Pastors lead by serving. Peter points out a pastor leads by example in vs. 3 (read.) The example a pastor should lead by are described in 1 Tim. 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. This list is meant to give guidelines about what kind of man God calls to be a pastor, but it is also a guideline for the character of the people the pastor is called to lead. This list is not just about the pastor, but ultimately about the flock as well.
Pastors serve by leading. The pastor is not called to be the church’s doormat. If the shepherd’s job is to walk ahead and guide, it is the sheep’s responsibility to follow.
Hebrews 13:17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
This does not mean the pastor is a dictator, barking out orders and ruling with an iron fist. But it does mean that he cannot lead if the flock will not follow.
Leading does not mean that I try to do everything that needs to be done in the church. The gifting of a pastor is not to be some kind of spiritual jack-of-all trades. The Bible says a pastor is called by God to lead the people in the church to do the ministry of the church.
Eph 4:11-12 11And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
There is no way I can win all of the souls that need to be won in this community by myself. I can win some, but my goal will be to equip you to join me in winning souls for the kingdom. There is no way I can head up all the programs of the church, but my goal will be to equip you to lead effective programs that edify the body of Christ and reach the lost.
One other sideline—I believe in church growth= not that the church waits for the lost to come to us, but that we go out and get them. My vision for any church I pastor is to involve the leaders and members in inviting, visiting, and doing outreach programs that will welcome others to join us in God’s kingdom and God’s work.
I realize that this kind of leadership doesn’t happen overnight. It will take time for you to feel comfortable trusting my leadership, to convince you that I am a man who seeks the Lord’s leading, and whom you can trust to do his best to lead you to follow Jesus. But you need to know that in cooperation with the deacon board, and other leaders within the church, I will not be content to just preach sermons- I want to actively serve Christ and this church by leading us forward in the work of the Lord. I pledge to you to do my best to listen to the Lord, and to lead you, not drive you. You must be willing to learn to trust me enough to follow my leadership.
I believe the pastor does this best when he leads by serving, and serves by leading.
II. A PASTOR SHOULD FEED THE FLOCK (v. 1-2)
Another very important part of a pastor’s job is to feed the flock of God.
A lady went to a pet store to buy a talking parrot who could keep her company. She took her new pet home, but came back the next day and reported, “My parrot hasn’t said a word yet!” The salesman replied, “Did you get him a mirror? Parrots love to see themselves in the mirror and talk.” So she bought a mirror.
Next day, she was back with the same complaint: “He hasn’t said a word!” The slick salesman said, “I know just what you need—a ladder. Parrots like to exercise before they start talking!” So she bought a tiny ladder home to her pet.
Next day, the salesman sold her a parrot swing.
The next she returned to announce that her poor parrot had passed away. The salesman was horrified. “I am so sorry, ma’am. Did you ever get him to say anything?”
“Yes,” said the poor lady, “just before he expired, he said Don’t they sell any food down at that pet store?
A healthy church must be fed by their pastor. This is why Peter uses a particular phrase Shepherd the flock of God which is among you….
As Peter writes these words, I wonder if his mind flashes back to that day on the shore of the sea of Galilee, when the resurrected Jesus met them for breakfast.
Do you remember the story from John 21? As they were eating, Jesus asks Peter 3 times Peter, do you love Me? 3 times Peter says Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. 3 times Jesus answers feed My sheep. Now Peter passes this charge on to other pastors who need to feed Christ’s sheep. What does a pastor feed the sheep? The Word of God.
The Bible compares God’s Word to food and drink (Heb. 5:12; 1 Peter 2:2). It is meat for the soul which builds faith in us (Rom. 10:17). This diet must be balanced- not just sweets or meat, but what Paul calls in Acts 20:27 the whole counsel of God.
This is a challenge I take very seriously in my ministry. I pour a lot of prayer, study, time and energy into my preaching, because I believe a healthy church is a church in which the whole counsel of God is fed to the people on a consistent, regular basis.
If you want a preacher who gives you nice little talks that make you feel better without challenging you to passionately be all you can be for Jesus, then I’m not your man. I take preaching very seriously because I believe God takes preaching very seriously.
For this reason, most of my preaching (though not all) is done by an exposition through an entire book of the Bible, or some portion (10 Commandments, Armor of God, Fruit of the Spirit. Etc.,). I’m not interested in presenting Gospel snacks, or sermonettes, but healthy, full meals from God’s Word. I will do all I can to make the “meals” tasty and satisfying for your soul, but more importantly, my goal in preaching is to do two things:
1) To lift up Christ to the lost, so they will be drawn to come to Him and be saved
2) To help us all grow into more mature followers of Jesus Christ who become more and more like the One they follow
The church cannot grow if it is not healthy, and it cannot grow healthier without a pastor who feeds the flock through the preaching of God’s Word.
In a recent issue of a British magazine, there was this letter exchange:
Dear sirs: It seems that ministers feel their sermons are very important and spend a great deal of time preparing them. I have been attending church quite regularly for 30 years, and I have probably heard 3000 of them. To my consternation, I discovered I cannot remember a single sermon. I wonder if a minister’s time might be more profitably spent on something else?
To which there was this reply:
Dear Sir: I have been married for 30 years. During that time I have eaten 32, 850 meals—mostly my wife’s cooking. Suddenly, I have discovered I cannot remember the menu of a single meal. And yet… I have the distinct impression that without them, I would have starved to death long ago.
III. A PASTOR MUST LOVE THE FLOCK
Timmy’s mom and dad went into his room during a thunderstorm and said, "Now, Timmy, don't be afraid. God is right here in the room with you." But then as the mommy and daddy went into their room the lightning clapped, and the thunder rolled, and Timmy screamed bloody murder.
Timmy's daddy and mommy rushed back and said, "Honey, we told you, you don't need to be afraid. God is right here with you." Timmy said, "I know God is right here in the room with me, but I need someone with skin on."[ii]
The Bible says that Jesus was the incarnation of God’s Person into the world---God “with skin on.” In a different way, you and I are to be God with skin on—we are to be Christ’s hands and feet, ministering to one another and to the world we live in. Nowhere is this more true than in the life of a pastor. A pastor is to be God’s love with skin on.
The relationship between a pastor and his church should not be just a professional relationship, but a personal relationship. Jesus speaks of Himself as the Good Shepherd, but His words apply to those who serve Him as undershepherds:
Jn 10:11-13 11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.
There is a bond of love there, which explains why Peter says in vs. 2 that pastors shepherd the sheep … not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly…
Not let’s be clear that this love is not just warm and fuzzy feelings. It is a love built on a foundation of heart rooted in the love of God. This love for God has a priority that I believe is very important to maintain—a deep love of God, a love for family, and a love for others.
A pastor cannot love his church unless he first loves Jesus most. I can have nice feelings for you, but I cannot truly love you as I ought to love you unless the Lord is my first love. The first command is as true for a pastor as it is for any other Christian.
Lk 10:27 …You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind…
The second priority in my heart is my love for my family. God speaks to all husbands (including pastors) when He says in
Eph 5:25, 28 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,…28So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.
God says to all fathers (including pastors)
Eph 6:4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
I believe a pastor has an especially important duty of love tp his family because of what God says in
1 Ti 3:4-5 4one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5(for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?);
The idea here is not just that I keep my wife and kids under my thumb, but that my first responsibility is to shepherd my home, not the church. If Jesus doesn’t make a difference in my home, He won’t make much of a difference in the church.
That doesn’t mean my family and I don’t make sacrifices. All my sons know they don’t go to basketball practice or basketball games when they’re supposed to be in church. There’s many a meal when our plans are postponed because somebody calls and needs me to come right then. I do not use my family as an excuse to shirk my responsibilities to my ministry.
On the other hand, if my child is put in the hospital, don’t look for me here. I will be with him. If my wife’s mom or grandma gets deathly ill, I’ll be there with her, not here.
This is also why you need to know that I will never put this church or any other church befoe my family. I can handle almost anything anybody says or does to me, but I am extremely sensitive when it comes to anybody hurting my sweetheart or my kids. I treasure my family, and I am very protective of them.
On this solid foundation of love for God 1st, and family 2nd, I believe a pastor can love his church from the heart. The more my heart is filled with love for my Lord, the more His love will overflow to you; the more I practice loving my family at home, the easier it will be to practice loving you at church.
This love between pastor and congregation takes time, patience, and effort for a new pastor and his flock to develop. If God calls me here as your pastor, I want you to know that I love you not just because I get paid to love you, but because Jesus loves you, and because my heart truly cares about you, your family, your life, and your problems.
This is my version of a shepherd’s job description: a man called of God to lead, feed, and love Christ’s flock. Now it’s your turn. Do you have any questions or comments?
[i]Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995.
[ii] Thomas Tewell, "The Tenacity of a Bulldog," Preaching Today, Tape No. 141.