What Is a Pastor Supposed to Do?

I have been a pastor for nearly 12 years. I often wonder how it could be that after that long of a time, I routinely am confused as to what exactly it is that I am supposed to be doing. Pastoring is an interesting vocation. A pastor is supposed to be a servant of the church, but the church is not his master. A pastor is to shepherd God’s people, but he is one of the flock. So for starters you can see how the uniqueness of the role of being a pastor of a church can be a little confusing. The confusion however is not due to to lack of vocal input by people. Everyone has their view and understanding of what a pastor is to do and be. Yet, that may be part of the confusion, these personal views by the church are as varied and changing as the seasons.

Being a guy that likes to deal with the concrete rather than the abstract, I have tried to nail down the role of pastor–notably his “job description” and have found it difficult but not impossible. In using the term “job description” I am not trying to make the role of pastor sound like merely a business occupation, but use that term to delineate between what a pastor ought to be and what a pastor ought to do. I believe this distinction is helpful to keep in mind. Since I believe in the inerrancy and absolute authority of the Word of God, it should not be shocking for me to use the Bible as the source for discovering the Pastor’s job description.

One of the most treasured passages of Scripture referencing God’s grace to his church is Ephesians 4. This chapter begins the practical imperatives for the church that follows the beautiful indicatives of the first three chapters identifying the true nature of God’s church. And the chapter begins with a call for the church to walk in unity as the called of God who He has made his beloved. In verses 7, Paul the Apostle identifies to the Ephesian church that God has indeed given each one of them grace gifts to fulfill their holy calling as saintly ambassadors of the grace of God. He has enabled and equipped his church with gifts as he desires and although many today foolishly emphasize the flashy and showy gifts found mostly in the first century context. Most of the grace gifts God has given his church are ordinary disciplines that show love, kindness, mercy, compassion, justice and holy service. Verse 11 of this same chapter begins a new paragraph and lists not just gifts, but four gifted offices (roles of people)* that God has graciously given to his church. It is a matter of interpretation concerning these four offices and their continuance, but I believe this context, the historical position of evangelical Christians, and the rest of the New Testament indicate the first two offices were used by God to establish the foundation of the church by giving us inspired Scripture and counsel and thus ceased their operation once the revelation of God’s truth (the written Bible) was completed and those individuals died. The following two offices, however, would continue as their non revelatory (meaning they did not receive revelation, but acted upon the revelation received by the first two offices) and are necessary for the building of the church today.

The first two offices God gave the church by gifting men were Apostles and Prophets, and the latter two offices are Evangelists and Pastors/teachers. I believe Evangelists are those who are gifted by God in the establishment of the church using the written revelation of the Apostles and Prophets (the Bible) to preach the Gospel and thus build the church. A similar description today might be missionaries or church-planters. But it is the last gifted role that I am interested in since that is what I do. What does the Bible text say about the job of the Pastor/teacher?

The word “pastor” here is simply the word “shepherd.” And a shepherd is simply one who tends a flock. But in the spiritual sense, what does it mean to tend a flock of people? Surely the sheep analogy has many benefits, but ultimately it breaks down at some point as people are not literally sheep. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit does indeed follow up the declaration that God has given pastors/teachers to his church with a responsibility (actually, this responsibility fell upon all four roles).

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers for (‘pros’-to) the equipping of the saints, unto (‘eis’- unto) the work of ministry (service) for (‘eis’- unto) the edifying (building up) of the body of Christ (church).”

These little prepositions are important. We notice that the giving of gifted leaders, even pastors, is toward the goal of equipping the saints to do the work of service, so that the church which is Christ’s body would be built up in him. The text goes on to say that the ultimate goal is spiritual maturity of the church acting like Jesus Christ. And the warning is that if this maturity is not being worked in the church, they will be like immature children going with whatever “perceived truth or benefit” is hoisted upon them by tricky men and Satanic deceitful plotting. But that as the church matures in being conformed like Jesus, by these leaders speaking the truth in love, they will be supplied by Christ, each member working together to edify itself in love.

I don’t know if you caught what I caught there, but it seems like the job of the pastor is not to edify the church themselves; Christ builds his church by causing each member to contribute and thus for the church to build up itself in love. But what is essential to bring that to happen is the grace of God working in pastors to faithfully equip the church to edify itself in love by speaking the truth with love. The work of Christ honoring service is not done by the work of pastors chiefly, but by the work of the whole church, who are being properly equipped to serve by the pastors God has given them. And the means of equipment, God’s revealed truth spoken with love.

I hope soon to write a part two on giving practical ways in which a pastor may be faithful to “equip the church to do the work of service” so that the church will edify itself in love. And then to write a part three on how the church can most effectively benefit from the equipping work of the pastors to faithfully grow up in Christ and love.

*some believe there are five gifts here. I believe the grammar and larger Biblical context supports four with pastor and teacher as one gifted role. 


  1. Don Johnson said:

    Hi Matt

    Wandered over here from your link at SI. I think you are on the right track here, but I would like to point out one thing – while the shepherd analogy cannot be taken too far, it should be taken as far as the Scriptures take it. It is used several times in the Scriptures and it has a point each time.

    In other words, the role of the pastor isn’t just equipping the saints, although it is that. (And I have always taught that equipping the saints is one of the primary roles of the pastor in Scripture.)

    Anyway, this isn’t really a disagreement, but an expansion on your thoughts.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

    May 8, 2014
  2. pmatt said:

    Thanks for the comment Don.

    I agree that the shepherd analogy is there for a reason. I believe the shepherd analogy when referring to the role of pastor shows us more about his quality of leadership (gentleness, firmness, example) but chiefly the concept of feeding.

    I am in the process of writing a follow up in which I will detail more of how I believe a pastor equips the church. I consider equipping to be a rather broad description that most all of the pastor’s responsibilities fall under, rather than a narrowing word choice.

    However, I think a lot of people confuse what they think is a pastor’s job (counseling, hospital visits, leading deacon meetings, etc) as actually a responsibility he possesses more because he is a mature church-member. In other words, I look at things I should do because I am a pastor and things I should do because I am a mature Christian as possibly different.

    Thanks for the interaction!

    May 8, 2014
  3. Paul F Kotsch said:

    I have been going to this church for 8 yrs. now. But something happen to question Pastors role as a man of God. See we have this one family that doesn’t want to be members of our church. And the husband has been our Thursday night Bible Study teacher. He was teaching one night and in doing so said and I quote: “The 10 Commandants are not relevant in today’s world. I did something I thought I would never do I got up and walked out of the service. Pastor said yes he believes that way. I said then why is he here. He said he would talk to him, but never did.
    This lays out the story for what is happing here. I teach Sunday Morning Bible Study, and over time the no has been declining. See I don’t go to Thursday night services any more for the reason listed above. To this as I was leaving Church one Sunday Pastor was sitting in his van, called me over and said, I want you to think about something. If you go on Thursday Night then the other families might come to your service. Now think hard about what I said. I felt Betrayed, This man of God knows what [said Tom believes in] I gave it another week thinking and praying asking God what should I do. I felt boxed in. I trusted my Pastor.
    So I did the one thing I thought I would never do I left my church. There was a lot of things that I left out for time sake. But isn’t the Pastors job to go after people and find out the why. He message me and said I hope you find what your looking for God is good.
    Help me understand what happen here.

    November 22, 2021

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