Outline on Pastoral Ministry and Church Government

The roles and responsibilities of pastor in the New Testament include teaching the Word of God (1 Tim 3:2; 4:13), pastoring or shepherding the local church (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet 5:1), exhorting God’s people (Tit 2:15), rebuking false teachers and the disobedient (Tit 1:9; 2 Tim 4:2), preaching the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27; 2 Tim 3:16), and comforting the body of Christ (2 Cor 7:6-7). Biblical preaching involves verse by verse exposition, illustration, application, and exhortation. Pastoring also involves biblical counseling in applying Scripture in one on one situations (Rom 15:14). The pastor must do the work of an evangelist in his local community to win as many for Christ as possible (2 Tim 4:5). A pastor must be a man of integrity and prayer (1 Tim 3:1; 2 Thess 1:11). He must be above reproach and live a godly Christ-honoring life in public and in private (1 Tim 3:1-7; Tit 2:7). He must model the life of Christ by his words and actions (1 Tim 4:16; Tit 1:1). The Bible uses the terms pastor, elder, and overseer interchangeably (Acts 20:17, 28; Tit 1:5, 7; 1 Pet 5:1-2).

The New Testament model for church leadership is that of a plurality of elders who work together to shepherd and care for Christ’s church (Acts 14:23; 20:17; Heb 13:17; Jas 5:14; 1 Pet 5:1-5). The man who takes the lead in preaching is one of these elders who must work together with the rest of the leaders of the church “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph 4:15). Ministry is the duty of the entire church because one man could not possibly do it all. Having a plurality of leaders is wise and biblical because it prevents any one person in the church from having their own way (Prov 24:6). While elders may not be equal in influence or gifting, the Bible does not make any distinctions between elders as in Presbyterianism or Episcopalianism. This leadership model occurs in the context of Congregationalism where the entire body is the ultimate church authority in matters of membership and church discipline (Matt 18:15-20; 1 Cor 5:4-7; 2 Cor 2:6).

As a Congregationalist, I believe it is the duty of a church to call elders or pastors and therefore the pastors are accountable to the church (Matt 18:17; Acts 15:22). The leadership of the church is certainly involved in the calling of pastors as they work with the rest of the body (1 Tim 4:14). Elders must live out the high requirements of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 daily by the power of the Holy Spirit. As pastor Robert Murray M’Cheyne said, “My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness.”  However, pastors are not sinlessly perfect but are marked by confession and repentance (1 John 1:8-10). God provides elders protection against spurious false accusations as 1 Timothy 5:19 says, “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.” But if they persist in sin they must be rebuked publicly because of their public office (1 Tim 5:20). If a pastor fails to be above reproach and will not repent, then that is sufficient reason to remove him from the office of pastor by the church. Since the church called him into that office, the church may remove him for serious sin.

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