Pastors face an ever-growing push, from church members and even fellow pastors, to adapt to the new trends and styles that have invaded ministry. The same can also be said for the influences of outdated traditions and religious rituals. The contrast between these two extremes can cause dissention, strife, and even a church split when a pastor loses sight of what matters most in ministry. He either pursues the newest and latest styles in ministry, or he wallows in the rules and standards of tradition. Recognizing the goal of ministry is crucial in discerning the methods of ministry. With this concept in mind we must ask, what is the goal in ministry?
A Biblical Goal for Ministry
Paul gives us his goal for ministry in Colossians 1:28. Paul has just expounded on the preeminence of Christ in verses 15-23. He identifies the person (Jesus Christ) who should be preeminent in the life of a believer, and then he explains how a believer can glorify this person (Jesus Christ) with their life. He concludes his section on his personal ministry by saying, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” Paul explains that the end goal of his ministry is mature believers (or disciples) of Jesus Christ.
A Biblical Model of Ministry
Achieving the goal for ministry starts by understanding the model of ministry. Jesus Christ ultimately laid the foundation for our ministry by living out His ministry for three years during His time here on earth. How did Christ exemplify ministry in His time here on earth? What does His example teach us? First of all, Christ made His first priority people. His ministry began with calling twelve disciples. Christ found these men (John 1:35-42), He taught these men (Matthew 5,6,7), He brought them with Him while He did ministry (Matthew 15:29-39), and He personally invested in these men (Matthew 26:36-46). His focus was to minister to these men first, then to teach these men to minister to others (Matthew 28:18-20). He trained disciples who had fruitful ministries of making disciples.
A Pastor with a Focus
Paul gives us the goal for ministry, and Christ gives us the model of ministry. But what is a pastor’s specific focus? Am I, as a future pastor, required to put the entirety of ministry on my shoulders? Well, Ephesians 4 gives to pastors their focus in ministry. You see, Christ ultimately gifted the church with pastors. Why did Christ give the church pastors? He gave the church pastors “to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ.” So the pastor has not been given to the church for the primary purpose of doing ministry, but to equip the saints (disciples) to do the work of ministry. What does a disciple look like when he or she has been equipped for the work of ministry? Well, that disciple has unity of faith, knowledge of the Son of God, maturity, and looks more like Christ (Ephesians 4:13-14).
My Personal Goal for Ministry
The discipleship of modern day Christians is a difficult, yet rewarding task that we, as pastors, are assigned. Ministry today should have the same goal as ministry in Paul’s day. Thus, my personal goal for ministry is to guide disciples of Jesus, who were once dead in their trespasses and sins, into a mature and fruitful relationship with Jesus Christ. This process ultimately ends by glorifying God with changed lives.
Navigating the Core Pastoral Responsibilities
There are various methods in pastoral ministry, and there is no one method a pastor should use in making disciples. However, I do believe a pastor does have several core responsibilities that should be primary in his ministry. These responsibilities should make up a pastor’s job description. In other words, if his job is to equip the disciples for the work of ministry, then these are the core pastoral responsibilities that should comprise his ministry:
- Preaching the Word of God
- There is no greater privilege in my mind than to preach and teach God’s Word. In 2 Timothy 4:1-2, Paul gives a charge in his final words to his protégé, Pastor Timothy. He instructs young Timothy to “Preach the Word: be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” You see, heresy is detrimental to discipleship. Paul is challenging Timothy with the simple fact that false teachers are looming around the church in Ephesus. The solution given to Timothy, to repel these poisonous insects plaguing the church with bad doctrine, is to simply preach the Word of God. Discipleship can and should be personal, but let us not loose sight of the fact that discipleship should include a steady diet of the faithful preaching of God’s Word. As a pastor, this is my primary task.
- Administrating the Church of God
- The title “Pastor” is the most common term given to a man in pastoral ministry. However, the more common biblical term would be “Bishop”. The biblical basis is found throughout the New Testament, but it is specifically located in Acts 20:28 when Paul says, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers [or bishops], to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” A pastor is charged with oversight [being a bishop] in his church. He must consistently manage the affairs of his church (i.e. planning, supervising, etc.) in order for growth and effectiveness to take place. Bottom line: Church administration is vital to church transformation.
- Shepherding the People of God
- A pastor is a shepherd. The idea behind the title “Pastor” is that of a man tending to his sheep. A shepherd cares for his sheep by guiding them, comforting them, correcting them (if need be), and ultimately looking out for their well being. A pastor does the exact same thing. As a pastor, I am to spiritually guide people through the problems of life. As a pastor, I am to comfort people lovingly through the trials of life. As a pastor, it may be necessary that I correct my people when they are wrong. Pastors have an obligation to their congregation to look out for their ultimate well being. A pastor does this by not only preaching, but also counseling, visiting, teaching, calling, and even in administration. At the end of the day, the pastor-shepherd has the ultimate goal of leading the flock into a more meaningful and fruitful relationship with their ultimate Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
Ministry today is all about people. If you cannot handle people, then you cannot handle ministry. Pastors that try to either stand hard fast against the times, or who push for change in their churches, are ultimately missing the point. Ministry has never been about what style of church you have. Ministry has always been about people growing and maturing in their relationship with Jesus Christ. If a church does that, then it won’t matter what style of convictions they have. In the end, I hope I can look back at my life and say that I matured a local body of Christ effectively through these core responsibilities and all to the praise of His glorious grace. I also pray that I will hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”