Philosophy of Ministry

Philosophy of Ministry

 

The Ministry of the Office of Pastor

The Bible has three titles for the one office. First Peter 5:1&2 brings all three titles together:

“1Pe 5:1  Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed,

1Pe 5:2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God;”                  

The word “elder” is “presbyteros” in the Greek.  “Shepherd” = “poimano” in the Greek and that is the verb form of “poimen” which is translated as both “pastor” and “shepherd” in the NT. Thirdly, “oversight” is “episkopeo” which is a form of the word “episkopos” which is a title meaning “overseer”. So the office has three functions: shepherd (pastor), elder and overseer.

 

Looking at the word “episkopos” or “overseer, it is used four times in the New Testament.

 

  1. 1Ti 3:1  It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.  (Please note it is referring to a singular “man” and a singular office. It doesn’t say if “men” want to become “overseers”, but rather the term man indicates to me that there is one overseer in the church. He may have fellow elders but he is the overseer. This rules out pastor’s wives carrying the title of pastor and music ministers, youth ministers, ministers of education and the like being given the title of “pastor”)

 

  1. 1Ti 3:2  An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, (Again note the singular language construction and his mandate of “being able to teach”. We will see down the line that this clearly refers to his primary function of being the teacher of the whole congregation)

 

  1. 1Pe 2:25  For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian (episkopos) of your souls.

 

  1. Tit 1:5-9  For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. For the overseer must be above reproach as God's steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching,  so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and  refute those who contradict.  (Note how Paul combines the two titles “overseer” and “elder” in this verse)

The qualifications for an overseer listed in 1Timothy 3:1-7 and the qualifications for an elder listed in Titus 1:5-9 are basically identical and it is clear that they are referring to the same office. Dr. John MacArthur in his booklet on Elders says the following on page 10: “The New Testament overseer is in a unique leadership role in the church, specifically responsible for teaching (1Timothy 3:2), feeding, protecting and generally nurturing the flock (Acts 20:28). Biblically there is no difference in the role of an elder and that of a bishop (overseer): the two terms refer to the same group of leaders. Episkopos emphasizes the function; presbyteros the character.”

Poimen (shepherd or pastor) is the third term used to describe the same office. It is used three times in the NT and in two of the three it is translated as “shepherd” but only in Ephesians 4:11 is it translated as “pastor”. Again let me quote MacArthur on page 10 of his booklet:

“In Ephesians 4:11, pastor (poimen) is used with the word teacher. The Greek construction there indicates that the two terms go together; we might hyphenate them in English (“pastor-teacher”). The emphasis is on the pastor’s ministry of teaching.”

I differ with the concept that one can be a pastor without being a “pastor-teacher”. My belief is that there is no term for Pastor-Administrator, or Pastor-Worship leader, or Pastor-Youth leader etc. A pastor is a pastor and his primary function is to teach the word of God to the flock that God has placed under him as a shepherd. If he is a pastor-teacher then he is also, according to the scriptures an elder and an overseer since all three terms describe the same office.

In Ephesians 4:11-13 we see the only time that “poimen” is translated as pastor: And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; (note: not part of the body of Christ but the entire body of Christ) until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

Again, as MacArthur has pointed out, the word Pastor is linked grammatically to “teacher”. In the above verse, Paul places the office of “pastor-teacher” on a level with apostles, prophets and evangelists. An evangelist was historically a church planter or missionary. Once he planted the church and it grew there would be a pastor appointed and he would move on and plant another church. A simple reading of the text shows this in an historical context. Paul is saying that in the history of the church God has elevated four offices: “apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers.” The term “prophets” does not refer to the OT prophets but the period in the NT church  before the NT was written when there was an office of prophet who was authorized to speak for God. The first two offices were temporary and thus there are no more apostles and no more prophets and that leaves us with church planters (missionaries) and pastor-teachers. It is profound in my opinion, that the office of pastor is elevated to the same level as apostle.

Again, let me quote MacArthur on page 12: “With the elders lies the responsibility to preach and teach (1 Timothy 5:17). They are to determine doctrinal issues for the church and have the responsibility of proclaiming the truth to the congregation. First Timothy 3:2-7, listing the spiritual qualifications of the overseer, gives only one qualification that relates to a specific function: he must be “able to teach.” All the other qualifications are personal character qualities.”

 

On page 13 MacArthur says the following: “Elders, as the spiritual overseers of the flock, are to determine church policy (Acts. 15:22); oversee (Acts 20:28); ordain others (1 Timothy 4:14); rule, teach and preach (1 Timothy 5:17); exhort and refute (Titus 1:9) and act as shepherds, setting an example for all (1 Peter 5:1-3). Those responsibilities put elders at the core of the work of the New Testament church.”

 

Lastly, this quote from MacArthur, also on page 13 puts great perspective on the ministerial function of the office of pastor: “Understandably, elders cannot afford to allow themselves to be consumed with business details, public relations, minor financial matters and other particulars of the day to day operation of the church. They are devote themselves first of all to prayer and to the ministry of the Word, and select deacons to handle the lesser matters (Acts 6:3-4)

The Ministry of Preaching God’s Word

As stated above in Ephesians 4:12-13, pastor-teachers are given to the church for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;  until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”

Preaching therefore should be primarily expository with the preacher voluntarily placing himself under the constraints of the text and the context of the word of God. He is to teach in a manner that equips those in the church to grow in the sanctification process, so that the result is the making of fully mature followers of Christ. As Paul continued in Ephesians 4:15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ..” and also in Ephesians 3:18 Paul prays that we “ may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

My belief is that the primary focus of preaching is that of the new birth. As D.L. Moody pointed out “The new birth is the most solemn question that will ever come before us in this life. It is the foundation of all of our hopes in the life to come. It is the ABC’s of our blessed hope. Nothing will upset false religion like it. It will change our thoughts about God and the bible sooner than anything else. I believe it is the greatest blessing that will ever come to us in this life.”

The new birth explains Christ as the “last Adam” and what His purpose was in His great lowering or great kenosis in Phil. 2 and what happened on the cross and in the resurrection from the grave. These are the great issues before the church. It’s all contained in the new birth. As 1 Cor. 15:22 states “all in Adam must die, but all in Christ Jesus will remain alive”. This explains salvation and the sanctification process that depicts the struggle that Paul screamed about in Romans 7 and the process of growth described in Galatians 3:16-24. The entire process of dying to self and living to Christ: to walking by the Spirit and not carrying out the desires of the flesh and the entire process of becoming shaped and conformed to the image of Christ.

Biblical preaching should lift up Christ and offer the listener biblical perspectives on how to live to please God and biblical hope that God loves us and is too good to be unkind and too wise to make mistakes. Biblical preaching should be built on the inerrancy of scripture and the sufficiency of scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Sermons should be focused with a strong central theme and two to four on average major sub points that help explain the central theme. What does the scriptures say, what is the relevance of these principles in today’s culture and church and thirdly, how should we respond to these teachings? The preacher needs to avoid talking down to the listeners, as if he has mastered these principles and is pointing to those in the pews. Instead he does well to personalize his struggle to some degree and his desire to see these principles fulfilled more completely in his life. We are on the same side, experiencing the same struggles in our marriages, our families, our thought lives, our struggle with walking by the flesh and not by the Spirit. Paul typified that in Romans 7 where he explained his frustration with his inability to master his flesh and culminated with almost a death wish of frustration “Oh wretched man that I am, who will set me free from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord”.

While preaching must be doctrinally correct, it must go far beyond the presentation of sound doctrine. My early preaching focused on straightening out false doctrine. I find that by focusing on the new birth and preaching the fundamentals of that great doctrine that all of the other elements fall into place. Instead of pounding people over the head with scriptures and angrily lashing out at false doctrine I have been led I believe by the Spirit to lift people up and come along side them and offer them hope that is only found in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

A preacher can be accurate, thorough, and faithful to the text but accomplish nothing but the spewing out of information. What’s essential is that the assembly is told why the issues in the text are critical to their lives and to the well being of the church as a whole. They then need to be given practical steps as to how to apply these truths to their lives. The goal is to assist the church members in the sanctification process and to enable the Holy Spirit to drive the truths home on a personal, practical level that will lead to change and personal growth and will motivate us all to ministry and evangelism. I believe good preaching starts with information then moves to comprehension and then finally application. Ephesians 4:11 calls the office that of “Pastor/Teacher”. I take that seriously.

The Ministry of Biblical Counseling

In my mind, counseling is nothing more that applying what is preached to the multitude on a one to one or one to two basis. It’s learning how to apply the principles of sanctification to the practical issues of life. I think it is wrong to send church members to a “Christian” counseling center instead of the pastor involving himself in the curing of souls. I am a proponent of Nouthetic counseling and have been trained in that discipline. I do not believe that it is appropriate for the biblical counselor to give credence to or involve himself in modern psychobabble terms. If a person states that they are “co-dependent” or “bi-polar” or “ADD” or ADHD” or any of these other terms then I would recommend that they go to a medical doctor. Going to one’s pastor for counseling should involve practical teaching of the word of God to one’s marriage, family, work habits, life dominating sins and thought patterns. The foundation to all counseling is found in 2 Cor. 5:9: “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.”

 

It is important to point out that we cannot change our mates or our adversaries or anyone else but we can, through obedience to biblical principles and commands change ourselves by the power of the Spirit of the living God. God can change the other people involved but we personally have no control over them. We are accountable to God for our actions and need to seek to change and grow in ways that please Him. As that process takes place, often the other parties see the change and are motivated to change as well. That is stated best in 1 Peter 3:1-2: In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives,  as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.”

The Ministry of Prayer

      Pastoral prayer is a vital part of the office, both as a practical example for the flock as well as empowering the office for the ministry of the word. (Acts 6:4) I note in that verse that prayer precedes the ministry of the word. I believe that prayer is a neglected aspect of the spiritual life of many churches. We spend a lot of time praying people out of heaven and little time praying them in. We focus on physical ailments and needs and often neglect spiritual and character issues. I believe that God allows circumstances in our lives to drive us to our knees in prayer and to seek His favor when He has desired to change our character by allowing those circumstances. I find that in the churches that I have been in that the older people are the prayer warriors and the younger people far too often are fixated on music and in pandering to the emotions without a sound basis in truth to precede it. I want to introduce new ways of praying in whatever church I serve in. I think we can spend less time in taking prayer requests and instead segment the prayer time by focusing first on simply praising and thanking the Lord. After the pastor leads in praise and thanksgiving the other prayer warriors can then join in randomly as the Spirit leads and simply sing out prayerful praises to the Lord. After a time of praise and thanksgiving then the pastor leads in intercessory prayer. The congregants then join in much as they would during the prayer request time. If you have a request; don’t bring it up to the group, bring it up to the Lord in the full hearing of the group. I have done this when I’m allowed to and have found it to be Spirit filled and exciting. I believe that young people would find this to be preferable to the old formula of twenty minutes of requests and twenty minutes of prayers.

      I also would encourage Sunday morning open prayer in the Pastor’s conference room before Sunday School so that we can pray for the Lord’s blessings upon the Sunday School and worship time. I would commit myself to taking the church directory and a list of visitors and prayer requests and praying weekly for each member of the church by name. Spurgeon showed visitors around the great Metropolitan Tabernacle and is reported to have repeatedly asked them if they wanted to see the “boiler” room. They finally relented expecting to see the furnace in the basement but Spurgeon opened a door to reveal people in deep prayer and explained that prayer was the power that drives the great work that the Lord was doing in that building and beyond. As J. Vernon McGee used to say “God is still on the throne and prayer changes things”. I believe that.

The Ministry of Leadership

Leadership involves many, many things. I think one could accurately include vision, advancing the church’s mission statement, as well as administrative skills and people skills. A good leader encourages, guides and directs in a broad sense but allows those responsible to approach the common goal in a way that allows them to use their unique gifts and grow in their ministerial skills and have a sense of ownership in what they do. Leadership involves being charged with motivating church leaders and pastoral staff to higher levels of achievement and helping them to do so through systematic instruction and guidance. This requires goal setting, a shared vision, communications and a proactive approach to the mission and the methods to arrive at the goal.

The Pastor is to prayerfully identify and communicate the church vision. He is responsible for ensuring that Christ’s church operates by Christ’s principles found in His word. The Pastor in my opinion is the keeper of the vision. It has to start with him and he has to effectively share that vision with church leadership and with the congregation as a body. He identifies the vision and implements the principles and watches over the church ensuring that we stay on message and that the vision is maintained. I believe that it is the job of the pastor to prayerfully seek God’s vision for our church and to bring leadership and the congregation as a whole along side that vision and make it a common vision. I have been in churches where the leadership forced a vision on the body that caused tremendous friction. It is important to lead the church and present a vision that they can embrace and support.

Central to being an effective leader is personal character. This is why the requirements of a pastor or overseer in Titus and Timothy are so specific and so stringent. The pastor is to model the gospel and the exchanged life for those in his care. He is to be above reproach; not able to be accused of any wrong doing. He is not to be self-willed, demanding to get his way on an issue but instead modeling a desire for others to see God’s will brought about. He is not to be quick tempered or argumentative but instead gentle, peaceable, self controlled and devout. In all of this however, he is to be a strong leader, willing to exhort in sound doctrine and at the same time able and willing to refute those who contradict the word of God. This is no small task and requires a devout commitment to holding fast the word of God.

The office of pastor should be held by a man who is hospitable. That is, he welcomes those in his care who want to speak to him and seek counsel from him. He should be a man that all in his care find easy to approach and never need to fear receiving a put down or anything less than a smile and a willing and understanding heart towards the person and regarding the issues that person faces. He has to be able to comfort those who seek his counsel and allowing them to trust in God’s word as the solution to the issues that they are facing. A pastor seeks the best for his sheep and feeds them, nurtures them, protects them from danger and helps heal them when they stray and become wounded.

When troubles come and the bottom drops out of people’s lives their pastor should be the first person they flock to in order to receive biblical wisdom, guidance, encouragement and a friendly, understanding demeanor that gives them hope. Even when attacked, the pastor should be able to demonstrate the biblical model of never repaying evil for evil and loving our enemies. He should model the scriptural commands to respond to persecution with a sweet spirit and an understanding manner and in so doing will demonstrate by their response how Christ instructs us to live.

The Ministry of Discipleship

Discipleship is what takes place after salvation in preparing fully equipped members of the body.

In Matthew 28:19 Jesus did not tell us to convert people. He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” Every church has its own personality. Someone recently said to me that “the youth are the future of our church”. I disagree, because most of the youth will go away to college or to the military and may or may not return. No, the future of the church is in young couples. It is imperative that we disciple this group into future deacons, Sunday school teachers, ministry leaders and personal evangelists. The pastor should seek to personally identify and disciple these young men and groom them to be the future spiritual leaders of the church and in their households. They are either raising children or will be very soon and struggling with the complexities of marriage and financial pressures.

      It seems like never before, God’s people are inundated with false doctrine and churches that offer entertainment and prey on the emotions at the expense of declaring truth. The gospel message is first and foremost absolute truth. The sanctification process is that of weaning ourselves off of our base emotions and learning to walk by the Spirit of Truth (Gal. 5:16-17) and to produce the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-24). Youth ministries are predominantly focused on music that is hardly in keeping with Philippians 4:8. We are producing youth and young adults who have difficulty sitting still to listen to a sermon, who cannot seem to concentrate long enough to learn and take notes and simply want to gravitate to churches where they can have fun, be excited and basically party.

      We need to be creative in presenting the truth of God’s word in ways that are innovative and yet relevant to those in the pews. With teen pregnancies, drug and alcohol abuse and the violence and aggression they are exposed to in many schools they are looking for something to believe in. They far too often look to sports or activities or music. We see people with headphones on, tuning out and spending time texting, on the internet and on Facebook. They are tempted by casinos, night clubs, peer groups and often find themselves listless, frustrated and without hope. Church is boring to them so they get led to a church where they speak in ecstatic tongues and get slain in the spirit and have a supposed experience that is beyond simply coming to a saving relationship in Christ. The problem is that this emotional, experiential focus offers them nothing when the bottom drops out of their lives. This type of worship is an exercise in escapism and panders to felt emotional needs. In the midst of this we want them to come to church and listen to a dry exposition of God’s word and they aren’t tuned in. All of this makes discipleship more crucial than ever before.

      The answer isn’t to do what the other emotion based churches are doing but rather to present the word of God in a vibrant, personal, relevant manner that clicks with those who are listening. Whether they are teenagers, young couples or mature adults, all struggle with acceptance, meaning in life, fulfillment, personal shortcomings and the disappointments of life. The pastor is a life coach and needs to be there for them when they stumble or fall. The old TV series called “Cheers” had a theme song that said in part: “I want to go where everybody knows my name”. The church should be that place and the pastor needs to lead the church into developing inreach and outreach so that sheep don’t fall through the cracks.

      I read a statement once that said that the average pastor is at the bottom of a cliff trying to heal wounded sheep who have fallen and burying others that have not survived the fall. They seem to have little time to go up to the edge of the cliff and stop his sheep from taking the fall. That is the difficult yet vital role of the pastor. Discipleship is the way to develop the relationships and enable them to keep from falling.

      The Ministry of Evangelism/Missions

      Having been involved in and having led programs of personal evangelism, I find that the most effective way of taking the gospel to the world is by dispatching the gathered saints from the church building and out into the communities where they live and work. Evangelism should be the culmination of discipleship and of properly teaching the principles of sanctification to the saints. There is almost no instruction in the New Testament about evangelism. We see the Lord sending the seventy disciples out two by two and we have the word of the Lord as He ascended in Matthew 28:19 which is a call for missions. We are told in 1 Peter 3:15 that we should “always be ready to make a defense to those who ask us to account for the hope that is within us, yet with gentleness and reverence.” He is saying that we should live our lives in such a profound way that people should come to us and ask us to give an account for the hope that they see in us. That’s consistent with Christ’s instruction in Matthew 5:16 to “let your light so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify your Father in heaven”. In Revelation, we see the Lord critiquing the seven churches of Asia and He goes into great detail about what they are doing that pleased Him and what they are doing that He hates. Never in His comments to the seven churches is evangelism mentioned. He neither praises them for their numerical growth nor scolds them for their lack of numerical growth. Having come out of a Southern Baptist background and having led Continuous Witness Training (CWT) and “Building Personal Relationships’ as well as the more current “Faith” program, I find that ministry based evangelism is preferable. We live in an age where neighbors are seldom home during the day and visiting homes as I did when I met my future wife is less and less effective.

      I find then that the deeper our commitment to Christ and the more we manifest that commitment to a lost and dying world that Christ will put us in a position to share the gospel. I also believe that ministry based evangelism is a more effective vehicle than programmed evangelism. Whether it’s a pre-school or day care where we can train precious young souls in the ways of the Lord or a mother’s night out where we can minister to single mothers or a seniors ministry to help take the pain of loneliness away from those missing their mates. I also think that a counseling center where people can come in a last ditch effort to try and save their marriages or deal with intense family or personal issues is a great vehicle for spreading the gospel. Awana is a great example and special events for youth. The more practical we can make our church become and the more we can present it as a living organism that offers practical solutions to the difficult issues of life then the more likely we are to be to see souls won to Christ and disciples growing in grace and truth.

      We see this at work on the mission field. Many mission efforts involve building hospitals, clinics, schools, seminaries, orphanages and in agricultural efforts to improve the lives of the people on the mission field. The key is to keep the gospel at the center of it all (Rom. 1:16) and not allow the efforts to turn into strictly a social improvement effort.

      All in all, evangelism and missions are the natural byproduct of a church that is growing in personal sanctification and Christ likeness. It is the pastor’s job to keep the taking of the gospel to the immediate community and to the ends of the world at the center of the vision and mission of the church. As 2 Cor. 5:18-20 says; we are “ambassadors for Christ” and “agents of reconciliation”. We are plan A; there is no plan B. A healthy church needs to have great teaching and great discipleship but that must lead to living the gospel message and taking it beyond the walls of our buildings.

   Summary of Pastoral Ministry

      The office of pastor is on a par biblically with the office of Apostle according to Ephesians 4:11. It is a holy undertaking that requires a unique man who has been raised up by God to shepherd His sheep. The pastor is to be a mature example to others of the worthy walk of Ephesians 4-6 and is placed in that position by God to equip the saints, for the ministry of service, and the edification of the body of Christ. His job is to help the entire church rise to the highest level of unity in the faith, to a fully mature understanding and relationship with Jesus Christ which will lead to the fulfillment of the great commission of Matthew 28:19-20.

      The pastor is to prayerfully lead Christ’s church by proclaiming the word of God accurately and in a practical manner that feeds the flock, protects them from false doctrine and equips them to maturity in God’s word and in their relationship with Christ. (2 Tim. 4:1-5)

      The pastor is to counsel individuals, couples and families in more intimate settings in how to apply God’s word and principles to their lives, their marriages and their relationships.

      The pastor is to be an example to the flock of effective prayer and to lead the flock in corporate prayer. To teach them how to pray effectively and to show them our dependence on the living God for every beat of our heart and every breath that we breath. He is to lead and model a lifestyle of reverent dependence upon God for all of our needs and for solutions to all of our shortcomings or sins.

      The pastor is to lead the flock and oversee the organism of the local church in a way that is dependent upon scriptural principles and in a way that will bring about the full blessing of God. He is to prayerfully seek God’s vision for the church and bring all others along side that vision. He is to be the keeper of the vision and to lead in a way that pleases God and brings blessings upon His people.

      The pastor is to set the example and lead the entire church to disciple others and to minister to those within the body of Christ. He is to take the lead in presenting the word of God to others in practical and yet relevant ways in which the people develop a desire and have a vision of seeing God’s word as being practical, and equipping us for every good deed.

      The pastor is to lead the church in allowing our light to be seen before men in such a way that they would see our good works and glorify our Father. As he leads in developing fully mature followers of Christ he should lead in the call to missions both in the community and around the world.

      The office of pastor is not an office to take lightly. James 3:1 says “let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” The responsibilities are enormous. Hebrews 13:7 says that “…they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account.” I do not take this ordination lightly. I know that I have been called by God and that He has blessed me and equipped me to pastor His flock. I look forward to what He has in store for me and my family.

Jim Brinkman
April 22, 2011