Five Vital Factors for the Pastor

The following is an excerpt from Shepherding the Flock, by Jay E. Adams (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974).

I. Personal Relationship To God:

“Our churches will hear better preaching only when it is done by better preachers; the congregation will receive better shepherding only when it is done by better shepherds. How vital it is not only for his own sake, but for everyone else as well, for a pastor to cultivate and sustain a vital relationship with God.

One great temptation, for instance, is for the minister to read the Scriptures only in terms of sermons and ministry. Since he must preach to others, counsel with others, and in a dozen different ways minister from the Book to someone else, it is not hard for the minister to neglect the sort of reading that is calculated to penetrate his own heart and affect his life. Couple with that the problem that the seminary graduate faces every time that he studies a passage of Scripture: how can he read the English Bible “devotionally” when he wonders what the Greek or Hebrew and the commentaries have to say about the passage? If he does not reach for his study aids, he is troubled; if he does, he has ceased to worship.

The minister must study devotionally. When he studies for his sermons, in his general reading, or whatever the occasion may be, he will study first with the aim of personal application leading to personal worship and prayer. The man who studies first with his own relationship to God in view is a man who will preach more vitally to the lives of others.

II. Evangelism:

“Do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5). Paul wrote to young Timothy. The pastoral ministry, as such, is not basically evangelistic in orientation. The man who, as a life calling, has been given the two enormous tasks of pastoring and teaching God’s flock cannot, as a life calling, also do the work of an evangelist. This is so particularly in those situations where, because the congregation fails to exert its proper witness in the community, the pastor tries (hopelessly spreading himself too thin to do anything well) to do the work of evangelism that God has committed to his whole congregation. That is precisely what Paul had in mind. The pastor/teacher as such is called to the work of shepherding and feeding the flock of God. As pastor/teacher, he is not called to evangelize.

It is not shepherds, but sheep that make more sheep. Shepherds care for them. It is the job of a pastor/teacher to equip, train, and feed the flock. But, as one of the sheep of God, which he is too, he also must evangelize; and as an example to the flock he is to take the lead in evangelizing. But he cannot, and must not attempt to, do the evangelistic work of the congregation for them.

  1. As an example to the flock, the pastor should commit to the task of taking others with him to train them in evangelistic approaches.
  2. As an individual the pastor should prayerfully build into his schedule time to witness and to seize occasions ripe for witnessing.

III. Prayer:

The real difficulty for the pastor, to put it simply, is to pray well. He must recognize that prayer is not merely a personal matter but is a part of the pastoral task to which he has been called (Acts 6:4). He must pray not only personally, but also with and for the members of his congregation. Prayer, then, is work, work that in order to do well he must take the time to do and for which he must develop the self-discipline. The control of time and self-discipline are crucial elements in effective pastoral work.

When the apostles recognized that other matters crowding in had begun to hamper them so that they did not have time to pray as well as to engage in other essential aspects of the work to which God had called them, they took the matter into hand and made time for prayer. They declared: “We will devote ourselves to the ministry of the Word and to prayer” (Acts 6:4). The point of this passage is twofold:

  1. Other matters must never be allowed to supersede the essentials.
  2. To find time for the essentials, unessential aspects of the work must be delegated to others.

Apart from the strict adherence to these two vital principles, every minister soon will discover that not only his prayer life, but also his ministry as a whole will begin to slide downhill. Time for unhurried prayer and meditation about what one is doing in the light of the Scriptures, as well as prayer for the success of the ministry of the Word among the members of the flock, is nothing less than an essential for the pastor. He must find, reserve and zealously guard time for pastoral prayer; otherwise such time will slip away.

IV. Cultivation of the Mind:

In the daily work of the pastorate, it is easy for one to dry up, unless he works at keeping the mind green. The following fourfold program suggests one way, in which a number of successful pastors have discovered that they can keep growing:

  1. Set aside mornings for self-directed, self-disciplined study.
  2. Take formal courses of study regularly.
  3. Teach something somewhere regularly.
  4. Keep in touch with what is happening in God’s world all around you.

V. Poise and Manners:

The offense of the cross is one thing and cannot (must not) be avoided; the offense of the pastor is another. The pastor must develop a manner of humble confidence that grows genuinely out of his walk before God and men (Acts 24:16). Good habits of general demeanor, therefore, should be cultivated.”1

“The Christian pastor holds the greatest office of human responsibility in all creation. He is called to preach the Word, teach the truth to God’s people, to lead God’s people in worship, to tend the flock as a caring shepherd, and to mobilize the church for Christian witness and service.”2

[1] Jay Adams, Shepherding God’s Flock. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974).

[2] Alistair Begg, Derek Prime, On Being a Pastor. (Chicago: Moody, 2004).

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