Pastoral work is the responsibility of every believer. We have been given this great mandate to preach the good news to the whole world Matt. 28:19. We are said to be the light of the world, and called to let it shine so that people may see and glorify our father in heaven Matt. 5:14-16. With this general responsibility of preaching the gospel, there are people who God has called to serve and pastor His congregation – they are trained and formed specifically on the role and responsibility of pastoring. They are said to be shepherds who tend the sheep of God. We see the example of this special calling in John 21:15-17; “then they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” When we respond to this call of pastoring, we prove that we love Christ.
As I mentioned, pastoral work can be likened with shepherding. The shepherd feeds, takes care, heals, protects and leads the sheep. Therefore, the primary purpose of pastoral work is carrying out these four things. Eph. 4:11-13 also set clearly the purpose of pastoral work; “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
· Feeding the sheep: A good shepherd finds a greener pasture for the sheep, he make sure the sheep feeds from the good pastures and drinks the pure water. He still cuts some branches (leaves) and brings them home for the sheep. This is what is expected of every trained pastor – he should feed his/her congregation with the right and undiluted gospel. He/she should give them the right spiritual nutrient so that they grow in the Spirit.
· Taking care of sheep: A good shepherd takes good care of the sheep; he helps the weak and those that were born in the wood he carries on his shoulder, he warms them up with fire in the time of cold. It is the responsibility of a pastor to take care of his/her congregation. In every congregation, we have aged people, the weary, the weak, widows and orphans – these categories deserve care from the pastor. Jesus as a good shepherd came to mend the broken hearted. Luke 4:18
· Heal the sheep: A good shepherd heals the injured sheep, and ties their fractions. Pastors have congregations with sick people (physical and spiritual). It is their responsibility to find such people and heal them. Jesus’ ministry on earth was full of miracles, healings and forgiveness of sins. Pastors are given the same power to heal the sick and pray for the sins of their congregation. James 5:14-16; “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.”
· Protect the sheep: A good shepherd protects his sheep with his life; he faces any wild beast that comes for his sheep, he devours and chases them away. 1 Sam 17:34-35; “But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.” Pastors have this as a goal to achieve – protecting their members from the falls doctrine and heresies.
· Leading the sheep: A good shepherd moves in front of the sheep to give them direction, he throws sticks at those who want to get away from the train (who become disobedient). Pastors are leaders who are supposed to lead by example not by what they say, but what they do. They are to correct the wrong with love; James 5:19-20 “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”
Pastoral work comes with a lot of challenges as well because the person involved is dealing with the rational sheep of Christ as John Chrysostom describes;
A man, who loses sheep through the ravages of wolves or the attacks of robbers or through murrain or some other accident, might perhaps meet with a measure of pardon from the owner of the flock. Even if he is called upon to pay compensation, the penalty stops at money. But anyone entrusted with men, the rational flock of Christ, risks a penalty not of money but of his own soul for the loss of the sheep. (Six Books on the Priesthood, 54)
Because of the stubbornness of man Moses who was a leader, a friend of God missed the promised land; the only favor he got was to see it from a far. This is what makes pastoral work more challenging – you are leading people who have different views of the world, it only takes the grace of God to get their attention in one direction. Another great challenge in the pastoral work is of war – Chrysostom states;
His fight is not with wolves; his fear is not of robbers; his care is not to protect the flock from pestilence. Well then, against whom is the war? With whom is the battle? Listen to St. Paul. He says, “Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Six Books on the Priesthood, 55)
This task needs a giant in the spirit – someone who is really formed and trained by God, strong enough to carry the pressure from the Devil.
Despite the challenges that are faced in pastoral work, it is still accomplishable – it is not a mission that cannot be accomplished. Zechariah gave us a clue to accomplish this task; “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” (Zech. 4:6) Only God can work us through achieving this task – not wisdom.
Although leadership in the church is said to be servant-leadership according to the scriptures (Mark 10:42-45), the scripture also teaches that legitimate leaders have authority, in the sense of a right to direct orders. This authority comes from God and is delegated to leaders for the good of the church. 1 Thess. 5:12-14; “Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.”
Preaching is the same as Kerygma (Proclamation). It is the proclamation of the “unsearchable riches of Christ.” Eph. 3:8. It is sharing with others the revealed word of God. Before going out there to preach, one needs to get rooting in the word; 2 Tim 2:15 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 1 Tim 4:13-14 “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given to you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.”
If a pastor wants to lead the community of God’s people to maturity, he/she must allow the flow of the Holy Spirit in his/her ministry – believe in the gift of the Holy Spirit that is existing in the people of the community. Trust God for the growth of the Church not him/herself as Zech. 4:6 said; “not by power and not by might.” Jesus promised to be with us till the end of the world Matt. 28:20 – every preacher must let Christ be the head.
Martin H. Kamaidan
Saved by Grace