What are the top 5 tasks of a pastor, and why? Provide support for your conclusions from the Bible or other trustworthy sources. Cite your sources using parenthetical references.
Before identifying the top five tasks of a pastor, a definition of pastoral ministry is in order. James Thompson (2006, 19-20) suggests that pastoral ministry is “participation in God’s work of transforming the community of faith until it is ‘blameless’ at the coming of Christ.” Philippians 2:16 reveals a common pattern where Paul assesses the effectiveness of ministry based on whether he can boast in a transformed community rather than laboring in vain (See also Rom. 15:15-17; 1 Cor. 3:10-15; 2 Cor. 1:12-14, 11:1-3; Gal. 2:2; 1 Thess. 2:19-20). Accordingly, the top five pastoral tasks must directly align with the purpose of pastoral ministry, which is a transformed community of faith.
The first and primary task of a pastor is to know the people they are leading. James Stitzinger asserts that descriptive titles in Scripture such as elder, bishop, shepherd, preacher, and teacher all pertain to the same pastoral role (MacArthur 2005, 30). Accordingly, Peter exhorts the elders to “shepherd the flock of God” as undershepherds of the chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:1-4 [ESV]). The chief Shepherd exemplifies a fundamental task of a shepherd by stating, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Timothy Laniak (2006, 214) highlights the importance of the shepherd knowing his sheep by stating, “it is the familiar voice of the shepherd that inspires ‘followership.'” The importance of knowing the sheep is likely why Jesus’s ministry focused on only twelve men, and why, as Robert Banks (1994, 34) explains, the average church size of Paul’s plants was approximately thirty-five. The reason knowing and being known is the first task of a pastor is because without a relationship of trust, the leader’s ability to influence community transformation is squelched.
The second task of a pastor is preaching the gospel. Preaching the gospel is sharing the Good News that God gives believers righteousness through Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:22-25; 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21). Timothy Keller (2012, 63) explains that it is necessary to share the gospel with both the irreligious relativists, those who avoid God by ignoring Him, and the religious moralists, those who avoid God by “developing a moral righteousness and the presenting it to God.” Although sharing the gospel with a large group on Sunday morning is possible, its effectiveness is suspect. William Fay (1999, 12, 29-71) explains that sharing the gospel is most effective within relationships of trust where empathy and inquiry are used, rather than lecturing. The reason sharing the gospel is the pastor’s second task is because the gospel is the impetus for all community transformation.
The third task of a pastor is teaching. Sharing the gospel brings people to Christ, but teaching requires helping the community integrate the gospel into daily life. As James Thompson (2006, 86) explains, “Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith has profound implications for the moral life and community formation.” Although involvement in church activities, such as Sunday morning services, may assist, research has shown the impact of such activities on spiritual growth is limited (Hawkins and Parkinson 2007, 33-36). However, Jesus provides several examples of effective teaching within relationships of trust. First, Jesus asked questions. In Matthew 16:15 Jesus taught His disciples by asking them, “Who do you say that I am?” Next, Jesus told stories. In Matthew 13 Jesus tells a story about sowing to His disciples, and then He explains that stories help people understand God’s truth. Finally, Jesus extended empathy. In John 4:29 the women at the well felt deeply known after her encounter with the Lord, which revealed God’s love to her. The reason teaching is the third task is because teaching believers how to integrate the gospel into their beliefs, thoughts, emotions, and actions, by definition, results in community transformation.
The fourth task of a pastor is prayer. Donald McDougall explains that the root of all problems stem from spiritual issues (MacArthur 2005, 150). Thus, all spiritual transformation hinges on a spiritual battle between powers of darkness and the power of light (Eph. 6:12). Accordingly, Paul implores his readers to pray “at all times in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18). Dave Earley (2008, x) quotes J. O. Sanders saying, “Prayer influences men by influencing God to influence them.” The reason prayer is the fourth task is because without God’s spiritual influence on individuals, community transformation is impossible since all transformation depends on the working of God’s Spirit in the lives of the community.
The fifth task of a pastor is duplication. In 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul states, “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” Dave Earley (2013, 156) recognizes four generations of duplication in this verse, which include Paul, Timothy, faithful men, and others. The process of making disciples follows the pattern of the previous four pastoral tasks. First, build a relationship with other individuals. Second, share the gospel. Third, train followers to live the gospel. Fourth, pray for the community. The fifth task is likely the most important task of a pastor because community transformation will cease without a process of recruiting, equipping, and duplicating disciples.
Banks, Robert J. 1994. Paul’s Idea of Community: The Early House Churches in Their Cultural Setting. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.
Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. 2013. Disciple Making Is…: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville: B&H Academic.
Earley, David. 2008. Prayer: The Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders. Chattanooga, TN: Living Ink.
Fay, William, and Linda Evans Shepherd. 1999. Share Jesus without Fear. Nashville: B&H.
Hawkins, Greg, and Cally Parkinson. 2007. Reveal: Where Are You? Barrington, IL: Willow Creek Association.
Keller, Tim. 2012. Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Laniak, Timothy S. 2006. Shepherds after My Own Heart: Pastoral Traditions and Leadership in the Bible. Edited by D. A. Carson. Vol. 20, New Studies in Biblical Theology. Downers Grove: InterVarsity.
MacArthur, John, and the Master’s Seminary Faculty. 2005. Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Thompson, James W. 2006. Pastoral Ministry According to Paul. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.