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Three words should immediately come to mind when the word responsibility is associated with a task. The words are lazy, busy and diligent. These words describe the spectrum of the possible responses to a given task.
Lazy describes the desire that never materializes because of insufficient motivation to get the task completed. Busy is the person who is so ambitious that every task is seen as equally important and urgent that no schedule for compilation is maintained. Diligent is the person who knows the tasks to be engaged in and completes it in a timely fashion for the glory of God.
This article is an encouragement for pastors to aim for diligence in their pastoral responsibilities. Every pastor needs to be above reproach in his ministry (1 Tim 3:2).
Non-Negotiable and Negotiable Aspects of the Pastor’s Responsibilities.
It would be important to define the set of tasks that the pastor is responsible for in order to understand what it means to be above reproach. In fifteen years of pastoral ministry, I have learned that church members are more certain about what a pastor should or should not do. Often these “shoulds” are opinions gathered from other congregations or personal determinations. Sometimes, they have established routines in the church which need to then be undone or delegated away from the pastor’s table. When the pastor changes previously established routines it is like walking on eggshells because someone will inevitably be offended in such moments.
So what are the responsibilities of a pastor:
- 1 Tim 3:1-7 - He is to continue to grow in the godly character that God demands of his leaders. So above all a pastor must focus on his life in the church and society at large (1 Tim 3:7).
- 2 Tim 4:1-4 - A pastor’s love for his congregation compels him to preach the word of God. For he understands, only the word of God under the ministry of the Holy Spirit brings transformation and equips God’s people to grow to the full measure of Christ.
- Eph 4:12 - A pastor remembers that his task is not to fill the pulpit, but rather the pulpit is the place from where he performs his duty to equip his congregation for works of ministry. For he is convinced that the church is only as strong as the members are functional in ministry.
- Acts 6:4 - Every pastor must take his lead from the apostles who instructed the church that any deviation from the ministry of preaching and prayer is detrimental to the life of God’s people. So, he must not be given only to preaching the word, but also to faithful prayer. Prayer for himself, his family, his congregation.
Beyond this basic focus, every other demand on the pastor must be evaluated for its impact on his preparation for preaching and his time in prayer. There may be other responsibilities added to him to shoulder, such as: visitation of members (sick or not), administration of a real estate or other functions and programs, evangelism and other outreach activities. All of these activities other members in the church can carry out. However, he must take responsibility before God to balance those tasks and encourage church members to fulfil those responsibilities.
Let me balance the above idea. The pastor of a church is also a member of the church and by virtue of being a member, he is called to be engaged as a fellow member in the church. Discipling fellow members to be edified and desiring to seek the salvation of the lost are church responsibilities and so he, too, must be engaged in them. However, apart from being a fellow sojourner, he has the added responsibility to feed the sheep and pray for their spiritual growth. If a pastor fails in his responsibility to feed the sheep and is so engaged to be like the sheep, then the church is denied a gift that Jesus gave her.
This article is not to guide a pastor as to how many hours are required in prayer and preparation to preach. Each pastor has been given a measure of wisdom to determine the time he would need to carry out his ministry towards the flock of God. He should not be found to shirk his responsibility by being lazy or busy towards his office, but to be diligently engaged in the task at hand.
Suggestions to Navigate Responsibility
One of the challenges to the office of the pastor is the fact that there are activities that bring immediate gratification and appreciation. Some of these include: visitations, private prayers, preaching for other congregations and organizations, engagements for causes and programs. These can be done to the neglect of the pastoral feeding of the local church. If this is our habit, then it is time to repent and come back to serve the flock of God (Acts 20:28). May it be an exception when you are absent from the presence of the congregation the Lord has called you to serve. On the other hand, do not feel guilty that you spend little time beyond your congregation’s spiritual health through preaching and prayer. For repenting hearts need refuge in the Word and your faithful diligent ministry.
A brief survey of the pastor’s tasks highlights that there are challenges to meet. The Apostle Paul’s encouragement to Timothy seemed best to focus on the fact that, “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” Hence, let us live by this injunction in faithfulness until he comes or we see him face to face.