True pastoring always begins with personal holiness. In 1 Timothy 4:16, Paul tells Timothy “Keep a close watch on yourself.” The word “watch” means “to be vigilant” or “to pay close attention.” A pastor needs to give careful attention to his own soul because he is called to be a holy man.
Whole books have been written on pastoral ministry so, even an attempt at summarizing it in a short blog article will fall short of the mark. But I would suggest that several principles rise to a high level of importance when considering the subject of pastoral ministry.
Much of what passes for pastoral ministry today is nothing other than the philosophies and methods of corporate America pressed down upon the church. Too many pastors think of themselves as “doing their jobs,” and they don’t think of themselves as God’s men who are called to a whole-life pastoral ministry among God’s beloved people.
Consider the following five aspects of biblical pastoral ministry.
1. A faithful pastor watches himself.
True pastoring always begins with personal holiness. In 1 Timothy 4:16, Paul tells Timothy “Keep a close watch on yourself.” The word “watch” means “to be vigilant” or “to pay close attention.” A pastor needs to give careful attention to his own soul because he is called to be a holy man. He’s a student of the streams of sin as they run inside of his own heart. And he learns to apply the gospel of grace for the mortification of his sin. He must be a man who knows the great love of Christ for him, whose heart is conquered by a crucified and risen Savior, and whose hope is everlasting life in him.
Because of Christ’s love, a pastor is faithfully committed to prayerful personal communion with him, and he prays for his family, the church, his community, and the world. He learns to repent quickly of sin, and he’s deeply devoted to studying Scripture and to keeping God’s good commandments as an expression of his love for Christ.
A pastor also watches himself by being a faithful husband to his wife and father to his children, loving them and serving them just as Christ has served him. He loves and teaches his wife and children the Word of God. And he’s involved in his family life, sharing life with his wife, enjoying his children and taking sincere interest in them. Faithful pastors watch themselves.
Only when a pastor faithfully watches himself is he able to watch others faithfully.
2. A faithful pastor watches his teaching.
In 1 Timothy 4:16, Paul tells Timothy, “keep a close watch… on the teaching.” There is a heresy made for every one of us. Heresy is a form of false teaching that undermines the gospel. Sadly, there is a heresy made for every pastor. Heresies tell us that we can have our idols, and we can have Jesus too. Some heresies puff us up in self-righteous religious pride, while other heresies promote sensual worldliness.
Pastors can be tempted to adopt forms of false teaching that serve themselves rather than Christ and his people. Even when a pastor begins with good doctrine, he can drift into error over time, if he is not very careful to watch his teaching.
A pastor must be very careful to teach what the Bible says is true, not what he wants the Bible to say is true. He is responsible to repeat what God says in his Word. A pastor simply delivers what he has received, adding nothing, subtracting nothing. That means a pastor studies the Bible carefully and holds fast the word of life for his own soul and for the souls of others by faith. God’s beloved people are only fed when pastors proclaim sound doctrine clearly and consistently, even though it will cost them their idols, and it may cost them their very lives.
3. A faithful pastor preaches Jesus Christ.
In 1 Corinthians 2:2. Paul says, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Like Paul, pastors must never tire of preaching Jesus. Pastors do not preach the words of men. They do not preach themselves. They do not preach their own wisdom or man-made techniques. They preach Christ and Him crucified. Jesus himself is the very heart of our message. All the promises of God are yes and amen in Jesus. Christ is all.
Some teachers insist that it’s impossible to preach Christ from every passage of the Scriptures. They say, “Not every passage is about Jesus. We should only preach Christ when he is explicitly mentioned in the text, or when there is somehow a clear connection to Christ from a particular passage.” But I want to respond briefly to that error in three ways.