The Threefold Task of the Pastor — Part 1 — Preaching and Teaching

Since this blog is dedicated frequently to issues having to do with the shepherding of God’s people, today’s posting will be the first of three reflections on the duties of the pastor. Those duties can be broadly grouped into three assignments. I will mention all three here, but expand on only the first in this installment.

The three elements of a pastor’s work are (1) preaching and teaching the word of God; (2) pastoral care; and (3) the administration of the church. Attention to these three duties by a pastor with a strong work ethic will signal to the congregation that “Our pastor knows what he is about.”

God’s Word Is Foremost. In my youth, one might hear someone claim to have a “call to preach” as though that were the whole of the task. No one looking toward ministry was likely to say, “I feel called to pastoral care,” or “I feel called to administer a church.” That didn’t mean that all a pastor had to do back then was to preach twice each Sunday — a stale joke that has been around a long time. But it did mean that preaching the word of God was foremost in the pastor’s work and all else was supposed to flow out of it.

Good preaching requires an adequate workplace where pastors can be alone with the Scriptures and with God. A wise church will make sure this place is provided. Access to the Internet may be added if it enhances, rather than distracts from study. Study and prayer together produce fresh flashes of God’s truth for God’s people — plus the Spirit’s anointing. No one of the above by itself is enough.

Good preaching also requires commitment to a schedule that sets aside dedicated time for preparations at least five days a week. Good preaching furthermore requires a tested method in setting out a message. The pastor must discover how to go about preparing to preach. It is both a question of what to preach and how to preach.

This kind of preaching is more than merely the transfer of information for the listeners’ reflection. In a variety of ways it is a call to action. In it there should be the recurring invitation to “repent and believe the gospel,” although this invitation must be issued in a variety of fresh ways and under divine unction.

Beyond preaching itself, the pastor is responsible to make certain that the Bible is being taught in other ways. On Sundays, are scriptural portions from both Testaments read as separate acts of of worship? Are the children learning the catechism? Is the Sunday School adequately funded and well promoted? Are teachers being guided and encouraged in their teaching?

Also, is there a program for Bible memorization? Are small groups being well monitored so that Scriptural truth occupies an important part of their meeting time? Is there a program that encourages the family altar in church families? And is the Bible being taught to children in Daily Vacation Bible School, or at children’s camps during the summer? All these ministries may not be established at one and the same time but they should all be on the church agenda.

Pastors will not monitor all these aspects of church life themselves. They will rely on volunteers or committees or paid staff. But pastors must cast the vision, and it will be of foremost concern to them that these activities be established because pastors are committed fervently to the Bible as the church’s textbook.

So, where does pastoral care fit into this scheme of things? I will respond in brief to the question next week by summarizing important aspects of this pastoral duty.

Read Part Two.

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