What Does a Pastor Do? (Timothy 6)


(READ 1 Timothy 3:1-3)  Being a leader of God’s people is a great privilege but also a big responsibility.  It’s important to know just what God expects us to do.  Paul tells Timothy, and us, in 1 Timothy 3:1.

“If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task” (3:1).  Overseer” (Greek word episcopos from which we get ‘Episcopal’) is one of several words used for person we would call ‘Pastor’ today.  The “overseer”, also translated “bishop”, was the title used for the leader of a group of Gentiles.  It literally means ‘guardian’ and was used for the spiritual leader of a Gentile church (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:7-9; 1 Peter 5:1-4).

Churches with Jewish roots called their spiritual leader an “elder” (Greek presuteros from which we get ‘Presbytery’).  He was the man in charge of a Jewish synagogue.  When synagogues became churches, they used the same title for their leader (1 Peter 5:1-4; 1 Timothy 5:1,17,19; Titus 1:5-6).  Literally the term means ‘commanding officer.’  An elder and an overseer referred to the same role: pastor.  They just came from different cultures.

The term “pastor” (Greek poimen, literally ‘shepherd’) refers to one who protects, guides, leads and feeds sheep (Ephesians 4:11; 1 Peter 5:1-4).  The fourth term used is “minister” (Greek diaconos, from which we get ‘deacon’).  It literally refers to ‘one who waits on tables,’ a servant.  Deacon is an office in the church, but the word is also used for pastors since they are servants of God (1 Timothy 4:6; 2 Timothy 4:5).

All these terms refer to the same person, the pastor or spiritual leader (or leaders) of a group of believers.  They describe what a pastor does.  The overseer/bishop refers to the pastor’s responsibility to organize the church and oversee its operation.  Elder is similar, but while overseer was used by Gentile believers, Elder was used by Jews for the leader of their synagogue.  He was a man with authority, dignity and maturity.  The people looked to him for spiritual leadership as well as carrying out the daily functions of their group.  Neither of these were expected to do all the work themselves, but they were responsible to plan, delegate it and oversee to make sure it was carried out correctly.  That is what pastors and church leaders are to do.  We don’t have to do it all ourselves but must make sure it is done.

Paul says in Ephesians 4:12-16 that pastors are to “equip the saints for the work of ministry.”  We don’t have to do everything, but we are responsible to make sure it all gets done.  God gifts each believer differently.  No one person can do everything.  We must use the gifts God has provided through others because all parts of the church work together, just like all parts of our body work together (1 Corinthians 12).

Leaders are to lead following the example of our leader, Jesus.  We are to lead in mercy, kindness and by serving others, just like Jesus did.  That’s what the title minister refers to as well.  A minister is a servant of God.  We serve His people.  That doesn’t mean we do everything they want or expect.  We do what God wants us to do for them, what is best for them in the long run.  A good parent doesn’t do everything their children want, they do what is best for the children if they understand and like it or not.  We serve our children, and the people we lead, by doing what is best for them.  We serve God by obeying and trusting Him in all things.

Shepherd (pastor) sums it all up.  We protect our sheep from danger, from false teaching, from sin and from those who would harm or mislead them.  We give guidance and direction to them to help them grow and mature in the faith.  We lead by example and word.  We feed them by teaching them God’s Word.  This is a very important responsibility for shepherds of sheep and people!

“If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task” (1 Timothy 3:1).  Being a church leader is very noble, special, honorable and privileged responsibility.  But it is a “task” – it is a job assignment that requires work.  There is no better work a person can do than serve God.

Would God say you are faithfully serving Him?  Are you serving your sheep?  Do you protect, guide, lead and feed them? 


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