The Pastor’s Job Description
My Tuesday morning bible study is working its way through Paul’s first letter to Timothy. Yesterday’s conversation started out with the question “what is a pastor’s job description?” Over the course of the next forty-five minutes, we unpacked the role of the pastor, drawing from the introduction of Eugene Peterson’s classic Working the Angles where he begins by calling out American pastors for being nothing more than “shopkeepers” before clearly defines the three most important tasks of a pastor:
Three pastoral acts are so basic, so critical, that they determine the shape of everything else. The acts are praying, reading Scripture, and giving spiritual direction. Besides being basic, these three acts are quiet. They do not call attention to themselves and so are often not attended to. In the clamorous world of pastoral work nobody yells at us to engage in these acts. It is possible to do pastoral work to the satisfaction of the people who judge our competence and pay our salaries without being either diligent or skilled in them. Since almost never does anyone notice whether we do these things or not, and only occasionally does someone ask that we do them, these three acts of ministry suffer widespread neglect.
Read that again.
As I think about all of the pastor job descriptions I have seen through the years, I can’t recall more than a handful that spoke to those important tasks. Of all the pastors that I have coached, or am coaching, it is rare to hear that a church board is holding them up to those three metrics. I suspect that this has much to do with measurability: it is tough to truly measure the act of prayer. While it is easier to determine whether a pastor is giving spiritual direction and reading scripture, we are a society that likes to see a product as the result of our work. It is after reading words like these that I feel the need to step back, and take a hard look at how I am defining success in ministry.
Going back to the question that started the conversation, I answered with three simple statements. I will flesh them out in a little more detail for you, but I would love to hear your take:
- Model Jesus. Teach people to know, and love, Jesus through your own passionate pursuit of our savior.
- Encourage people towards becoming a fully devoted Christ follower. Be a disciple maker. Understand what it means to be a disciple, and lead people on a passionate pursuit of Christ. Defining this solely as preaching the Word is to severely limit your effectiveness as a pastor.
- Janitorial duties as required. A counselor friend of mine used to say “I’m just the janitor around here… cleaning up the messes.” We all know that ministry can be messy at times, and we need to be willing to shepherd people through crisis, trials, and struggles.
How would YOU define the job description of a pastor?