Tuesday, 19 March 2013

What are the priorities for a pastor? (Part 2)

This is Part 2, see yesterday's post for Part 1.

Being an Example

This is not so much a timing priority as something that flows out of a life lived as a leader. A pastor is clearly called to be an example to those in his congregation. This covers a wide range of things I believe. Prayer, mentioned above, is one area because if the pastor isn’t praying, his people won’t be either! In 1 Tim 4:12 Paul makes it clear that Timothy is to be an example in life and purity and godliness, and although this seems to be tied to the fact that he is young and people may look down on him or refuse to listen to him, it is backed up by what Peter says in his first letter (1 Pet 5:3) that elders are to be examples in service but also in life in general. They are not to use their position for themselves but for the good of the flock until the Chief Shepherd returns. Something the elders and pastors must do is linked with the way Jesus looks after the church. Humble service I think is the key (Php 2:5-11).
Not only that but I wonder if the more generic, broad brush stroke categories, (Jesus, Family, Church) that I mentioned at the beginning, fall into this as well. The qualification for an elder includes a lot of character traits. It also includes looking after your own family well as a sign of being able to then look after the family of God.
So I wonder if loving Jesus and loving your family well is a priority for a pastor because the pastor is to lead by example. If the pastor wants his congregation to value Jesus most highly he needs to be doing that himself. Here’s a quote from David Mathis:
“If the chief theme of our lives is not worshiping Jesus, enjoying God in him, and being freshly astounded by his grace toward us sinners, we have no good business endeavoring to bring others into an experience that we ourselves aren’t enjoying.”
Basically he is saying pastors and leaders can’t be hypocrites. They need to be leading by example.
Secondly, if a pastor wants husband and fathers to look after their wives and children and not be workaholics, then he needs to do the same.
These are just two areas in which a pastor must show the congregation how life should be, all the while, being humble enough to admit his faults.
The way a pastor can be an example in a practical way is to make sure his house is a welcoming place, as he trains people making sure they see not just his skills but how he lives life (see below), doing general day to day things in view of the church and the world, sharing joys and sorrows, successes and failures in his Christian walk.
Also under the banner of being an example I want to include Paul’s command to Timothy to “train yourself in godliness”. I think this involves Timothy keeping his mind and heart on the Lord, but I also wonder if it involves input for him. In our modern context this may involve a pastor reading books, getting some training or meeting with other pastors to discuss and encourage one another.

Training Leaders (current and new)

When Paul writes to Timothy the second time there is another big area of being a pastor that Timothy must undertake and in the current UK climate this is a huge issue which actually probably needs to feature as a higher priority now than maybe it would normally. 2 Tim 2:2 tells us that Timothy was to pass on the message and entrust the gospel to faithful leaders. There is a call to train up future leaders. Not only that but if we include Acts 6 and 13, there is an obvious need before this to identify those leaders and this may be the harder of the two parts. If Timothy is to entrust the gospel to these leaders then he is going to need to know them well which means spending time with them. He is also going to need to pray for them and train them in what it looks like to teach and to lead. Part of this may look like 1 Thess 2 where Paul speaks of not only sharing the gospel but the whole of life with the Thessalonians.
Not only do new leaders need identifying and training, but current leaders need to be developed, encouraged and challenged to keep going. They need to be trained to help the pastor with some of the things mentioned in the next section below, and that in turn will free him up to prepare well for preaching and teaching in the main church gathering.

Counselling, visiting etc

Some of the above is only possible if the pastor knows his flock well. Visiting members of the congregation is important, but is also part of a wider list of things found in scripture. Sick people are to visited (James 5:14), grieving people will need support, sin will need to be confronted and church discipline carried out (Matt 18 and 1 Cor 5), those who are faint-hearted need to be encouraged, those who are idle need challenging (1 Thess 5). Not that all of this is to be done exclusively by the pastor, but there will most likely be situations only he is aware of, or some where his gifts and wisdom are needed.

These five major areas cover almost everything that the Bible teaches as priorities for pastors. The specifics of each area are not explicit in Scripture, for example: we are not told how many hours a sermon takes to prepare or how long a pastor should be preaching for. As well as that we aren’t told how many visits to members of the congregation a pastor needs to make or how many hours he needs to diary in for prayer.
But having said that, given the weight of Scripture in these areas and the priorities for a church and what Christians need in general, what might an average week look like?

Average Week

I would think a pastor who is preaching two sermons on a Sunday needs to spend around 8 hours per sermon preparing. So that’s 16 hours in total. That is almost half of an average working week but it is the key to teaching and training the flock.
Beyond that the pastor needs to devote time to investing in some key individuals. Those who already have some leadership responsibility and those who are potential new leaders and need nurturing. This too will take time to prepare and also to carry out. It may be that this is done in little groups teaching general leadership principles or it may be that it is done on a one to one basis. So, let’s say around 8 hours on this, including the preparation time.
If the pastor then seeks to visit a couple of families/individuals from church each week to pray with them, look at a short section of scripture and catch up this could be 2 hours each, so another 4 in total. Although these are the things that can quite easily be a lot longer.
Even if the pastor is not the administrator and a lot of that is dealt with by someone in the congregation there will inevitably be e-mails and other bits and pieces that will take some time, so if half an hour each morning (Mon-Fri) was given to those that’s another 2.5 hours.
The pastor will also need plan ahead in terms of preaching series and direction for the church, plus meeting with the elders and leaders fairly regularly. These will take time to prepare and do, maybe up to 4 hours per week.
On top of these, if the pastor is to remain on his toes and theologically sharp he may well need to be receiving some training, encouragement from other pastors or devote some time to reading and studying. You could add another 4 hours a week for this.

Up to this point that is 38.5 hours of diary time! That’s without including the delivery of the sermons on a Sunday and any subsequent issues that make an appearance on the Sunday.

If prayer is to be a part of the pastor’s job then this needs time in the diary too. But I am not sure setting aside time in the diary is needed or if this just needs to be something he does constantly and is the outflow of a heart captured by the Lord. Plus all of the above mentioned things need to be fuelled by prayer.

Pastoral situations will always arise as the effects of living in a broken world and the work of the Spirit through the word come into play so some flexibility in the week is helpful.

Rather than being very specific with hours, maybe the best way to simplify this even further is to say that half of the pastor’s time each week should be take up with preparing, praying over and preaching sermons.
After that another quarter would be ideally spent training leaders, in whatever forms that might be (one to ones, small groups, training seminars etc).
The other quarter will be counseling, pastoral care, visits, admin and generally living out his life as an example intentionally.

I wonder if a church advert for a pastor could be as simple as this:

ABC Church is looking for a man who can lead their flock while we await the return of the Lord Jesus.
He will need to:
·      Love the Lord
·      Be passionate about the gospel
·      Be able to teach the word of God faithful and with joy
·      Persevere in prayer
·      Love the church family
·      Love the lost

In our church this will most likely look like:
·      Preaching twice on a Sunday (for the vast majority of the year)
·      Training current and new leaders
·      Visiting church members
·      Seeking to lead the church in reaching out to the local community

Everything else can be discussed and tailored to your individual gifts and abilities.

My very brief conclusion is that there is a much tighter remit and specification for a pastor than many currently imagine. Some of the extras people add in may be particular gifts that a pastor has and can be utilized, but not all men will have them.
My job description above may be too simplistic, but I would like to think it is closer to a Biblical pattern and slightly more realistic!

No comments:

Post a Comment