The Pastor – His Role : His Calling : His Character


John Carter – May 12, 2015 – Academic Paper
The Pastor – His Role : His Calling : His Character

The office of pastor is a commonly recognized position by those inside of and outside of the Church. Yet at the same time, there is a great deal of misconception about the office of pastor. “It may be surprising to us to find that this word (pastor), which has become so common in English, only occurs once in the New Testament when speaking about a church officer.”[1] The more common biblical term would be elder. This is because “the noun pastor is only used once to refer to elders, the related verb is used twice in passages that explicitly identify the task of shepherding with the office of elder.”[2]  For the sake of simplicity the term pastor will still be used for the duration of this paper.

Even though the position of pastor is commonly recognized there are still many details about the pastor that are misunderstood. Words like complementarian, elder led, training, education, gifting, and qualifications are often mentioned when discussing the office of pastor. In this paper, the objective will be to see three important factors of being a pastor which include his role, his calling, and his character. It is not the point of this paper to be exhaustive of these three factors but instead to give a healthy introduction to each factor.


The office of pastor has a particular role within the context of the local church. If a pastor is not fulfilling his role then the local church will become deficient in one or more areas. There are many categories that can spell out the role of pastor. Only six categories are listed here in which the role of pastor finds its fulfillment.

(1) The pastor must fulfill his role by being a Servant Leader (Ruler).  The pastor is, literally, to ‘rule’ within the church. Paul uses this phrase when giving direction to Timothy.[3] The thought of ruling quickly brings to mind the harsh idea that the pastor should in some way be domineering. Although ruling may be a seemingly harsh term, this should not deter the church from believing that the pastor does have authority to rule within the church. Often, instead of saying that a pastor has a ruling authority it is more common to hear the term leader in association with the role of pastor. Yet this idea of ruling should not be softened by exchanging the term. Rather, the idea ruling should be placed within the context of serving.

The idea of serving will be filled out more fully in the section on the pastor’s character. But for now it should be understood that Jesus, our king and creator, did not come to be served but to serve.[4] So in the same fashion those who seek to rule the church should do so in the form of a servant and not in the form of a tyrant.

(2) The most implicit aspect of the role of the pastor is to Care & Protect. As stated above, the English word for pastor comes from the Greek word for shepherd. The very thought of a shepherd carries the idea of caring and protecting a flock. Peter speaks of the gentle willingness that a pastor should have.[5] And James reminds believers to call for their pastors when they are sick.[6] These thoughts bleed with the tenderness needed to care for the flock of God. But a pastor does not just care for the various pains of the flock but he is also to protect the flock from evil men.[7] Whether the attacks come from inside the church or from outside the church a pastor must keep a constant and faithful watch over those who have been entrusted to him.

(3) Probably the most recognizable aspect of the pastor is his responsibility to Teach & Uphold Christian Doctrine. This requirement shows up in both 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 as a qualification for serving as a pastor. Whether through the corporate preaching of the Word of God, formal teaching, or informal teaching the pastor is appointed by God to teach.[8] Paul goes to great length in his first letter to Timothy and his letter to Titus to explain the role and importance of teaching and protecting doctrine.[9] Paul makes a connection between the ability of the church to remain faithful and godly with the consistent and faithful application of godly teaching. Although biblical teaching is much more than the preaching of the Gospel, it is certainly no less.[10]

(4) Closely related to the aspect of teaching is the responsibility to Appoint Leadership and to Train & Equip the Church for the Work of the Ministry. Whether through working with other faithful men,[11] or through the appointing of other church leaders,[12] the pastor is to build up other qualified men to do what he himself is doing; equipping the church for the work of the ministry. Not only must the pastor raise up leadership, but he is also to equip the body with the theological tools necessary to do ‘good works.’[13]

When discussing the call to train and equip, D. A. Carson points to 1 Corinthians 4:17 and says that, “the Christian leader today not only must teach the gospel, but also much teach how the gospel works out in daily life and conduct. And that union must be modeled as well as explained.”[14] As teachers, pastors are to set their minds to the task appointed by God to equip the believer to do what they were created to do.[15] It would be hurtful and unkind for pastors to teach the word of God but not show believers how to handle such godliness.

(5) The pastor must not only train the believer in godliness but he must also Display Godliness. In his book The Cross and Christian Ministry, D. A. Carson says that, “faithful Christian leaders must make the connections between creed and conduct, between cross and how to live. And they must exemplify this union in their own lives.”[16] Being godly is not about becoming self-righteous. It is about a faithful pursuit of God and the things that please him. Ephesians 4:13 and 16, 1 Timothy 4:12, and Titus 2:7-8 all exemplify what Paul means when he speaks of godliness. In fact, living without godliness is living in opposition to “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”[17] It would be contradictory if the pastor did not exemplify the godliness that he was teaching.

(6) Paul gives Timothy specific charge to Oversee the Public Corporate Gatherings of the church.[18] Through the reading of the word of God, exhortation, and teaching Timothy is to serve as a pastor by leading the body in the worship of God. If the church is to believe that “preaching is worship”[19] and that “preaching is expository exultation,”[20] then a pastor would be remiss to not hold the task of public worship in high regard. For if the church is to spend all of eternity in worship of the living God, then the pastor must hold this eternal reality in high regard. Many passages in the New Testament speak of the importance of corporate worship as a church but Paul makes clear that the pastor is to be responsible for the continuation of these gatherings.


After understanding these six aspects of the role of the pastor, we now look at the calling that a pastor has. Although not all pastors have the exact same experience in regards to calling, all pastors should have at least three definable parts to their calling. These parts include the pastor’s Personal Desire, Elder or Church Recognition, and Divine Appointment.

(1) The Personal Desire is brought to light in two passages in the New Testament. The first passage is in 1 Timothy 3:1 where Paul clearly states that those who aspire to become a pastor desire a good thing. This is not a highly ethereal metric. It is very tangible. Any man who considers being a pastor must be able to say, “Yes, I want to be a pastor.” Desiring the office of pastor does not automatically qualify an individual but it must be present. Another passage is when Peter makes it clear that it is not enough to desire the office but a man must also desire the office for noble reasons: willingly, eagerly, and as an example—because when Christ returns he will judge the pastor’s work.[21]

(2) The second part of the calling is Elder or Church Recognition. A man who is considering if he might be called to the office of pastor must have other faithful men and women who can affirm this calling. And ultimately a man pursuing this call must be appointed to the office. “We should note that the appointment of elders in Paul’s early churches was accompanied by ‘prayer and fasting.’”[22] Both Timothy and Titus were well acquainted with the process of appointing pastors within the local church.[23]

(3) The final part of the calling is the Divine Appointment. Whether or not a man sees or responds to his calling, it is God who appoints a man to the office of pastor.[24] Paul points this out when he connects the gravity of the task of pastor with the one who did the calling.[25] God, who appoints through the Holy Spirit, is ultimately the one who will hold the called man accountable for his response and his work.


After discussing and understanding the role and the calling of a pastor, we now look at what the character of a pastor is to be. The most common, and appropriate, passages to look at include 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. In these passages we find certain criteria for a pastor. When a church is deciding whether or not a man has the character, they must keep in mind that “establishing whether or not a man actually meets these criteria requires relational time in community over a long season because the list is about counting character.”[26] And “those who are choosing elders in churches today would do well to look carefully at the candidates in the light of these qualifications, and to look for these character traits and patterns of godly living rather than worldly achievement, fame, or success.”[27] In light of these passages and for brevity only five character traits that are necessary for a pastor to exemplify will be discussed.

(1) A pastor must be a Man. “Being a male has to do with biology; being a man has to do with how one relates to, thinks about, and serves God.”[28] It is insufficient to only have the anatomy of a qualified pastor. The candidate must also be a man in how he behaves, treats others, men, women, and children; especially his wife and children. This characteristic, as presented, keeps women from being pastors. Although in the current American context some would disagree with this character trait, this writer holds to a complementarian view of men and women in the church. If women were to be pastors it seems odd that “there is not one example in the entire Bible of a woman doing the kind of congregational Bible teaching that is expected of pastors/elders in the New Testament church”(emphasis is the authors).[29] This may be due to the biblical precedent that congregational teaching is the one form of teaching that seems to most distinguish a ‘pastor’ who teaches from being a ‘gifted person’ who teaches.

(2) A man could easily become prideful when realizing that only men are pastors, but this attitude would be in direct contradiction to the next character trait; Humility. If Jesus Christ is the ‘Chief Shepherd’ (chief pastor)[30], then the pastor (shepherd) should exemplify the humility that defined the very way Jesus went to the cross.[31] It would be abrasive and offensive for a pastor to carry out his work, which he is dependent on the Holy Spirit to accomplish, with any form of pride or arrogance.

(3) Once humble, a pastor is able to fully act as Servant. Although a pastor is to rule, (*see above) he must also serve those he is called to lead. Peter, a fellow elder,[32] knew of this need to serve those he is to lead. Peter heard the claim that Christ came to serve[33], and knew what it meant to have his master wash his feet.[34] This is not an easy character trait to fake. A man’s actions will speak louder than his words.

(4) A pastor is also to exemplify Godliness. Many passages can be pointed to in support of the need for godliness. A few include Ephesians 4:15, 1 Timothy 6:11, and Titus 2:7-8. In the current American context it seems that godliness and piety are of little to no value for the common believer. But, how is the believer to pursue godliness if the pastor does not pursue godliness? This need for the pastor to reclaim godliness is not new or unique to the modern pastor. Even in the 4th century AD, Gregory of Nazianzus was calling the pastor to such godliness when he said, “A man must himself be cleansed, before cleansing others: himself become wise, that he may make others wise; become light, and then give light; draw near to God, and so bring others near; be hallowed, then hallow them.”[35] This long-standing need for the pastor to be godly is fundamental to the character of the pastor.

(5) The final character trait to be addressed is the need for a pastor to be Faithful (Long Suffering). A pastor must not only reap the reward but he must also endure the hardship; the high times as well as the low. This faithfulness is in light of God’s calling on the pastor and of Christ’s certain return and judgment.[36] Even more significantly, however, is the connection to the necessary suffering of the pastor, as he is an example of what it means to suffer for the Gospel.[37] In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, Paul repeatedly petitions Timothy to remain faithful within his role as a pastor.[38] Paul does not speak as if remaining faithful is optional or easy. However, Paul points to the rewards that a pastor receives and gives as he remains faithful in the midst of triumph, trials, and the mundane.

The brevity of these descriptions should not lead anyone to believe that the pastor’s role, calling, or character is to be taken lightly. The role, calling and character of the pastor is more robust than the short description given here. In summation, it could be said that “human leadership in the church is little more than qualified Christians who are following Jesus and encouraging other people to follow them as they follow Jesus. Because of this, church leaders must be good sheep who follow their Chief Shepherd. At the risk of stating the obvious, every church must place Jesus Christ in the position of highest authority and devotion in both the organizational chart and the life of the church.”[39] The office of pastor is certainly a shadow of Jesus Christ as the True Pastor.


[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 913.

[2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 914.

[3] 1 Timothy 5:17

[4] Matthew 20:28

[5] 1 Peter 5:2

[6] James 5:14

[7] Acts 20:28-30,35

[8] Ephesians 4:11-16

[9] 1 Timothy 4:11,13,16,5:17; Titus 2:1,7,15

[10] Romans 10:14-17; 2 Timothy 3:16-4:1-5

[11] 2 Timothy 2:2

[12] 1 Timothy 4:14,5:17; Titus 1:5

[13] Titus 2:1-5

[14] D. A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry Leadership Lessons From 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993), 111.

[15] Ephesians 4:11-16

[16] D. A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry Leadership Lessons From 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993), 112.

[17] Titus 2:13-14, Bible English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[18] 1 Timothy 4:13

[19] John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006), 9.

[20] John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006), 11.

[21] 1 Peter 5:2-4

[22] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 918.

[23] 1 Timothy 4:14; Titus 1:5

[24] Ephesian 4:11

[25] Acts 20:28

[26] Mark Driscoll, A book you’ll actually read On Church Leadership (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008), 15.

[27] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 916.

[28] Darrin Patrick, Church Planter The Man, The Mission, The Message (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2010), 13.

[29] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 941.

[30] 1 Peter 5:4

[31] Philippians 2:3-8

[32] 1 Peter 5:1

[33] Matthew 20:25-28

[34] John 13:14

[35] Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratorian 2.71, quoted in Darrin Patrick, Church Planter The Man, The Mission, The Message (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2010), 20.

[36] 1 Timothy 6:11-12

[37] 2 Timothy 2:3

[38] 2 Timothy 1:6,13;2:1-13;4:5

[39] Mark Driscoll, A book you’ll actually read On Church Leadership (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008), 12-13.