A Pulpit & Pen Philosophy of Pastoral Ministry
Church worship, given that it happens when the body is gathered, is corporate by its very nature. Yet, church worship should be not merely be corporate by definition; it should be actively corporate (for example, if ¾ of the congregation is not singing, then the worship is not actively corporate). Worship songs should be those songs which can be enthusiastically sung by the entire congregation, appealing to men and women alike. Songs should be based in scripture, express adoration to God, and be God-centered and not man-centered. Preaching, likewise, should be God-centered and based in scripture. Corporate prayer should permeate the worship service. A spectacle should not be made of giving tithes and offerings. Baptism should be performed and celebrated as often as salvations permit. The Lord’s Supper should be celebrated with regularity. Whatever the order of worship for a given Sunday, the church service should be well-organized and orderly.
The pastor has the same responsibility to witness to lost people that every other Christian has. He should not be looked upon as a “professional” witness by the local church. He is a (sometimes) professional shepherd of a Christian flock. Every believer is to be a witness; both pastors and laypeople alike are empowered by the Holy Spirit to share the gospel. The pastor, as caretaker of the congregation, should hold the congregation accountable for carrying out the great commission. The pastor should teach the congregation sound biblical doctrine so that church members are able to clearly and accurately present the gospel. The pastor should see that individual congregants participate in witnessing and outreach to the community. Where outreach is concerned, the pastor should be concerned with growing God’s church and not his own ministry career.
As is the case with witnessing, every (mature) Christian is called to make disciples. The pastor, as caretaker of the congregation, should hold the mature Christians in his congregation accountable for discipling the newer Christians in his congregation. The pastor, himself, should also personally participate in discipleship. The pastor should make church operations as conducive as possible to disciple-making. The pastor’s discipleship strategies should be predicated on making “little Christs” and not “little pastor so-and-sos”. There should be no member of the church whose discipleship status is unknown to the pastor.
The church and its leadership should avoid becoming entwined in government politics, which is the arena of the god of this world. The overarching mission of the church should be the great commission. Every member of the church is responsible for carrying out the great commission which involves making disciples, baptizing, and teaching people of every nation. “Nations” should be understood to mean people groups (ethnicities), including the people groups present in the church’s own local community. The local church should, first and foremost, be a light in its own community. A local church’s individual missions calling should never be made subordinate to denominational politics and outside interests. When the gospel is carried outside of the local community, the goal of doing so should be equipping saints to organize new churches.
The ministries of the local church should be geared to the needs of its members. Ample care should be provided for widows, orphans, and the like within the church. The church should actively seek to alleviate spiritual poverty by teaching sound doctrine, engaging in discipleship, and practicing church disciple. The church should actively seek to alleviate material poverty by visiting the sick, bereaved, and poor. Social justice, while very important, should never take the place of evangelism or become the church’s primary mission (no one should be sent to Hell with a full belly). The church should recognize the reality that it exists in a fallen world that will not be totally redeemed until the second coming of the Lord Jesus. Thus, poverty elimination is not feasible. Poverty may only be alleviated. Because of the fallen nature of the world, there will always be more material needs than there are resources. The pastor is responsible for seeing to the effective allocation of the church’s missions-designated resources. The church should spend the lion’s share of its funds on missions. The pastoral and staff salary and benefits budget should not be bigger priority than the missions budget. The church and its pastor should always keep in mind that the best alleviation for poverty is a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ because it ultimately results in the elimination of poverty in the eschaton.
Like all Christians, the pastor should be a responsible steward of his personal resources. The pastor should tithe at a minimum and avoid taking on unsecured personal debt. The pastor’s possessions (cars, clothing, recreational equipment, etc…) should not be ostentatious. The pastor should be a good steward of his body and not let himself become overweight. The pastor should avoid entering into business ventures with members of the church. He should also avoid entering into business ventures which involve selling goods and services to the church or its members. (This standard is understandably more difficult for bi-vocational pastors to abide.) The pastor should be private about his giving, not making an (braggadocios) example of himself to the church. The pastor should educate himself in the areas of accounting, economics, and management so that he may be an effective steward of church resources. The church should avoid taking on unsecured debts and relying on pledged dollars. The church’s financial statements should be published to the church website and audited, reviewed, or compiled by independent CPAs where economically feasible.
Conflicts will inevitably arise in the church. The pastor should act peaceably and diplomatically towards those with whom he disagrees. The church should have a stated, formal process for conflict resolution and church discipline. The pastor should actively seek to facilitate reconciliation between church members who have developed a rift in their relationship. Conflicts should be addressed in a timely manner by the entire congregation when they cannot be resolved by the individual brothers and sisters involved.
The pastor should recognize that there are a finite number of sheep for whom he can effectively care. When a church grows to a certain level of members, the pastor can no longer provide individual care to every sheep. At that point, a new church should be planted so that the pastor will have enough time to take care of each of his church members. The pastor should recognize the need for rest, family time, and personal recreation. A fatigued pastor is an ineffective pastor. The pastor should be habitual and intentional about his prayer and bible study time. The pastor should prioritize his ministry to his own church over and above outside speaking opportunities and denominational events.
Given that there are no biblical mandates for how to administer a funeral, the pastor should participate in funerals in that way which most glorifies God. Funeral sermons are an excellent opportunity to talk about the victory over death that was achieved by Jesus Christ. When a church member or family member of a church member dies, the pastor should encourage the entire congregation to mourn with those who mourn. Times of bereavement are times when the pastor should be available for pastoral care and counseling.
There is no scriptural mandate for a pastor to perform a wedding . Where a pastor does choose to perform a wedding ceremony, he should prioritize discipleship over ceremonial duties. The pastor should only wed individuals who are equally yoked in Christ. The pastor should carefully consider the appropriateness of performing the wedding ceremonies of those who are divorced and seeking to marry a new spouse. If members of the church get remarried in a way that results in the commission of the sin of adultery (per the stated standard of Jesus), those members should be put under church discipline. If church members undergo an un-scriptural divorce, those members should be put under church discipline.
The church staff should pray together regularly. The pastor should do everything possible to get along peaceably with all members of the church staff. The church should only take on paid staff where it is absolutely necessary; every effort should be made to avoid hiring church staff members. Teaching elders (or “senior” pastors) should not lord their authority over their subordinates by issuing edicts to be carried out but rather work side-by-side with subordinates to accomplish church goals. Staff members who under-perform their job duties should be terminated in a timely fashion. Staff members who are fired for matters of sin (child abuse, drug abuse, theft, etc…) should be publicly rebuked and blacklisted by the entire denomination so that they cannot find employment at another local church. The pastor’s wife and children should not be looked upon or treated as church employees. The pastor’s wife and children should not be hired as church employees. The pastor’s wife and children should not be looked upon as endowed with same authority as the pastor.
[Contributed by: Seth Dunn]
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.