THE WORK OF A GOOD PASTOR
By Elder William M. (Billy) Mullis
Many church members may wonder what a pastor does with all his time. No doubt, many waste much of their time doing things to fulfill their own desires. Some are pastors in name only. They are lazy and probably would not be productive in any vocation. Some men are pastors because they cannot do anything else. Though they “prepare” a sermon (or sermonette), and occasionally visit, they do very little real pastoral work. Let me say in the beginning of this article that God has convicted me while preparing and studying to try to write on this subject. I need to improve. I am not writing this article as one who considers himself to be the good pastor or the example for anyone to follow yet. I want to do much better in my life as a pastor.
A good pastor will be a man of prayer. Prayer usually consists of praising God and petitioning Him for help. Time spent in fervent prayer is an absolutely essential part of a good pastor’s daily life. He will be spending much time praising God in prayer. Praying and singing praises to God should be a part of every Christian’s life, but even more so in the life of the pastor. Most every time we pray, we should begin with praise and thanksgiving to God. If the primary time a pastor prays is at meal time, bedtime, and on Sundays, he is doomed to failure. He cannot stay filled with the Spirit, be guided by the Spirit, and taught by the Spirit without much fervent prayer. God’s house SHALL be called the house of prayer! NOT the house of preaching; NOT the house of praising! The house of prayer!!! The preaching and praising will never really begin, or have any effect, without the foundation of fervent prayer. Preaching in the Spirit, praising in the Spirit, and singing in the Spirit must be preceded by praying in the Spirit!!! If we are truly going to worship God, it must be in Spirit and in truth. We cannot worship Him without His Spirit. We are to ask for the Spirit (Luke 11:13). There must be fervent prayer before going to God’s house by the Church body (especially the pastor), and prayer in the Church service, silent and audible. We must realize and express our total dependence upon God. Without Him we can do nothing.
Not only will there be much prayer praising
God and praying for God to bless the worship services, but the pastor will be
praying for God to bless each member and friend of the Church. Every pastor needs a list of all the members
and friends of the Church. Several times
a week, if not daily, he should go through the names, thinking about each one,
praying for each one, begging God to guide, protect, and bless each one. There are those who are sick physically. Because of our forgetfulness, failing to look
at the list of members and friends carefully will result in some dear lambs of
God being overlooked. Though we may have
a weekly prayer list to remind us of hose in special need, we need to be
praying specifically for each dear child of God He has put under our
watch-care. There are usually some of
the most serious family problems and personal problems which are never
mentioned publicly or put on the prayer list.
God has often burdened my heart to be in fervent prayer for someone even
though I do not know of any problem they are having right then. A good pastor is going to feel for those
under his watch-care similar to what a mother or father feels for his own
children. Paul told the Church at
The same is true today. There are many who teach about Jesus Christ, many “preachers”, but very few who love the flock as a pastor should. There is a major difference in just a preacher and a good pastor! A good pastor is going to love each member and friend of the Church like his own child.
There are many other things for which we are to pray. Certainly, we are to pray for those in authority over us. Local, state, and national leaders need God’s help in a special way. A good pastor (as well as every other Christian) must spend much time praying if we are to live a victorious life in the kingdom of heaven while we live here in this time world.
A good pastor certainly preaches, which is the primary responsibility of a pastor. But many church members may not realize that their pastor spends many hours in study and prayer before each sermon is preached. A good pastor often spends much time in prayer before he even opens the word of God. There is much general study and reading in the Scriptures. As he prays, reads, and studies, the Spirit of God begins to open up truth and depth in the Scriptures. Often, a particular subject, text, or passage of Scripture will begin to be strongly impressed on his heart and mind. He will then begin doing a detailed study on that portion of God’s word, using a concordance to look at many other related Scriptures. He must pray for wisdom to rightly divide the word of truth. He must beg God for a clear understanding of the truth.
On any given study, he will usually have many more Scriptures than he should or could use. He must then pray for God to help him know which scriptures would best help explain his subject. Too many reference Scriptures only result in exhaustion, weariness, and mind wandering in the congregation. After he has spent much time in the study and prayer during preparation, he then must get a clear, concise picture of what he feels God would have him say. He must keep studying until everything is crystal clear in his own heart and mind.
Most good preachers then have a general outline in their minds about what they plan to say. He may close his eyes and picture his beginning passage, and the order of each of his Scripture references. Every reference Scripture should be explained as to how it is connected to the main thought, subject, or passage. Failure to clearly connect each reference may result in the congregation often wondering what in the world all those references had to do with the original subject. Picture a wheel. In the middle of the wheel (hub) is the main subject. Now picture spokes going out from that hub. Going to each reference is like going out on a spoke. When you get to the end of the spoke, always go back to the hub to show how the reference is connected to the hub. Then, from the hub (main thought) go out to the next reference (the second spoke). After looking at the second reference, show how it is connected to the text or main thought (hub). Running from one reference to the next reference without showing each thought’s connection to the main point (hub) leads to confusion. After looking at the main subject in detail, then going to the references and showing the connection of each reference to the main subject, there should be a summary (a rim on the wheel) clearly connecting everything together. The climax should result in a clear picture which even young children in the congregation should be able to clearly understand and explain the point of the whole message.
What about notes or reading a sermon? I have heard a few preachers try to read the sermon they had prepared (or copied out of a book, magazine, or internet sermon.) There may be preacher somewhere who can effectively read a sermon or strictly read or adhere to notes in the pulpit. But I have never seen or heard one in my lifetime. The first time my Dad (who was a pastor) was in the congregation when I tried to preach, he asked me if I had some notes from which I was occasionally reading. I told him I did have a few notes. He said, “Son, you need to study and prepare like everything depended on you. Do all the writing and note-taking you want to while you are in your study. But when you walk into that pulpit, you need to depend completely on God’s Spirit to bless you to preach. Please do not ever read from notes again when you are trying to preach. If you cannot remember something long enough to preach it, how can the people remember it long enough to put it into action?” I would rather hear a man of God really preach ten minutes, being filled with the Spirit of God, than to hear a thousand eloquently orated canned sermons. A good pastor will be a good preacher. A good preacher will keep it simple. He will feed the lambs and feed the sheep. It takes a lot of time to prepare to preach: days and hours of prayer and study!
A good pastor not only preaches in the Church, but goes to homes, or has others in his home for special, personal Bible studies with babes in Christ. It is important for the pastor to spend much time helping the new Christians get established in the principles of godly living and the doctrines of the Church. For example, many new converts do not know how to raise their children. Hearing an occasional sermon will not get the job done. The pastor must go into the homes to work with the parents who are not firmly grounded in how to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Jesus went into the homes, the Apostles went into the homes, early Christians went into the homes, and good pastors and Church members today will spend the time necessary to go into the homes to help others grow spiritually. One-on-one discipling is not limited to the pastor, but he certainly should be spending much of his time working with others from house to house. As they begin growing, he then can get other members to start working with them on an individual or family basis.
In order to be a good pastor, it is imperative that the man of God live what he preaches. There is much truth and practicality in the old saying, “I would rather see a sermon than hear one any day.” A pastor is to be an example to the flock. He cannot be absolutely perfect. He will fall short. But striving for perfection is an absolute must in the pastor’s life.
Every pastor needs to prayerfully look at the Scriptural qualifications of a pastor (bishop, or elder). Study I Timothy 3:1-7 for example. Part of the way we MUST (v.2) live is described in these verses. Our family must be an example for other families. If the pastor’s wife is not what God word demands, if she is not submissive to her husband, or if his children are not in subjection to him, then he cannot rule over his own house and is not qualified to be a pastor (see verses 4,5). If a pastor commits adultery, gets drunk, or in some other way brings open shame and reproach on the cause of Christ, he should be removed from holding the office as pastor. The required standard of living to be a pastor is higher than the standard required to be a member of the Church. Of course there are sins which cannot be tolerated in any church member’s life. (See I Corinthians 5:11-13.)
A good pastor will have people in his home. He must be given to hospitality (see verse 2). He should help his wife keep the house in order and do other things to help her prepare for company. Not only should regular church attenders be invited into his home, but “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2). There are often people having problems who need to come to the pastor’s home. We are not loving our neighbors as ourselves if we are not regularly having people come into our homes for a meal, for a day, or to spend the night, or a week or more if they need help.
A good pastor will be faithfully spending time visiting. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27). A man who does not visit does not even have pure religion. If he does not have pure religion, he certainly is not a good pastor. There are nursing homes and hospitals where weekly visits, and in times of crisis daily visits, need to be made. There are individuals who are confined to their own homes who need regular visits. People with personal problems and family problems need to be visited. The needs are numerous. The laborers are few.
It takes a lot of time to try to just do the most essential visiting. Again, visiting is not limited to the pastor, but he certainly should be spending much time visiting. He will visit if he loves the people and cares for them.
Though I have not really begun to cover everything, please carefully note two final important factors which must be present in the life of a good pastor. He must be a good husband to his wife, and a good father to his children and grandchildren. Spending all his hours doing Church work is of no real value if he neglects his family. Sometimes, outstanding pastors get so busy praying, studying, preaching, and helping everyone else that they neglect their primary work in their own home. A husband who is not loving his wife as Christ loves the Church is not a good husband or pastor! A father who delegates the raising of the children to the mother is not a good father or pastor.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
In closing, please do not forget to spend time resting. When I had been preaching about four years, I had some physical problems. The doctor told me I was not getting enough rest. I told him I did not have time to rest, there was too much Church work to be done. I was going night and day, only getting about 5 hours sleep each night, staying busy all the time doing Church work, neglecting my family and my physical needs for rest. Not long after that, I went back to the doctor on the verge of collapsing. He was a friend of mine, and made me promise that except when there were emergencies, I would rest eight hours a night, spend time with my family every day, and occasionally take some time for personal recreation (such as fishing or hunting, or some other hobby). I had been so afraid of becoming like slothful preachers, I went to an extreme the other way.
I still have trouble keeping things in balance in my life. Sometimes, I do get too busy, and do not even think about why I am doing everything. Sometimes, I get so busy doing Church work, I forget about God. Sometimes, I do not pray as much as I should; do not study, visit, or labor in other ways in God’s kingdom as I should. Sometimes I neglect my wife and family, even my mother. But when I slow down and pray, amnd listen to God, He still cares enough to show me where I am goingwrong. I thank Him for His mercy and grace. I am also thankful for a forgiving wife, children, grandchildren, mother, and a forgiving Church.
Let me encourage and exhort every church member to pray for your pastor and his wife. If you have a good pastor (and you will never have a perfect pastor), and a good pastor’s wife, there are occasions when they get very weary. Most of the work they do is never seen by most of the Church.
They spend many sleepless nights and long days working with erring Church members and friends. They shed many tears and carry heavier burdens than is humanly possible. But with God’s help, they continue. And with your love and encouragement, they will excel!