What a True Pastor Does

When most of us think of a pastor we picture a man standing behind a podium and preaching a sermon.  But a true pastor does much more than pulpit ministry.

Photo Credit: istockphoto.com
Photo Credit: istockphoto.com

An Encounter with a True Pastor
Not long ago I had been especially empty spiritually.  I was wrestling with my calling–trying to figure out what God wanted me to do when I grow up when I spontaneously stopped by my friend’s office to see him.  His name is Mac and he’s more than a friend.  He’s also pastor.

Even though I had dropped by his workplace unannounced on a busy Monday, Mac didn’t show a moment’s indecision as he settled into a chair and invited me to do the same.  For the next 90 minutes he poured God’s wisdom and comfort into me.  As I walked away from that impromptu meeting I felt like I had just emerged from a cloud of consternation into the sunlight of certainty.

After I had a chance to reflect on that meeting I decided that we need more pastors. I don’t mean men who simply preach and teach, although they must do this, but men who care for their people personally and individually like the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine to find the one (Mt. 18:12). But what does a pastor do?

Here are five things every true pastor does.

A True Pastor…

1. Maintains a Faithful Presence
Although my pastor-friend is bi-vocational, he’s pastored his congregation for more than a decade.  Time and again he’s told me that all he wants to do is stay put and serve exactly where he is.

God often calls Himself a rock (Deut. 32:4; Ps. 18:31; 2 Sam. 22:32).  The term “rock” describes God’s steadfastness, unchangeability, and strength. True pastors are rocks.  We know that no matter where we may stray we can turn around and they’ll always be in the same place we left them.  Such men provide stability in the midst of lives that are constantly in flux.

2. Makes Sure He’s Accessible 
Simply serving in the same ministry for a long period of time does not ensure the pastor is accessible to the people who need him.  Accessibility is a choice pastors need to make.

While many church members expect their pastors to be present to them every time they call or e-mail, this is not what accessibility means.  Instead, accessibility is an attitude.  It is a posture of being willing to stop what he’s doing when he sees someone whose faith is dangling by a thread.  It means keeping his schedule doesn’t keep him from people when they need him most.  What’s more, a true pastor makes himself accessible willingly.  No one wants to meet with a man who thinks he’s doing you a favor by spending time with you.

3. Pursues Personal Holiness 
You should be able to look at a pastor’s marriage, his finances, how many hours he works, and any other facet of his life and see the Gospel.  This doesn’t mean the pastor is perfect.  He’s a fallen human being who struggles with sin just like the people in the pews.  But you should be able to imitate the pastor as he imitates Christ.

4. Gives Away Everything
I’m not just talking about material possessions and money, although he should be willing to make such sacrifices.  Giving everything away has more to do with wisdom, knowledge, and skills.  A true pastor passes on everything he learns.  He invites you along on hospital visits, introduces you to the people in his network, and shares his books.  He’s a man who shares the wisdom God has taught him and does so generously.

5. Leads His Sheep to Christ 
A pastor is not simply a therapist.  He is a man called and commissioned by God to equip the saints for the work of the ministry and for building up the body of Christ (Eph. 4:12).  As such the pastor should apply God’s word to every situation his people encounter.  He is not just dispensing good advice but declaring the Good News.

A Shepherd with His Sheep
What I’ve listed above is not all a true pastor does but it is at least what a true pastor does.  Many men bear the title “pastor” but they limit themselves to the more public aspects of ministry.  Such service is essential to his work, but the pastor’s calling finds its true fulfillment in the quiet, diligent walking alongside the sheep of his flock.

Discussion Question:

Have you ever been blessed by a pastor who does what is described in this post?  Have you ever longed for a pastor who does those things?

2 thoughts on “What a True Pastor Does

  1. My first few years of seminary have been rocky for me. I too have been wrestling with calling, and still to some extent, am not sure where God will lead. But part of this has been not just a matter of career direction, but of things like assurance of faith and perseverance in personal discipleship and holiness. Something stuck out to me in Covenant Theology, the second semester of my first year. Dr. Ligon Duncan is known for his polished lecture style that runs like a clock, yet doesn’t seem too mechanical or impersonal. I raised my hand to ask a question which was somewhat personal, and barely related to the lecture. I will never forget how he stopped the lecture completely and gave me a solid answer for 5-10 minutes. I realized later that this is one small example of what being a pastor really is. It is not about well oiled professionalism, although we should seek to glorify God in all our actions. It is about service. It is about building up the body. It is about sacrifice. It is about seeking out the broken-hearted, not becoming buddies with everyone who thinks and acts like you. While I have often felt like an outcast to the inner circles of presbyterianism, and those with much more ministry experience and theological hutzpah, this memory solidified as the pure gold of God’s grace in what would seem to most people to be a relatively unremarkable event.

    1. Well said, Keith. It seems like most authentic “pastoral moments” occur spontaneously.

      I think that’s what “accessibility” means. The true pastor is able to discern when he needs to interrupt himself in order to minister, to serve.

      Thanks for dropping by to read and leave a comment.

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