This month was considered "Pastor Appreciation Month." I certainly appreciate (and sometimes discernibly feel) the prayers of God's people, thank you!
In line with the short interview in the service last Lord's Day, someone asked, "What are the major aspects of pastoral ministry and how can we better understand them?" In other words, "What is your job description."
Let me answer that, in part, directing your attention to this piece of art.
First, let me say, a pastor/teacher-overseer-elder, is to be the first among equals of a group of men known in the Bible as the eldership (c.f. Tit 1:5). While no better than any other Christian, they do have a unique calling and role within the body: to be under-shepherds to equip the saints for ministry (Eph 4:12). Many people have little understanding what pastoral ministry entails. Please allow me to sketch some important aspects in response to this question.
The piece of art here hangs at McMaster University, originally a Baptist institution. The artwork is titled "the unknown Baptist minister" with words at the bottom echoing 2 Cor 6:9. I appreciate it because in the pioneer era (the tree motif), classic evangelicalism was more robust and Baptists had a clearer understanding of their belief and practice, including the vocation and office of pastor.
What should strike the viewer first is the art's cruciform shape. It is shaped like a cross! Loving Christ and serving Christ and proclaiming Christ crucified, risen and ascended and returning, should be the pastor's focus and power. Indeed, Christ is the head of the church, including the pastor's.
The well-spring of the art is the pastor's ordination, where his gifts were recognized and where he was ordained (set apart) for the work of the ministry.
At the head is the ministry of the word. This is the central role of the pastor for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. All authority and instruction for ministry flows from Christ's commands in Scripture.
In no particular order, the art then focuses on a variety of other areas.
The pastored gathered in his home around the family table, leading his family in family worship (e.g. prayer, reading of Scripture, understanding Scripture, singing, etc).
Though not alone the prerogative of the pastor, but certainly one he overseas, are the ordinances: baptism (entry into the church) and the Lord's Supper (continuance in the church). The importance of these means of grace must not be diminished.
On the far left there is the importance of personal study. If his very ministry centres around the Word of God, it must involve a rich knowledge of the Word. Scripture saturated ministries are always the most effective. Yet, study must be combined with a personal knowledge of the Lord and that comes also through personal prayer. The pastor must be an example not only in study but in leading his people in prayer: pray for himself, his flock, his community, for missions.
On the far right there is catechism, a question and answer form of discipleship used with small children and new converts (and one that I believe we should recapture). Catechizing aside, discipleship is at the heart of the Great Commission, to teach the faithful all that Christ has commanded them. As an extension of the ministry of the Word, this is vitally important.
This leaves one last station: that of visitation or evangelism. The pastor must know and care for the needs of his flock and this is done through visitation, not simply tea and biscuits either, but a genuine care for their physical and spiritual well-being, an opportunity to take a spiritual pulse, offer a word of encouragement or admonition, to disciple and talk about the things of the Lord. Beyond the visible church this takes a slightly different form, to do the work of an evangelist. To make relationships with people in the community, to make Jesus frequently known, to be so passionate, gentle and respectful that people would logically associate seeking the Lord with seeking out the local Christian pastor.
Then there are the ORD's (other related duties), like being the point person for all things technological during our time of Covid!
Job description: general shepherding/equipping oversight, the ministry of the Word, family worship, administering the ordinances, personal study and prayer, discipleship, visitation and evangelism.
If faithfulness and simplicity to the Word are kept central a pastor's job will be more straightforward, effective and less prone to temptations to "do great things" or ride the latest "fad."
The Lord's Prayer stands as the most famous prayer in the Bible. That is why we began to teach it to our son, along with other signature elements of Christianity (i.e. the 10 Commandments, Apostles Creed, the Doxology, etc), from birth. Amazingly by 20 months he knew the Lord's Prayer. Recently, however, he has begun to do something new, he imitates me as I pray (this makes for longer more stunted prayers as, like speaking through a translator, I need to give him opportunity to recite the words I say). He is learning how to pray (and I must confess, as a Christian father, is one of the most endearing things I have ever witnessed in fatherhood).
Prayer is a spiritual art, it needs to be learned. The disciples recognized this when they went to their master, Jesus, and asked, "Lord, teach us to pray..." (Lk 11:1). What He gave them is known as the "Our Father" (first phrase) or "the Lord's Prayer" (the One who taught it). It is not only a prayer to recite but a model to pray through.
Additionally, we learn how to pray by asking the Holy Spirit to teach us. We can learn from other great prayer warriors who have known Jesus and had more time to perfect this art. We can use aids to help us structure our prayers (like ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication). We can learn by studying what Scripture says about prayer. We can learn by praying through Scripture (like a Psalm).
Like any art, like learning the social art of conversation, the more we practice it the more adept we will become. We all know we ought to pray, sometimes the challenge is to know how. Like little children, like the disciples, may we not be too proud to pray, "Lord, teach me to pray." He will be pleased to answer, give us this good gift, and draw us into deeper fellowship with Himself.
The Lord's Prayer Song
*A song to help learn the key themes of the Lord's Pray.
Our Father in heaven We hallow Thy name Thy kingdom most glorious Forever you’ll reign On earth as in heaven Your will be done.
Give us this day our daily bread And forgive us our sins As we forgive others And deliver us from the enemy.
For Thine is the kingdom The power and the glory Forever and ever. Amen!