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Pastors Biblical Role

Q. What is a pastor supposed to be and do? We're choosing a new pastor at our church and there are lots of ideas about what makes a good pastor. What does Scripture say?


House Parents, Executive Director, or College Professor

We're amazed at the number of opinions about what constitutes a good leader - answers ranging from "house parents" to executive director of the corporation to seminary professor. Yet, this is one of the most important decisions a church can make. For a biblically based answer let's look to the Scriptures with a helpful explanation by teacher John MacArthur.

Bishops, Pastors, Elders

First, MacArthur notes that "bishops and pastors are not distinct from elders - the terms are simply different ways of identifying the same people" (1991, p. 183). …"the term 'elder' emphasizes who the man is. 'Bishop' speaks of what he does. And 'pastor' deals with how he ministers" (p. 185).

1 Timothy 3:1 says, "It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do."

What kind of Person?

What kind of person should be an "overseer?" Paul undertakes to answer this question in the rest of his letter about the overseer:

"An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil" (1 Tim. 3:2-7, NASB).

Defining Terms

Let's define some of the terms the apostle Paul uses in this passage:

Husband of One Wife

MacArthur explains that "husband of one wife" means to be single-minded in his devotion - not a flirtatious type.


Temperate refers to living a balanced life - one who seeks moderation.


MacArthur defines prudent as one who is "wise."


One who is respectable means one who is dignified and respected by his peers.


MacArthur defines "hospitable" as a leader who loves strangers - "not necessarily that he has a lot of dinner parties but rather that he is not 'cliquish.'" (pg. 187).

Able to Teach

"didaktikos" is one who is "skilled in teaching."

Not addicted to Wine

This is a person who is neither a drinker nor a drug addict.


This section describes a person who does not pick fights nor is he physically abusive (pugnacious). Rather, he is a gentle person.

Free from the Love of Money

Clearly a leader puts God first - He does not engage in money-making schemes.

Titus 1:5-9

Paul provides a similar list of the elder's qualities in Titus 1:5-9. In verses 7-8 he adds that a leader is not self-willed, not quick-tempered, loving what is good, just, and devout.

Minister's Duties:

What does a good minister do? 1 Timothy 4:6 says, "If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished by the words of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed" (HCSB).

MacArthur concisely lists these things from 1 Timothy 4:6-16. A good servant:

Warns people of error (v. 6a).

Is an expert student of Scripture (v. 6b).

Avoids the influence of unholy teaching (v. 7a).

Disciplines himself in personal godliness (v. 7b-9).

Is committed to hard work (v. 10).

Teaches with authority (v. 11).

Is a model of spiritual virtue (v. 12).

Reading, Exhortation,&Teaching

The apostle Paul said that "Until I come, give your attention to public reading, exhortation, and teaching" (v. 13).


In the early church time was set aside for the reading aloud of Scripture. This was followed by an exposition of the text. Acts 2:42 says the people "continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine." In Colossians 4:16 Paul said, "When this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you also read the epistle from Laodicea."

MacArthur notes that "Scripture needs to be explained so people can understand it. Obviously the further we are removed culturally, geographically, linguistically, philosophically, and historically from the original text of Scripture, the more necessary it becomes to research those facts.


To exhort others is to tell people how to apply Scripture to their lives. It is to warn people to obey with a view toward judgment. We are to tell people about the blessings or the consequences of their behaviors (pgs. 150-151). "Sometimes exhortation is counsel, sometimes it's comfort, but it always is binding on a person's conscience to amend certain behavior (tape GC 54-33).


Teaching involves explaining and teaching doctrine through "systematically teaching the Word of God in every dimension of ministry. That embodies the idea of developing a system of theology. It also includes the process of teaching individuals, one-on-one or in small groups" (tape GC 54-33).

Systematic Teaching a Mandate

From a transcript of MacArthur's tape he points out that "The systematic teaching of God's Word is a mandate for the church. … We are to disseminate sound teaching to all people at all times through all means. Often the church is diverted from that goal, yet that is the necessary heart and soul of its ministry.

'Didaskalia' appears fifteen times in the pastoral epistles. That gives us some idea of its importance to the life of the church. No wonder the pastor must be 'apt to teach' (1 Tim. 3:2). Since the church's ministry revolves around teaching the Word of God, how could anyone ever hope to lead in a church if he's not a skilled teacher?" (biblebb.com).

"When Scripture is read, explained, applied, and lived by, the church is succeeding in its ministry."


Sources Cited:

MacArthur, John. 1991. The Master's plan for the church. Chicago: Moody Press.

—- Qualities of an excellent servant. Tape. GC 54-33. Available from: www.biblebb.com/files/MAC/sg54-33.htm.

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