Today, many thoughts abound as to what a pastor is or should be like.
Some view him as a nice teddy bear who hugs and walks beside you. Others see him as the Sunday morning event leader, the good-looking CEO of a slick, market-driven outreach. Others view the pastor as someone who can heal the congregants’ physical ailments by touching the flat screen. Others can’t wait to get pumped up by this week’s prosperity message. And then some view pastors as impersonal and removed black-robed untouchables, i.e., outsider professionals.
But the ultimate authority is Scripture. What does the Bible say a pastor should be like? This Bible study, “How to Choose a Good Pastor,” provides answers from what are called the pastoral epistles of the New Testament: 1 Timothy, Titus and 2 Timothy (the chronological order in which they were penned under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit).
In seeking a good spiritual leader, our first consideration should be who God’s Word says is qualified to speak authoritatively of the Bible. In other words, who should believers listen to or consider credible?
In 1 Timothy 3:1-7, the Apostle Paul defines a calling into spiritual leadership: “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 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.”
The first identifier of a good pastor is that he is male. The Greek word used here for “man” is tis, which is an indefinite pronoun, but it is used in parallel to and matches the numerous masculine adjectives that follow in the passage. These masculine adjectives are appropriately supplied no less than 10 times in English translations!
In woke evangelicalism today, this clear biblical criterion is often compromised by Scripture twisters. But the conscience of the Christian must be bound by the clear teaching of God’s Word; our convictions on this are a matter of obedience to what God explicitly says here.
By far the largest number of passages related to the pastor have to do with his injunction to teach and preach the Word of God. The sheer volume of those commandments far outweighs any other aspect of his God-given job description. This fact alone serves to indicate that pastoring is primarily related to teaching and preaching the Word of God.
The Bible study quotes Scriptures to illustrate that the emphasis of the apostles’ ministry was proclaiming the Word. And this perspective on ministry was handed down from the apostles to the first-century church leaders, as evidenced in and by the pastoral epistles.
One of the main texts underscoring the prominence of the pastor being a teacher is Ephesians 4:11. This verse reveals the kind of leaders that Jesus Christ has given and intends for the body of Christ in his physical absence: “And He gave some as … pastor-teachers.”
The pastor-teacher is best understood as one person in Ephesians 4:11. Whereas some English Bibles translate the Greek to mean pastors and teachers, a careful study of the NT on this subject supports the idea of one person and one office. In other words, Christ gifts his church with a pastor who is a teacher, and a teacher who is a pastor; they go together. In a pragmatic sense, it is difficult to effectively pastor without teaching the Scriptures, and to effectively teach without pastoring is also difficult.
The Bible study also helps the believer identify false teachers — those who do not teach the Bible, or who teach it incorrectly. 1 John 4:1 says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
A believer needs to discern if a spiritual leader is really sent from God by first of all asking: Does he teach the Bible? And secondly, if he does, to what degree does he teach it?
Every believer needs to be discerning when evaluating pastors. Make sure too that you are not following a pastor who is simply flattering you; real shepherds will speak truth into your life at the risk of losing your friendship.
Too often believers incorrectly think, “I’m not to judge” as they follow after ineffectual pastors who fail to ever mature their congregants because they serve up a low-protein Bible diet. Non-discernment is simply another way of saying naiveté or imprudence. Proverbs calls such individuals “simpletons.” “I am not to judge” can sometimes be a spiritual cloak covering a lack of applied biblical insight or necessary courage. Note that in Matthew 7:1, Jesus is judging judgmentalism, not spiritual discernment.
Wisely choose your pastor! Make sure he is teaching you the Word of God! Don’t settle for anything less. Click here to read the entire study.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.