The Pastor / People Relationship

Continuing in our study of the Local Church, we come now to a very important part of the church: The Relationship between the Congregation and the Pastor.

Let us recall the definition of a church as given by Dr. Stowell: “A local new Testament Church may be defined as a body of born-again, properly baptized believers with Scriptural officers which are pastor and deacons, organized to meet for worship, to preach the gospel, to win souls, to carry out the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper; to teach the Word of God; to guide, watch over and discipline its members to their good and the glory of God.

A key member of such an organization is the Pastor. And, every church is anxious to have a pastor who fits into their program who pleases the people, who serves God, who is just as close as possible to being one who can make everyone happy.

Someone has written an article [as quoted below], which is humorous, and yet points to some of the rather foolish ideas a congregation can have concerning their pastor.

The Perfect Pastor

At last, a preacher guaranteed to please all has been found. He preaches exactly twenty-five minutes and sits down. He preaches against sin in such a gentle way he never hurts anyone’s feelings. He works from 6 AM to 10PM in every kind of work possible. He can clean up the church if necessary, helps overhaul the autos of the congregation, and is an expert in almost every field. He always dresses in the best clothes, buys the latest books on every subject, has a well-dressed and well-behaved family, drives a late-model car at all times, gives to every charitable fund, and gives $100 per week to the church from his $200 per week income. He is twenty-six years old and has been preaching for thirty years; is tall, short, handsome, heavy-set; one brown eye, one blue eye; hair parted in the middle – left side, dark and straight; right side brown and wavy. He has a burning desire to work with teenagers and spends all his time with the older folk. He smiles all the time with a straight face because he has a good sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his work. He has a glowing personality with deadened feelings and nerves of iron." (Teach. Quart.)

This is humorous, but there is an element of truth in it. The Pastor is expected to be everything. We are just kidding ourselves when we have this attitude. Pastors are human, they differ, they think differently, they have their feet of clay, and blessed is the congregation who can accept these things and still work for the cause of Christ.

We are going to look at two main thoughts:

  1. - The Biblical Responsibility of the pastor.
  2. - The Biblical Responsibility of the people.

A. The Pastor's Responsibility

He is called of God for a specific ministry, and as such is given spiritual gifts from God to meet his responsibilities.

1. First of all, the pastor is responsible for Preaching and Teaching (II Tim 2:2, 4:2, Titus 1:9, I Tim 3:2)

And let it be emphasized that his textbook is the Bible. He is to preach the Word, the Bible, the eternal Word of God. His time in the pulpit is not to be wasted by a discussion of current events. Sitting before him are people who will spend eternity in Heaven and Hell. The pastor dare not trifle with their souls. He must set before them the great, eternal truths revealed by God. The pastor is to train others in the Word – II Tim 2:2 – Men who will be able to teach other.

It is not wrong for a congregation to exercise careful, Christian judgment in calling a pastor. He must be able to teach others, and in the important part of his office, he must never forget that his life is a most powerful teacher. (I Cor 11:1, I Pet 5:3) His example will speak volumes, and will give power to his spoken word. Or, his example can defeat all that he says.

2. Second, the Pastor is an Administrator (I Thess 5:12, 13:17)

One day each pastor will give account of his administrations. The pastor is certainly not a dictator; he is not to act like a lord over the flock, but he has moral and spiritual authority that comes from his position as the God-called leader.

Dr English writes: “The spiritual leaders of the Church are to be heard and heeded. Such obedience is, after all, due submission, not to them but to Christ. For these overseers are ministers of the Word of God. Voluntarily the believer in Christ will be subject to His Word.” (Heb. p 501)

Of course, we are speaking here of men who are godly Spirit led men of God. Some pastors are the blind leading the blind. Note that in Heb. 13:17, we read this expression: “who have spoken unto you the Word of God.” Such men are to be obeyed.

Another writes: “A church is a democracy, but not a democracy run mad; it must give obedience to the leaders whom it has chosen as its guides. That obedience is not to be given in order to gratify the leaders’ sense of power, or to increase their prestige. It is to be given so that at the end of the day the leaders may be seen to have lost none of the souls which are committed to their care and to the charge.” (Barclay – Heb. p 228)

We find three titles used in the Bible in reference to a pastor.

  1. - Elder (I Pet 5:1-4)
  2. - Bishop (Phil 1:1) - Elder and Bishop refer to the same person for we see they are used interchangeably in Titus 1:5-7.
  3. - Pastor (Eph 4:11) - The same original word is found in other places, and is translated “Shepherd”.

Here is the summation found in the teacher’s quarterly: “These three titles refer to the same person or office. ‘Elder’ refers to the dignity of the office. ‘Bishop’ carries the meaning of overseer – the one who has oversight of the church. ‘Pastor’ indicates the tender care of a shepherd for the flock. It is this title that is most commonly used today.”

C. Third, the pastor is a shepherd. The shepherd of the flock. In the Portuguese Bible, the word Shepherd in the 23rd Psalm is translated Pastor: “The Lord is my Pastor”. A true Shepherd lives with and for his flock. He nurses them, cares from them, guides, them leads them. At times he may need to reprove them, rebuke and exhort them (II Tim 4:2). IT IS A TREMENDOUS REPONSIBILITY AND A HIGH HOLY PRIVILEGE.

B. The People in the Church Responsibility

Now, we will consider the biblical responsibilities of the congregation (the gathering of people) - they have responsibilities toward their pastor.

1. First of all, we are to know him (I Thes 5:12). The word “know” means more than just to be acquainted with him. It really means we are to appreciate him. It would help if every member would realize the load carried by a devoted pastor. If he feeds his people on the Word, he must spend much time in his study.  He counsels he guides, he faces the problems of the church.

And at the same time, he is responsible for his own family. He has responsibilities there also. We need not give him recognition and appreciation above and beyond that set forth in the Word, but he does merit our loving appreciation.

2.  Next, we are to esteem our pastor (I Thess 5:13). This means we are to think well of him. When we study I Thes, we see that we are to:

- Appreciate the pastor because of who he is.  He is God’s appointed Workman Remember, Paul was a chosen vessel. To him God gave special gifts and revelations. The true God-appointed pastor is gifted by God to fulfill the work of being a pastor.

- Esteem the pastor because of what he does. He is doing God’s appointed work. The passage in I Thes 5:12 speaks of the pastor who labors among the believers. God has appointed him to be over the local congregation, and it is his responsibility to admonish the believers. He is to remind us of truths that we know. He is to point our areas in our life that need adjustment that we might do the will of God. And as we think of the need to hold our pastor in esteem, let us remember that we are not to listen to any accusation against him, unless there are two substantiating witnesses. I Tim 5:19.

What would happen if when someone started to tell us something about the pastor we would ask: “Can you substantiate this by two more people?” Also, we should refrain from petty fault-finding.

The perfect pastor is yet to be found. There is no need to be surprised when we see that he, after all, is a human being. We do not create the right atmosphere when we spend time talking about our pastor’s faults and failings and weaknesses. Then we can esteem the pastor by respecting his right to privacy and to his time.

A real pastor will want to know of real needs when they arise. But it is unnecessary and wrong to bother him with minor things. He will be happy to counsel needy persons. But he too needs time off, he needs time to relax, and he should be free to choose his friends. He is not the public property of the church.

3. Next, we are to obey the pastor (Heb. 13:17). When he faithfully preaches the Word of God, as we obey him, we are in reality being obedient to God.

Teach Quarterly: “The present age is characterized by the spirit of rebellion against authority, and some of the spirit has seeped in to churches. Yet those who refuse to heed a pastor’s Biblical teaching – whether because they do not like the teaching itself, because they do not like the pastor personally, or because they do not like the pastor’s manner of delivery – are only bringing trouble upon themselves.”

4. We are to support our pastor (I Cor 9:14; Cal 6:6). A man who is truly dedicated pastor, filled with God’s love, seeking to do God’s will, is a man who will not let salary turn him away from his God-given work. But, a congregation who love the Lord will see that the physical needs of the pastor are met. Their retirement needs are to be considered. He should be reimbursed for expenses in connection with his ministry. Thank God for a church that realizes this responsibility.

E. The church is to pray for the pastor (Eph 6:18-19, Heb 13:18). This is an exercise of the mouth that is not sinful. If there is something we do not like, pray for him.

There is a story of a pastor who was famous for his strong leadership and pulpit power. A visitor asked the secret of his power. He led his visitor to a room where there were dozens of people in prayer. The pastor said: "They are praying for me, and that is the explanation for any power I have.

Satan attacked all believers. He attacks pastors. One very important way we can strengthen him is to remember him daily in prayer.

Quarterly writer: “These are responsibilities of a congregation toward the pastor, responsibilities taught in the Word of God. Still something more is needed. One vital essential: Mutual love. A pastor must love his people, with all their foibles and weaknesses. A congregation must love their pastor with all his shortcomings. Only then will the atmosphere of a church be warm and inviting."

Scripture References

II Cor 2:4 - Paul’s love for the people

Col 1:7-8 - The people’s love for Paul

Study Questions

1. What is the first item in Paul’s charge to Pastor Timothy?
- Preach the Word (II Tim 4:1 2)

2. In what five ways is a pastor to be an example to believers? (I Tim 4:12)

  • In Word. That is, in what he says. What he teaches. It must be the truth from God’s word.
  • In Conversation. Means manner of life. His life must conform to the Word he teaches.
  • In Charity (Love). This refers to the love which God is and which the Holy Spirit produces in the heart of the one yielded to God. This is sacrificial love, that moves one to live for others.
  • In Faith. One writes: “There is also the motive force of faith. He is impelled by what faith reveals, viz. a Master to whom he is responsible, whose honor he is to be careful of, whose reward for faithfulness, he is earnestly to convert.” (Pulpit Comm. Tim. p 93) Let his life of faith be an inspiration to others.
  • In Purity. Live a live above the filth of the world. Then, what he says will have power.

3. What is the reward promised to a faithful pastor?
- A crown of glory (I Pet 5:4)

4. What does the work “admonish” mean in I Thes 5:12?
- To warn, to advise on the basis of instruction. The devil can lull us to sleep. He can distort our thinking.

5. What will pastors have to account for at the judgment seat of Christ?
- How they watched for the souls of the people. Were they faithful in warning, teaching, exhorting, etc.

Church Dynamics
Local Church
Archie Rines