What does a pastor do? The Duties, Tasks, and Responsibilities of a Pastor/Elder/Overseer

What does a pastor do?

By pastor, the Bible means "elder" or "overseer." Here are lists of answers from various sources I've collected throughout the years:

D. A. Carson (For the Love of God, vol. 1, [Crossway: 1998] Nov. 2):

  • Feed (as a shepherd)

  • Defend (as a shepherd)

  • Guide (as a shepherd)

  • Discipline (as a shepherd)

  • Be mature (as an elder)

  • Be respected (as an elder)

  • Oversee (as an overseer)

  • Godly manage (as an overseer)

  • Hold in spiritual accountability (as an overseer)

Mark Dever (The Deliberate Church, [Crossway: 2005], 89-95):

  • Practitioner of the marks (preaching, administering the ordinances)

  • Teaching

  • Meet with staff

  • Be disciplined and stick to a workable schedule

  • Graze – feed the flock

  • Guide – direct, model, equip, and keep the flock

  • Guard – from false teachers and false teaching

  • The 4 P’s (from chapter 1) – preaching, prayer, personal discipleship relationships, and patience

Benjamin Griffith (1743):

  1. Preach God's Word

  2. Watch over every member of the flock (emphasis mine)

  3. Visit the flock to know their state.

  4. Administer the ordinances (Baptism and Lord's Supper)

  5. Pray for them

  6. Model Christlikeness

Lig Duncan's job description as "Senior Minister":

  1. Preach the Word

  2. Love the People

  3. Pray Down Heaven

  4. Promote Family Religion

  5. Train the Elders

  6. Under those 5, it is to live a godly life

Mark Driscoll's list of duties for the elders-pastors (from Vintage Church, [Crossway: 2008], 72):

  1. Praying and studying Scripture

  2. Ruling/leading the church

  3. managing the church

  4. caring for people in the church

  5. giving account to God for the church

  6. living exemplary lives

  7. rightly using the authority God has given them

  8. teaching the Bible correctly

  9. preaching

  10. praying for the sick

  11. teaching sound doctrine and refuting false teachings

  12. working hard

  13. rightly using money and power

  14. protecting the church from false teachers

  15. disciplining unrepentant Christians

  16. obeying the secular laws as the legal ruling body of a corporation

  17. developing other leaders and teachers

"The Form of Presbyterial Church Government 1645" in The Reformation of the Church: A Collection of Reformed and Puritan Documents on Church Issues edited by Iain Murray, 209-212.

  1. Pray

  2. Read Scriptures publicly

  3. Preach the word

  4. Catechize and teach theology

  5. Administer the sacraments

  6. Bless the people of God (with benedictions)

  7. Care for the poor

  8. Rule over the flock

PJ Tibayan (My list on the pastor-elder-overseer's role):

  1. Prayerfully teach God's Word (1 Tim 3.2, Acts 6.4)

  2. Oversee the whole flock and each individual member's spiritual good (Heb 13.7, 1 Pet 5.2)

  3. Equip the church for the work of ministry (Eph 4.11)

  4. Model godly Christian living and love for Christ (1 Tim 3.1-7, Titus 1.5-9)

John Piper's take on the function of Elders:

  1. Governing

  2. Teaching

This list is staggering, convicting, and clarifying. It staggers me to think about the weight of the responsibility God has on the pastor for his church. It is convicting because I see how I personally have failed. I want to pray and improve and grow in putting more of my time into teaching/preaching responsibilities, meeting with my small group leaders and training new teachers. I want to get more involved in knowing the lives of the students in my church. I also want to be in better communication with the pastoral team that I serve with, giving them weekly reports of the ministry, even if it is not asked of me. I want to seek their input and evaluation. I also want to pursue those who are straying that God has put under my care. This also clarifies my task. I need to defend the flock, discipline the unrepentant, hold them in spiritual accountability, disciple them, and most of all feed them and point them to the bread of life and living water, Jesus Christ himself.

[Also see Pastor-Elder Vows, a sample]

What are your thoughts? Are you thankful for your pastors? Do you pray for them? Do you make it easy or hard for them to shepherd and love you? If you have pastoral responsibilities, does this list help you? Why or why not?