How to Pray for Your Pastor (Series): Your Pastor is a Desperate Man
How to Pray for Your Pastor (Series): Why Should You Pray for Your Pastor?
Praying for Your Pastor in Light of His Qualifications, Part 1: The Necessity of a Qualified Ministry
Praying For Your Pastor According to His Qualifications, Part 2: A Holy Ambition and a Holy Life
Praying for Your Pastor According to His Qualifications, Part 3: Self-Control, Family, and Money
Praying for Your Pastor According to his Qualifications, Part 4: Humility and Teaching
Pray for Your Pastor in Light of His Responsibilities, Part 1: The Pastor as Shepherd Leader
Sheep, like any living creature, need sustenance to maintain physical health. Although Christians have been born-again and have the Holy Spirit residing in them, they need food to maintain their spiritual health. The pastor is tasked with providing Christ’s sheep with healthy, accessible nourishment so that they might maintain their spiritual health and continue growing into maturity (Col 1:28-29; see also John 20:15-19).
What to Christians “Eat?”
But how do pastors feed Christ’s sheep? Perhaps a better, more foundational question is: With what do pastors feed Christ’s sheep? There is only one answer. God’s people are fed and strengthened with God’s Word. There is no other food by which a Christian can grow spiritually than the pure milk of Scripture (1 Pet 2:1-2). The answer to our first question—How do pastors feed Christ’s sheep?—now comes into sharper relief. If God’s Word is the only source of spiritual nourishment for God’s people, then the primary way by which this food will be delivered is through teaching and preaching.
It should come as no surprise, then, that much of Paul’s instruction to Timothy and Titus on their role as pastor would include exhortations to teach and preach (1 Tim 4:6; 11; 6:2; 2 Tim 2:14; 2 Tim 4:2; Titus 1:9; 2:1; 15; 3:1). Timothy and Titus were called to teach biblical doctrine, to constantly remind their people of Christ’s work on the cross, to give the church practical instruction on Christian living, and to warn believers of false teaching.
In Season and Out of Season
So important was this aspect of pastoral work that Paul tells Timothy that his preaching ministry needed constant attention and could not be set aside for any reason (2 Tim 4:2). Why? Because the health and vitality of his local church depended upon such ministry. It is no coincidence that Paul required elders to be able to teach sound doctrine; the word “sound” means “healthy” or “wholesome.” The nutrition imagery here is deliberate, and both Timothy and Titus were required to only lay before Christ’s sheep that which would produce spiritual health.
The pastor’s teaching ministry, however, does not end with his pulpit or classroom ministry. The call to feed Christ’s sheep through teaching includes not only formal teaching and preaching, but personal discipleship as well (Matt 28:18-20). The pastor teaches in the pulpit, and he teaches in the counseling session. The pastor teaches in the classroom, and he also teaches as he trains other leaders and servants. His teaching ministry will also extend into the area of music, for a church’s praise ministry will be one of the vital ways Christ’s sheep are taught and fed. Paul says that through Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, we teach one another (Col 3:16). As one book puts it, “Everything teaches.”
Teaching is everything. I do not mean teaching is the only thing that a pastor should do. Nor do I advocate some lifeless orthodoxy. What I mean is that everything that happens up front in a corporate worship gathering is part of the teaching ministry of the church. Everything teaches, whether you intend it to or not (Dever and Alexander, The Deliberate Church, 90).
Pastors are responsible, then, to feed Christ’s sheep through teaching, and this teaching will come by way of formal preaching, counseling, discipleship, and the music ministry of the local congregation. This feeding through teaching and preaching will also result in a well-equipped, spiritually mature congregation that is able to competently serve one another and weather the storms of personal trial (Eph 4:12-16).
How to Pray for Your Pastor’s Teaching Ministry
As we receive this good food from our pastors, we should pray regularly that God would continue to sustain and bless their teaching ministry. We can pray that God would grant them exegetical and theological insight into the Scripture, that they would have wisdom for counseling men and women through their challenges and troubles, and that he would, like Ezra, first apply the truth of the Scripture to his own heart and life before he teaches it to others (Ezra 7:10).
A weak, ill-fed shepherd will eventually crumble under the weight of pastoral responsibility, so we must pray that God grant him the grace to feed himself even as he feeds others. And, as I’ve already noted in early posts, this need for our pastor to feed himself on biblical truth as he prepares for teaching, preaching, and counseling will require time. We will serve our pastor immeasurably if we ask God to give him adequate time for preparation.
As our pastor faithfully discharges his responsibility to feed his sheep, his labors may result in an abundance of spiritual sustenance that can be shared with others. What I refer to here is a pastor’s ministry to the broader community. While a pastor’s primary focus must be to shepherd the flock that God has assigned him in the local congregation (1 Pet 5:2), it is possible that his labors here can benefit others who are not part of his local church. Our desires for the spiritual growth and health of Christ’s people should not terminate with our local congregation; we should long for all true churches to flourish and for countless people to be drawn to Christ through faithful preaching and teaching of the gospel.
Practically, this means that we can pray that the Lord would bless our pastor’s ministry in a way that serves others outside our church building, perhaps through radio, conferences, articles, books, or seminary teaching opportunities. A pastor who loves his people, recognizes the weight of his charge from God, feels acutely how much time is required to fulfill his responsibilities, and shuns self-promotion will not likely look to create for himself opportunities outside his local congregation. Rather, it will be the role of others to pray for this aspect of a pastor’s ministry and encourage him in these endeavors.