The Pastor’s Role: Duties, Tasks, and Responsibilities of a Pastor/Shepherd/Elder/Overseer

Updated on 9/16/12

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According to 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)

According to 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

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?

Added lists:

Benjamin Griffith (1743) (Added 2/11/08):

  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

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

  1. Prayerfully teach God’s Word
  2. Oversee the whole flock and each individual member’s spiritual good
  3. Equip the church for the work of ministry
  4. Model godly Christian living and love for Christ

John Piper’s take on the function of Elders:

The responsibilities of elders are summed up under two heads: governing and teaching.

5.1. Governing

1 Timothy 5:17

Let the elders who rule (proestotes) well be considered worthy of double honor. . .

1 Timothy 3:4-5

He must manage (proistamenon) his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way; for if a man does not know how to manage (prostenai)his own household, how can he care for God’s church?

Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2

The duty of elders to “oversee” or “supervise” the flock implies a governing function.

1 Thessalonians 5:12

But we beseech you, brethren, to respect those who labor among you and are over you (proistamenous)in the Lord and admonish you. . .

(No reference to “elders” but the function of the leaders is governing and the natural assumption is that the leaders are elders that Paul had appointed according to Acts 14:23.)

Hebrews 13:17

Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account.

Obedience and submission implies a role of leadership and governance. Again, the reference is probably to the elders, though the leaders are not described.

5.2. Teaching

Ephesians 4:11

Pastors and teachers are pictured as one office, so that the pastor (whom we have identified as an elder) has the responsibility of teaching.

1 Timothy 3:2

The overseer must be “able to teach.” And we have seen that the overseer and elder are the same office. This qualification is not included in the list of qualifications for deacons.

1 Timothy 5:17

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.

Note that all have to be able to teach; but only some “labor,” that is, they devote more time and energy to it, perhaps earning their living by it. Each elder is vested with the right to teach and exercise authority in the church and so must have the qualifications for it.

Titus 1:9

He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it.

Note: Not all elders need to be able to do public preaching. The requirement is not for a preaching gift, but for a solid grasp of doctrine and ability to spot and correct errors and explain Biblical truth plainly.

5.3. Conclusion

The function of elders may be summed up under two heads: teaching and governing. They are the doctrinal guardians of the flock and the overseers of the life of the church responsible to God for the feeding and care and ministry of the people.

We have seen from Philippians 1:1 and 1 Timothy 3:1-13 that deacons served alongside the elders. These two are mentioned together in a way that suggests their unique official and ongoing role in the churches. We turn now to examine the role of “deacon.”

Other resources:

  1. The Desiring God staff’s description of the role of the elder.
  2. The Gospel Coalition has resources on the topics of “eldership” and “pastoral ministry
  3. 9Marks has a bunch of good articles and audio resources (see more categories on that page) on the topic.

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About pjtibayan

I love Jesus Christ and live to know him and make him known in all things together with CrossView Church primarily to the city of LA and the
This entry was posted in 9Marks, CFBC, church, church health, church polity, CrossView Church, D. A. Carson, For the Love of God readings, John Piper, Leadership, Mark Dever, Mark Driscoll, Pastoral ministry. Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to The Pastor’s Role: Duties, Tasks, and Responsibilities of a Pastor/Shepherd/Elder/Overseer

  1. Andrew Callaway says:

    Pj I am encouraged by your zeal. This list is helpful to see and be reminded of the great responsibilities that a minister has. It spurs me on to do and to grow as I think about how God will use me in the church.

    There certainly is a weight of responsibility in being a pastor in a church. So much that must be done by you (as you listed above) for them and by you TO you. You must care for the people of God as well as take care of your own sinful heart too! You must sacrifice for the people- make time for them, visit them, pray for them. In fact, i am learning that i must prepare my heart for them. I must sacrifice what i enjoy doing if it will not build me up spiritually for i must be growing in a way as to lead them. I must watch my time on espn and other junk to make sure that my heart is not simply filled with worldliness so as to render me ineffective for the task. I must be pure for them, i must be sober-minded for them, I must be on the alert for them, I must be always in a spirit of prayer for them! The life of a minister must be a selfless one and our motive must be a love for the sheep.

    What a task.

    I have been reading the book called “Minister as a Shepherd” by Charles Jefferson. The minister MUST shepherd people and there is so much to this shepherding task. Jefferson says that the thing that binds all of the tasks that you listed above is LOVE-

    “He [the Shepherd] has various works to do, but his supreme work is loving. If he loves he will do all the things which shepherd ought to do. He will watch! When did love ever have drowsy eyelids? Love can outrun the longest night. He will guard! Love shields with jealous care. Love protects at all hazards. He will guide! Love has far seeing eyes. Love detects the pitfalls and finds safe paths into the land of peace. He will heal! The hands of love are gentle. Love binds up wounds. He will seek and save! Love cannot sleep so long as the one it loves is on the mountain in the storm. He will feed! Love is the great nourisher at life’s feast. Love satisfies” (pg. 56)

    As you attempt all of these tasks, beware: there is a huge difference between being a “spiritual leader” and simply being “a leader of a spiritual thing”.

  2. Travis says:

    I am too reading Jefferson’s book and really see him as more of a prophet than a pastor from his writing, at least. Nonetheless, it is a great read, although I think he is describing a Christian in most cases and not just a pastor. I think the “American Pastor” is far off from what the Biblical description of a pastor is to be. A few questions to think about are this, how many people can one man pastor? The word for pastor is only found once in the NT and it is in the midst of 4 other functions of the church in Ephesians 4:11, so how does the pastor function with the evangelist, prophet, apostle, and teacher? How can a pastor shepherd someone if he doesn’t know their name or has no relationship with them?

  3. Friend from TMC says:

    good thoughts. but we also need to add that as Pastors (as I am one now) we need to take charge of our corgrants spiritual maturity. I feel and activly practice the manipulation and growth of those who I am intrusted too. I make sure that those who are getting too spiritual too quickly, or those that show potential beyond me as their leader don’t get ahead of themselves. Or me for that matter. Even this past spring I had to kick one of my interns out of the church, had to lie to a judge to get a PPO, and had to streach the truth of the situation to my congragation in order that he would not be allowed back to the church. I had to protect the flock of Christ because this kid was doing a better job at shepherding than I was. I think that we need to be careful to protect ourselves as pastors, as much as we need to protect the flock from the evil one.

    • gurdy says:

      You sir have crossed a boundary from being a good sheperd into being a good manipulator. What you have done is wrong not only to this person whom you have lied on but also to God. God is not a liar and manipulator Satin is. He is referred to The Father of all Lies. Just because this person had an ability to pastore better than you in your opinion does not give you the right to do these things you have done. Jealousy caused you to lie and manipulate your flock into believing these lies to destroy this person for you self preservation and gain. Look at the story of Satin and his angels and how they fell. Satin was jealous that God wanted a son. Read Revelations for your self. I will say a prayer for you this person and your flock who is not being led by the truth but with lies.

  4. i am willing to do the work of God, but my wife is ready to destroy our marriage, she is not ready to surport me. what can i do now?

    • Jubril sodiq says:

      Mr adigun i can boldly tell you to go and pray very well concerning your wife issues because bible says the heart of king was in the hand of God proverbs 21 vs 1

  5. pjtibayan says:

    Dear Adigun,

    If you’re wife is not on board than you should not go into pastoral ministry. I’m glad you are willing to do the work of God! That is proof that our Almighty God is working in you. I’d suggest you listen to some sermons on biblical manhood and womanhood with your wife and then you continue in your attempts to lead her and love her. The work of God that God is calling you to right now is to save your marriage. That is your priority, not preparing to be a pastor (or continue being a pastor). If you lose your family you lose your ministry. I will pray for you today. God is good and will lead you through this rough time as you continue to trust and obey Christ. Email or comment if you want to follow up.

    In Christ,
    PJ

  6. jeaneal says:

    thank God for this web site. i have recently became the co-pastor of our church, and really need to understand the role of my pastor to better benefit my servitude toward the vision of my pastor and the requirement of my God. again God bless this ministry, thank you!

  7. Who is PJ? I tried to find a name for this
    web site but missed it. Anyway, PJ, as you can
    what my name is I wanted to respond to the blogs I have read on the responsibilities of a
    pastor. The word Pastor has become obselete for
    the past decade or two. Since the Charismatic
    Movement, pastors have almost faded away. However, I love what being a pastor means. There are not many in operation today because so many denominations have also faded into history and the “new evangelist” has emerged
    instead. Pastors don’t carry out the duties of
    the office as was done in Biblical New Testament Churches and even did as when I
    was young (77 years old now). I have entered into a four year Bachelor Degree in Theology
    and am in my 11th quarter. I am having so much
    fun. My present lesson is on Pastoral Relationships with Church Boards and Leaders.
    Your web site is quiet timely for me tonight.
    I just finished ten pages of typing this afternoon and have ten more to complete. I am learning so much, and at my age you would think
    I already know it all….not so,,,there is so
    much to learn. Being a true pastor is awesome
    and so rewarding to the one dedicated to shepherding a flock.

  8. Wow I love this teaching and it is spiritual and practical

    Jagan
    Sr.pastor

  9. Pingback: Intersected » Blog Archive » Feel called to be a Pastor/Overseer/Shepherd/Elder?

  10. Samuel Savatia says:

    Many Thanx for such wonderful knowledge.May the Lord God bless the works of thine hands.

  11. Holbrook says:

    , My comment is to just love God people, equips for ministry. But I do have a question I would like to know what the bible say about what is a overseer and their duties. Can you be a overseer of your local church. woman or man. Is there a differance between overseer and a Bishop. I need help

  12. pjtibayan says:

    Holbrook, in the post above John Piper lists some duties and bible texts. You can also look at 1 Peter 5.1-5, 1 Timothy 3.1-7; 5.17-21; Titus 1.5-9; Acts 20.17-35; Acts 6.4; Hebrews 13.7, 17; Ephesians 4.11-16.

    Only a man can be a pastor/elder/overseer of a local church. See this: http://www.cbmw.org/FAQs/Questions-and-Answers/What-does-the-Bible-say-about-leadership-in-the-church

    There is no difference between overseer and bishop. That is two different ways of translating into English the same Greek word “episkopos.” The terms pastor, elder, and overseer/bishop are used interchangeably in the New Testament.

    For more on elders, look at chapter 2 of this booklet: http://filemanager.silaspartners.com/dox/9marks/pubs/DisplayofGodsGlory.pdf

    I hope this helps.

    • Deborah says:

      Lost in the word…..The God I serve would never limit his ministry to men only. That why women were made your helpers….When you need help do you go to someone smarter or someone dumber…..Get up out of Corinth and into ToDAY….where are the men? What answers do they have. Get Real….the Truth is the Light. Jesus knew the mindset and the culture of old and was humble, and kind, caring, compassionate enough not to put woman in the line of fire….but he encouraged, and protected as he had women to walk with him. women didn’t have to have to name “Disciple” then….they had Jesus…women birthed Jesus, Woman birthed the word….Thats power…not mans power…Power that enables one to do ALL things. Preach Teach Evangelize serve as an Elder, and Oversee that which God has anointed and appointed. selah!

  13. Rev Prince Ohioma Jr. says:

    I have been blessed with teaching on pastoral duties that I have gone through. God will continue to enrich you, so that you can be blessing to this generation.

  14. Sengsok Jonah says:

    Hi,

    My name is Jonah. Last name is Sengsok, first name Jonah. I am now 33 years old and I live in Cambodia. Been married nearly 10 years and we have 2 lovely children. I will be starting my seminar school to be a pastor in one week – It’s a four years study. The name of my school is Cambodia Christian Sireysorphorn University. I am a Christian and have been sidetrack for awhile. I was baptize and even confirm from my Church. I have a hard time with lusting and i’m a womanizer. It’s not as bad as before, but still need help to to eliminate it. Any help on this please? How will this effect with my study and especially when the time come to lead a Church?

    Rgds,

    Want to get better

    • Jubril sodiq says:

      Dear jonah,with God all things are possible because this is one of challenges facing many young minister today but there’s way out of this, you need to be free from sexual demons which translate mind into wordly affection.GOD will deliver you in jesus name.

    • Joe Blackburn says:

      Jonah, if you are still there and listening, I want you to know you are not alone in the situation with lust. The Holy Spirit that filled you will also protect you, but you must go the way of the scriptures, and pray and fast, and pray and fast until you get the deliverance you need. Some day the opportunity for you to walk with someone through this very problem could arise and you need to be Spirit Filled, and Spirit led, but you also need to have an understanding of the deliverance process. Jonah pray and fast.

      In Christ’s Love, Joe

  15. Pr James B Elakas says:

    Surely enriching

  16. Osunde Destiny says:

    This information i have seen here… Has been very helpfull.. I tank the lord for using people to make up this write ups… Tank yov very much and God bless

  17. Samuel Harrison says:

    I love what u have put down for the church governance. Am stil to see the kind of policies leaders are using today

  18. Yemisi Okedoyin George says:

    This site is really helping me in building my spiritual life. God bless you.

  19. K Nguyen says:

    Friend – I was goolging for a quick reference on my diss topic on Leadership Development. Guess which site popped up first. I guess I might have to cite you for the quick reference. AMAZING!

  20. Mark says:

    I am a deacon of my church, we have seventy in our church attendance, there is one other deacon and the pastor. The other deacon informs me that our pastor isnt doing his duties, but is rather going to the lake (with church kids) going to shooting ranges (with men from the church)
    this deacon constantly complains to me about things not being done in the church. I dont know what to do or who to talk to. I dont want to bring this to the pastor as he has enough on his plate as it is. What would you suggest? I could confront the other deacon, (ive had to do it in the past and did it in Biblical way after conferring with another pastor. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • pjtibayan says:

      I suggest you discern the accusation. If it’s biblical and right then you pursue it further. If it’s not, you clearly explain to him why his complaint is either (1) not a pastor’s duty or (2) your pastor is not guilty.

      Does that help?

  21. Oyetoro Oyemola says:

    I Love these!

  22. Spencer Itive says:

    Great work. Thanks for the wealth of knowledge and experience.

  23. Hebert Muziva says:

    This is wonderful an Powerful staff. I am blessed.God bless you abundantly.

  24. good present for all of us, go on teacher or friends in Jesus Christ

  25. Oluwabiyi samuel says:

    May GOD Increase us in wisdom and help us to grow in his knowledge that our eyes of understanding we be enlighten. GOD bless.

  26. martha says:

    Sir, I am a member of a small church just starting out, and I feel like our pastor is over stepping his duties. we have a temperairy song leader and when she picks the songs out he has to check them and usually changes them for some reason or another, If someone has a disagreement with him he brings it up in his next sermon. I don’t fell like this is right. Any suggestions on what we as a church should do?

  27. Jordan says:

    What is decent pay for a pastor of 50 people with a budget of 100k a year- preaches one sermon a week. Total with medical is 58k- says he needs more.

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