Following your pastor should make you more like Jesus, not less. The unfortunate reality is that some pastors are lousy examples to follow. But what if things were different. What if things were not so worldly or secular, but they were biblical?
Pastors are charged with many responsibilities in order to “shepherd the flock of God among us” (1 Peter 5:2). Paul gives his lists to Timothy and to Titus in the Pastoral Epistles, reminding us of the serious calling pastors enter into when called to the ministry.
Imagine a world where pastors were required to keep the bare minimum (as outlined above) before entering into ministry. Imagine a world where church members wanted to be more pastoral because pastors so clearly follow after Christ. Such imitation could then make us more like Jesus, not less.
According to the church body I am ordained in, pastors “should set a worthy example to the flock entrusted to their care by their zeal to evangelize the unconverted and make disciples. All those duties which private Christians are bound to discharge by the law of love are especially incumbent upon them by divine vocation, and are to be discharged as official duties” (PCA Book of Church Order, 8-3).
What the Church Order describes here is the assumption that all pastors are to be Christians, through and through. And so just as Saint Paul once told the churches in Corinth to “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ,” he was expecting that all pastors and elders follow suit. As church leaders do this, we set the right kind of example for the people we are entrusted with, and God’s church becomes much more beautiful and far more persuasive to a secular world.
So what might following your pastor look like, practically? Here are several aspects of the pastoral role that will benefit your spiritual life, if you become like your pastor as he follows Jesus.
1. Follow Your Pastor in Humility
When Peter encourages elders to shepherd the flock of God, he mentions a spirit of humility that is so unlike leadership in the world.
He charges pastors to exercise “oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:1-3).
And then he ends with a statement and a citation from Proverbs, saying “clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).
As your pastor walks humbly, live humbly before God and your neighbors.
2. Follow Your Pastor in Holiness
When Paul outlines the qualifications for office to young Timothy, we realize that the call to ministry is a call to holiness.
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? (1 Timothy 3:1-5)
How committed are you to one wife? How sober are you, not only in drink but with your speech and life? And, how well are you managing your household and teaching them the faith? How do you do with Facebook and Twitter debates? Are you the one starting controversy or are you quick to put the fires out?
Imagine what Christianity would look like today if we were all more like the kind of pastors Paul envisioned should be serving Christ’s church.
Paul ends this list of qualifications with the kicker: “Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:7). As Christians, our actions inside of the home and church inevitably reach the outskirts of the city.
As Jesus said, they will know us by the love we have for one another (John 13:35). That also means they will know us when we are faking it and when we hate. Follow your pastor in holiness.
3. Follow Your Pastor in Hope
Writing to the Colossians, Paul says:
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Colossians 1:21-23)
The basis for a pastor’s humility and holiness is, of course, the gospel message itself, and that message alone can carry you for the whole spiritual journey that lies ahead of you.
We are here reminded that the most pastoral thing any of us can do is to share the good news of the gospel with a dying and broken world. When our friends, neighbors, or co-workers are looking for good advice, the pastoral thing to do is to surprise them with good news.
We heap not more law onto people, I think you should try this… but we tell them all about what Jesus has done on their behalf, in their place, and for them, pointing them (as all pastors should often do) to the only One who takes away the sins of the world.