By: Dr. Clark Armstrong
In previous articles highlighting the pastoral calling and ministry, we studied 17 New Testament scriptures in our endeavor to understand what God’s expectations are for an ordained elder or pastor. Our conclusion from God’s word was that God has called the pastor to do four simple things: to pray, to preach, to love and to lead. These four things constitute the true job description of a pastor. We later carefully expanded in separate articles on what each means biblically, applying them to our twenty-first century contexts.
When studying concepts in education, many experts refer to the “spiral curriculum”. That name refers to the technique of introducing basic elements of learning in early stages or grades, while gradually presenting more difficult aspects which lead eventually to mastery of a concept. The spiral curriculum helps to minimize gaps in our understanding and to introduce greater complexities after the simpler parts of the concept are already learned.
In the field of Pastoral Ministries, after the idea of the pastor’s job description is taught, the next step should be to dive into the images of the pastor as prophet, priest, shepherd, and king. We have done all of that and more in our previous articles, with the hope of enhancing the understanding of what a pastor should be and do. The final (we might say, “doctoral”) level of understanding adds the idea of patterning to a Jesus template.
This concept starts from the conviction that the Lord (Jesus) is our shepherd (pastor). What follows are essential questions: “How, then, does Jesus pastor? What is his template?” We find some answers in Psalm 23 (where that phrase comes from), but it proves even more fruitful to look at the very life of Jesus to draw conclusions. The three essential elements of Jesus’ ministry were summarized in Matthew 4:23 (and echoed in Mt. 9:35) which says, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming [preaching] the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” To this we can add two other important components to His ministry template: kenosis or “self-emptying” (Philippians 2:5-8) and servant leadership (Mark 10:43-45; John 13:1-17).
Jesus’ preaching centered on three things: the gospel, repentance, and the kingdom. “Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near’” (Matthew 4:17). To preach repentance is to purposefully call for people to turn away from their sinful and selfish ways and to turn their lives over to God. To preach the gospel is to always preach the message of good news and hope brought to us through Jesus Christ. Even when a message of repentance is preached, it should be combined with the love and grace of God.
To preach the kingdom is to preach about the reign of God breaking in upon humankind on earth as it is in heaven. We have only two of Jesus’ sermons recorded, and both are superior models of preaching about the kingdom of God: the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:17-49). Both show that Jesus ended his sermons with a call to action or to apply what has been heard.
In the following entry, and our final article in the pastoral ministry series, we will continue our look into Jesus’ template of shepherding, and its implications for us as pastors today.