Paul’s Model of Pastoral Ministry :: By Dr. Donald Whitchard

John 10:28-30; Acts 20:18-32; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 2 Timothy 4:3; Titus 1:5-9

Summary: In the book of Acts, the apostle Paul leaves the city of Ephesus for the last time. In his farewell to the elders of the church, he summarized his work both as a fellow elder and fellow servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In Acts 20, Paul was about to leave Ephesus and the church he helped to plant. For over three years, he and his fellow elders in the faith worked together to proclaim the message of salvation in Jesus Christ alone. He also spent considerable time teaching the Word of God and sound doctrine (Matthew 7:28-29; 1 Timothy 4:6; Titus 1:2, 2:1) to the members of the church. The time had come when he was preparing to go to Jerusalem to celebrate the Festival of Pentecost (Acts 20:16). He also knew that troubles would follow him as he continued to preach the Gospel. He knew that further suffering for the sake of Christ was promised, and it was something he accepted as part of the calling that the Lord Jesus had placed upon him years ago (Acts 9:1-6, 15-16).

Acts 20:17-32 describes the last time that Paul would meet with the elders of the Ephesian church before he left for Jerusalem. He reminded them of the work he had done for the Lord Jesus Christ and warned them that they would face “savage wolves” who would do their best to tear apart the church and spread false teachings about Jesus and the Word in order to destroy its influence and render it ineffective in its mission.

In verses 18-21, Paul testifies about the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ was everything to him, and he was devoted to Him. This devotion and love for Jesus is the major foundation for any minister of God. Paul faithfully preached the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and sound doctrine. He taught all the Word, both easy and hard, holding nothing back. He never diverted from the message of salvation through Christ alone (Acts 20:18-21; John 14:6; Acts 4:12).

Paul was totally open to the direction of God (20:22-24). He did not let opinions, feelings, or personal preferences get in the way of doing the will of his LORD. He faced hardships for the sake of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 11:23-28), ending up in a dank Roman prison at the end of his life (2 Timothy 4:6-8). In none of his letters nor demeanor did he ever get over the fact that he had been called by the Lord Jesus to preach the Word and spread the message of Christ to the expansive, pagan Roman Empire. Even though he had been a persecutor of the church, Jesus saw fit to use him to build and strengthen His church (1 Timothy 1:12-17). He never lost his sense of wonder and thanksgiving.

This should be our attitude in serving the LORD. We are sinners, unable to redeem ourselves (Isaiah 53:4-6, 64:6; Romans 3:23). He graciously rescued us from the penalty of sin, death, and hell by taking our sins upon Himself upon the cross, redeeming us from the eternal condemnation we so richly deserve (Romans 5:6-11). How could we not be grateful and thankful for this act of love, grace, and mercy? Let us never forget the fact that we are great sinners, but Christ is a great Savior.

Paul was led by the Holy Spirit and trusted God to direct his path, graciously obeying the directions of the Good Shepherd without hesitancy or question. He submitted to what the LORD required of him, ready to accept what came his way, including persecution and hardship.

A good pastor will have the same attitude: to remain open to the direction of the LORD wherever it may lead. In this age of self-centeredness and “being number one,” the idea that we need to trust the leadership and commands of Christ goes against the grain of the world system and its emphasis on the satisfaction of flesh, fantasy, and the pursuit of pleasure. The world should NEVER be the model by which we live our lives or conduct ourselves as children of the King. Too many churches have bought into the lie that we need to “get along with everyone” and adapt to the times. Nonsense. A good pastor will heed the words of Scripture and not allow himself nor his people to be friends with a world system that is rotten to the core and end up in ashes at the end of history (James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17; 2 Peter 3:10).

Paul was also committed to the teaching of the Bible and sound doctrine and teaching the people to be on guard constantly for the spiritual wolves that would come with their mission of destroying the flock with false doctrines and false teachings (20:28-32).

An effective and faithful pastor will teach his people the Word of God and share it with those who are lost and without direction, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:35-38). A good pastor will also teach the people what to do when someone comes into the fellowship preaching those things that are in contrast with the Word and will take the necessary course of action to stop it, and if possible, correct that person and divert him from the certain path of spiritual destruction.

The pastoral teaching and example set by Paul was followed by Timothy, and Ephesus remained a strong church up to the end of the first century AD.

Scripture alone gives us the foundation for pastoral ministry and care. The Lord Jesus is the Chief Shepherd of His church (John 10; 1 Peter 5:2-4). He set before us the perfect example of what it means to be a good pastor and leader of a flock. Paul followed in His steps as did the other apostles and others throughout history who heard the call of the LORD and took upon themselves the duty and privilege of being Christ’s under-shepherds in both good and bad times and who, like the heroes of the faith described in Hebrews 11, were such of whom the world was not worthy.

Jesus is coming back soon, and we who have been called to be leaders in the church need to be faithful to Him, to His Word, and to the welfare of the people whom He has entrusted to us in order to guide them to the green pastures and still waters He promises to all who come to Him for guidance, love, and comfort. Amen.