- Prayer– The pastors watch over souls by regularly and earnestly praying for the church as a whole, its vision, mission, unity, health, impact, etc. Even more so, they guard the souls of the people by interceding for each one individually on a regular basis, praying for spiritual health and growth. In this they imitate the Chief Shepherd who said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31-32).
- Ministry of the Word- Paul in Acts 20 describes his ministry of the word as being characterized by holding back nothing that was profitable, indeed preaching the whole counsel of God, and teaching ‘both publicly and house to house’ (Acts 20:20). A number of important issues are seen here. First pastors are to preach the whole counsel of God- the entire breadth of biblical revelation. Secondly, there are two explicit aspects of the ministry of the word: public and private/personal. Implicit in Paul’s concern to remind of them of the kind of life he lived among them (cf. also 1 Thess 2; 1 Peter 5) is a third aspect of the ministry of the word- personal example.
A. Public– The public aspect refers to the pulpit ministry where the entire congregation is systematically and regularly taught. This is the bedrock of the ministry of the word (indeed, I would suggest the bedrock of pastoral ministry as a whole) because here the entire congregation can be reached and the whole counsel of God can be addressed. It is for this reason that the key distinguishing trait required for a pastor is the ability to teach (1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). The primacy of this task is seen also in the fact that Paul singles out for ‘double honor’ those elders who ‘work hard at preaching and teaching’ (1 Tim 5:17).
In the public teaching the pastors guard the souls of the people by exposing, warning of and rebuking error and sin, teaching and reveling in truth and showing how this is to be lived out. In short, they are teaching the people how to make the journey and are inviting others to join the journey.
B. Private/Personal– While the public teaching is paramount, to be fully effective it must be followed by less formal occasions where scripture can be applied directly to specific applications. To watch over the souls of their people pastors must watch for and seek out opportunities to speak truth into the particular issues of each members life, bringing out all the ways scripture is profitable- teaching, correcting, rebuking and instructing (2 Tim 3:16). The evangelistic ministry of the word is most effective on this level as well- one to one and in small groups.