Ray Van Neste speaks on the nature and future of pastoral ministry in Southern Baptist and Evangelical Life. He draws on a number of Biblical passages, as well as writings of historical personages advocating the oversight of souls as true pastoral ministry.
Preaching is not the heart of pastoral ministry. It is oversight. We do not shepherd souls to preach, we preach as a means to shepherd souls. Pastors must be involved in the lives of their people.
Careful oversight may not make us famous since people cannot download our oversight onto their I-Pods.
Drawing on John 10:11-15, Van Neste offers a model of pastoral ministry from the shepherding work of Christ.
- The shepherd sacrifices himself for the sheep.
- The shepherd knows the sheep.
In Hebrews 13:17, pastors are shown to have authority, but only as those who watch over souls. No mention is made of drawing crowds and building buildings. Watching implies protecting and a willingness to pursue those sheep who might go astray.
In 1 Peter 5:1 these same ideas are present. Likewise in Acts 20:18-21, 28.
Some advise pastors not to get too close to their members. This is not good advice, it is ungodly. Rebuke ought not be delivered if its too easy. It’s the wounds of a friend that are faithful, not the cool correction of a hired hand.
See also 1 Thessalonians 2:1, 7-12, 19-20. Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor is recommended as an exhortation to this kind of pastoral oversight. Pastors must know their people in order to be able to minister to them. Churches must not become so large as to prohibit the members knowing each other, or the pastors from knowing the members.