The pastor’s job description Pt. 3: A call to missional leadership

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The pastor’s job description Pt. 3: A call to missional leadership

June 1, 2023 -

Using orange chalk, a hand draws an upward arrow on a chalkboard, with many small arrows following its trajectory, illustrating leadership. © By patpitchaya/

Using orange chalk, a hand draws an upward arrow on a chalkboard, with many small arrows following its trajectory, illustrating leadership. © By patpitchaya/

Using orange chalk, a hand draws an upward arrow on a chalkboard, with many small arrows following its trajectory, illustrating leadership. © By patpitchaya/

LinkedIn offers this definition of a job description: “A job description provides candidates [or job holders] with an outline of the main duties and responsibilities of the role for which they are applying [or doing], as well as an overview of your organization.”

LinkedIn then offers these five uses of the job description:

  1. Defines the skills and responsibilities needed for the role
  2. Provides a benchmark for future training and development
  3. Helps your organization and the employee evaluate job performance
  4. Forms the basis of your employment contract with the successful candidate
  5. Allows you to set a roadmap for the employee’s growth within your organization

I began this three-part series on pastor job descriptions because I didn’t have such a description for the longest time at my former church. So when I sat down to consider the essentials of pastoring, I distilled it into three areas:

In today’s article, we’ll discuss that last point: How should we as pastors lead the church to develop a vision and a plan for implementing the Great Commission of Christ?

Called to missional leadership

The third part of a pastor’s job description must not be overlooked.

Pastors are called to lead the local church in the fulfillment of God’s mission. The church has been given the most important work on the planet: making God known to a world that has ignored and rejected him or has simply never heard of him with biblical clarity.

Additionally, the church is to facilitate the maturation of believers toward increasing holiness and the utilization of each person’s spiritual gifts in the mission of disciple-making, expressing the glory of God and seeking the good of all people.

The church is both a spiritual obstetrician, assisting the Holy Spirit in the birthing of new believers into God’s family, and a pediatrician, partnering with the Holy Spirit as he brings every new Christian to full maturity and joyful engagement in God’s redemptive mission. (See Ephesians 4 and 2 Corinthians 5.)

Leadership is vital, but it’s not our top priority

Every mission needs a current vision, strategy, and plan of execution.

This is leadership.

Much has been made of church leadership over the last forty years. Names like Bill Hybels, Peter Drucker, Jim Collins, Stephen Covey, Ken Blanchard, John Maxwell, and Patrick Lencioni have become familiar to pastors and church leaders, mostly for the better.

Sometimes leadership has become an idol giving off the impression that it’s the magic bullet of church health and growth. Leadership is both hard and essential. Leadership is a spiritual gift that God uses to bless his church and the world (Romans 12:8).

While vital, notice that Paul puts leadership sixth in a list of seven spiritual gifts described in Romans 12. Pastors need to lead, but it is not the only thing, or even the most important thing, that they do as pastors.

And—like all spiritual gifts—leading, shepherding, and preaching must be developed over time through learning, mentoring, and trial and error. Additionally, these three pastoral callings must be nuanced together on a daily and weekly basis.

Plane leadership

My mentor once told me that everything I needed to learn about leading a church could be seen on an airplane ticket.

Think about that.

A plane ticket tells you:

  • where you’re leaving from; that’s defining current reality.
  • where you’re going; that’s the vision of a preferred reality.
  • your plan: when you’re going, the city, airport, and gate, the name of the airline, the seat you and others are sitting in, and sometimes even the type of plane you’ll be flying on.
  • the cost, something leaders must consider, understand, and plan for.

Most importantly, the ticket has your name on it. The name is the “who.”

6 clarifying questions for pastors and church leaders

Patrick Lencioni is an organizational health expert whose work has helped me to be a better leader. In The Advantage, Lencioni offers these six clarifying questions to help pastors and other leaders chart the course ahead:

  1. Why do we exist?
  2. How do we behave?
  3. What do we do?
  4. How will we succeed?
  5. What is most important right now?
  6. Who must do what?

I hope you’ll take some time, maybe an hour or two in the next month, to sketch out your understanding of a pastor’s job.

Create some bullet points or tasks under the three broad headings of teaching, shepherding, and leading. The responsibilities overlap some. It’s likely that one of the three comes more naturally to you.

Discuss what you create with some of your key leaders or fellow pastors and seek clarity together.

Then you can develop some personal goals and seek to grow in each area.

Remember your why

Finally, remember the why of your work as a pastor.

As Dr. Jim Denison quoted Nietzsche in this Daily Article, “He who has a why to live for can tolerate any how.”

In Faces of Jesus, Frederick Buechner frames the why of pastoring well:

“GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD,” John writes, “that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” That is to say that God so loved the world that he gave his only son even to this obscene horror; so loved the world that in some ultimately indescribable way and at some ultimately immeasurable cost he gave the world himself. Out of this terrible death, John says, came eternal life not just in the sense of resurrection to life after death but in the sense of life so precious even this side of death that to live it is to stand with one foot already in eternity. To participate in the sacrificial life and death of Jesus Christ is to live already in his kingdom. This is the essence of the Christian message, the heart of the Good News, and it is why the cross has become the chief Christian symbol. A cross of all things—a guillotine, a gallows—but the cross at the same time as the crossroads of eternity and time, as the place where such a mighty heart was broken that the healing power of God himself could flow through it into a sick and broken world. It was for this reason that of all the possible words they could have used to describe the day of his death, the word they settled on was “good.” Good Friday.

Is this your why?

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