We are given very little evidence of the role of a minister in the Apostolic Church (the Church governed by the Apostles, as found in the New Testament) so we must turn to the single person who gave us our pastoral examples – the Apostle Paul.
I want to highlight a few of Paul’s more pastoral passages –
We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed– always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you. (2Co 4:8-12 NKJ)
Again, do you think that we excuse ourselves to you? We speak before God in Christ. But we do all things, beloved, for your edification. (2Co 12:19 NKJ)
Are they ministers of Christ?– I speak as a fool– I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness– besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity. (2Co 11:23-30 NKJ)
We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. (2Co 6:3-10 NKJ)
We must take Paul’s general character as a standard of a pastor (he was indeed a pastor of pastors) as an example of what ministers, pastors, should be.
First, they never give up – attacked, but not destroyed. They bear the brunt of the attacks on the church, taking in the death, but giving life. Every thing they do, these ministers do to build up the body of Christ. They do nothing for themselves without first giving everything to the congregation.
The third passage which I use speaks volumes to me – ministers are to wade through life and death, but through it all, their concern is for the Church. Do they have family problems? Yes, but the ministry comes first. Do they have ambitions? Yes, but the congregation must come first. Further, the minister must take upon the attacks and weaknesses of the congregation upon themselves.
Paul was harsh at times, but taking the time to repeat his preaching (how many letters went to the Corinthians?) to travel the world to bring the Gospel. He did turn people over to the adversary people who disobeyed the doctrine of the Church – but what about the weak and the so-called troublemakers? He continuously labored to bring about a mature Church, abandoning no one.
Paul would acknowledge that he received the approval of others in the Church, Peter and James the brother of the Lord, whom he called ‘pillars’ (see 1 Thes 2:7b-8,11-12). Yet his calling was only from God (1 Cor 12:28; Eph 4:11), and his calling first of all was an apostle. In this position, he preached the Gospel of God (2 Cor 11:7; Gal 1:6-7) holding nothing new to himself – no new revelation, new faith, new invention.
He would also call himself the father (begetter) of children in the Gospel:
For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. (1Co 4:15 NKJ)
Finally, we remember Paul’s works as he left the congregation at Ephesus:
“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. (Act 20:28-30 NKJ)
Paul’s advice – shepherd the church. Care, compass them about as protection. Watch for the wolves. Warn. Seek lost souls. Shepherd.
This is a little light, I know that, but there is a purpose. There is very little of the example of the ministry of the early Church, but Paul’s words serve as an example of what he felt he was called to do. Can we imitate anyone better? Further, I have two more posts. 1.) An argument for the plurality among the ministry. 2.) The primitive Tradition from Clement (Peter’s disciple) and Ignatius (John and Peter’s disciple.)