1 Timothy 4:16 "Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you willensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you."
Timothy was no novice. He undoubtedly had demonstrated his loyalty to Paul in his missionary journeys and had come to the point where he was now assuming a pastoral position at one of the leading churches in the ancient world - Ephesus. Still, Timothy had never pastored and thus was in the "deep end of the pool" so-to-speak. I'm certain he too felt this sense of inadequacy as he read this letter mainly addressed to him.
As a pastor, if I fail to take stock of where I am spiritually and forget who I am and Whose I am, I will do as James writes in James 1:23-24 "For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was." The failure to do self-examination in the Christian life is among the leading reasons for moral and spiritual failure. To endure the hardships that afflict both the inside of the heart and the outside pressures of this world and the kingdom of darkness, a pastor must know who he is as a man of God.
A good question to ask yourself, whether as a pastor or as a person in the pew is: "am I keenly aware of the 'shadow-side' of my soul wherein dwells the left-over residue of sin from my pre-conversion life?" Like a dish sitting on a counter that has not yet been washed, the remaining remnants of food can become poisonous. Daily the dish must be washed. In like manner, both pastors and people in the pew need the daily bath of God's Word, time in prayer and simple obedience to God's leading by the Spirit. In the monthly or periodic life of the local church, participation in the ordinance of the Lord's table ensures we are reminded once again of Whose life we digest on a daily basis. The bread and fruit of the vine signify the reality of the believer's relationship with Christ. Abiding in Him is a daily reality and thus we must take heed to ourselves.
Undoubtedly cultivation of the Christian mind is where true spiritual growth begins. (see Matthew 22:37-39; Mark 12:30-31) Yet like a pond needing an outlet, if doctrine only remains in the mind, stagnation can result. The conscience is the proper creek bed that takes what is in the mind and brings it to the heart. The heart (which in the Bible represent the causal center of a person, including thinking, feeling and willing) is the control center that weighs what has been poured into the mind. Essentially, whatever the mind has deemed to be the greatest good, the heart sends forth the conviction that the instruction must needs be carried out. (see Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Matthew 22:37-39; 1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 14:15; Ephesians 1:16-18; Jude 1:20-23).
The third responsibility is in the area of example. Lest a pastor lives before His people what he is preaching in the realm of his personal life and family life, his efforts will be in vain. Example reinforces the nails of truth and ensures they stick in the wood of Christian faith and practice.
The fourth area of pastoral responsibility has to do with excelling in one's preaching. I aim to do it better next week than I did this week. Relentless pursuit of excellency in preaching is not for my sake, but for the Lord's glory. God's people deserve good preaching. God has ordained by the preaching of the Word to bring about conversions and to encourage the saints.
Then finally, the pastor must endure. Both the shepherd and the sheep are called to run the race of faith together. We must take heed to ourselves and to the teaching of the Word if we expect to run the race of faith swiftly and strongly. My prayer is that these posts have informed and illumined those aspiring to pastoral ministry, those who want to know how to pray for their pastors or those who truly love the church for which Christ shed His blood and ever reigns as its Living King.