A Call to Sound Doctrine: The Pastor’s Job Description

By Paul Tautges

The apostle Paul’s ministry offers an ideal model for today’s pastor, but I fear it’s one many churches today have lost sight of.

Consider Paul’s goals: “We proclaim Him, admonishing every person and teaching every person with all wisdom, so that we may present every person complete in Christ” (Col. 1:28, NASB).

He sought the spiritual maturity of every believer—Christlikeness. To this end the apostle employed Christ-centered proclamation and the teaching of biblical wisdom, of which Christ is the embodiment (Col. 2:3). So should we.

Sadly, evangelical churches today don’t share these priorities. Instead, there’s a noticeable shift away from theology toward something closer to therapy.


According to the Bible, pastors must prioritize teaching doctrine so that congregations learn to think theologically. Jesus commands us to make disciples by “teaching them to observe all that [He] commanded” (Matt. 28:20). “Teaching” comes from didasko, meaning “to give instruction.” [1] The noun form simply means “doctrine.” [2] Paul likewise says that elders possess oversight in order to protect against wolves “speaking twisted things” (Acts 20:30). They’re to equip the saints for the building up of the body, less church members be “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14).

And so, teaching doctrine was a high priority in the early church. The believers described in the early chapter of Acts were “continually devoting themselves to . . . teaching”—that is, to doctrine (Acts 2:42)

The Thessalonians, too, responded to the gospel with eagerness and applied it to their lives. Paul writes, “You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia” (1 Thess. 1:6–7).


Evangelical pastors today, however, have shown less interest in teaching theology and more interest in offering therapy. One scholar studied thirty years of the periodical Christianity Today, particularly its column “A Layman and His Faith,” and then offered this conclusion:

In these three decades [1959–1989], the laity had apparently moved from a doctrinally framed faith, the central concern of which was truth, to a therapeutically constructed faith, the central concern of which was psychological survival. Christian truth went from being an end in itself to being merely the means to personal healing. Thus was biblical truth eclipsed by the self and holiness by wholeness. [3]

This shift has had disastrous effects on the lives of God’s people and their families. Any time the rock-solid foundation of the Word is displaced believers will be washed out to sea. Theologian David Wells even noticed this thirty years ago:

I have watched with growing disbelief as the evangelical Church has cheerfully plunged into astounding theological illiteracy. Many taking the plunge seem to imagine that they are simply following a path to success, but the effects of this great change in the evangelical soul are evident in every incoming class in the seminaries, in most publications, in the great majority of churches, and in most of their pastors. It is a change so large and so encompassing that those who dissent from what is happening are easily dismissed as individuals who cannot get along, who want to scruple over what is inconsequential, who are not loyal, and who are, in any case, quite irrelevant. [4]

Throughout his book, Wells offers examples of the shift away from a doctrinally based faith to an experience-based form of Christianity.


When feeling good about oneself becomes a higher priority than knowing one’s soul is right with God through the application of sound doctrine, the systematic teaching of biblical doctrine becomes more important than ever. It’s indispensable to the disciple-making process because doctrine protects, builds up, and nourishes believers (1 Tim. 4:6; 1 Peter 2:2).

Os Guinness reminds us that “sound doctrine” in Greek literally means “hygienic” and “health-giving.” [5] It cleanses the mind and feeds the body.

Conversely, bad doctrine undermines faith and damages believers. Church shepherds must therefore be discerning and not allow man-centered, Christianized self-help theory to permeate the church and redirect the eyes of believers off Christ and onto self (see Acts 20:28-32).


Bad theology is like poison that invades the bloodstream and destroys the body. It kills the church from the inside out, whether it’s preached openly from the pulpit or shared subtly in the counseling room. The apostles warned of “destructive heresies” (2 Peter 2:1–3) that hold undiscerning believers “captive through philosophy and empty deception” (Col. 2:8). Therefore, church leaders must instruct men “not to teach strange doctrines” (1 Tim. 1:3) because “their talk will spread like gangrene” (2 Tim. 2:15–18).

Gangrene is a deadly disease. Spreading throughout the skin tissue, it leaves portions of the body dead and in need of amputation. The disease starts when there is a lack of blood flow, and the resulting shortage of oxygen to the body parts causes tissue to die. Once dead, the tissue becomes numb and turns black, leaving only one effective treatment—removal of all dead tissue and the exposure of infected areas to oxygen under high pressure, thus killing the bacteria that can only live in oxygen-free tissue.

Consider this as an analogy of theology in the body of Christ, the church. Sound biblical doctrine, like oxygen, is needed to sustain spiritual life. When there is a lack of sound doctrine, the poison of false theories begins to spread underneath the surface of the skin until the infected area of the body dies. Once dead, it becomes numb to any danger. To remove false doctrine from the church requires amputation, followed by intense doses of pure doctrine to force the error out.


Church shepherds must make the imparting of doctrine a significant part of our teaching ministry: “teach what accords with sound doctrine,” says Paul (Titus 2:1).

A basic requirement of being an elder, he instructs, is the ability “to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9).

As believers are grounded in the Word of God and taught to think about everything in their lives from a God-centered, biblical perspective, their minds will be renewed, and their faith nurtured (Rom. 12:1–2; 1 Tim. 4:6). Gary Johnson’s comments are fitting:

A healthy Christianity cannot survive without theology, and theology must matter today, especially in our mindless and irrational culture. It should especially matter among evangelicals who confess saving attachment to Jesus Christ. But current challenges to the authority of the biblical gospel often come from within our churches, from practitioners who are increasingly uninterested in serious theology. [6]

If we’re committed to biblical shepherding, we must take doctrine seriously, since the ongoing spiritual health and growth of our disciples depends upon it.

Author’s note: This article is drawn in part from Paul’s book, Discipling the Flock: A Call to Faithful Shepherding (Shepherd Press, 2018).

[1] W. E. Vine, Merrill Unger, and William White, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1985), p. 619.

[2] Ibid., p. 180.

[3] David F. Wells, No Place for Truth, or, Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993), pp. 209–210.

[4] Ibid., p. 4.

[5] Os Guiness, “America’s Last Men and Their Magnificent Talking Cure,” in The Journal of Biblical Counseling, 15/2 (1997), p. 23.

[6] Gary Johnson, “Does Theology Still Matter?” in John Armstrong, (ed.), The Coming Evangelical Crisis (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996), p. 57

By Paul Tautges

Article originally posted on 9marks.org.

Paul Tautges is the senior pastor at Cornerstone Community Church in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.

Help! I’m a Pastor!

By Joe McKeever

“In a multitude of counselors there is victory.” (Proverbs 11:14 and 24:6)

I said to Pastor Marion, “I’m glad to exchange notes with you like this. But you need a couple of mentors–older guys with long histories in the ministry–whom you can sit across the table from and talk about these things.”

He named two such, a seminary professor and a retired pastor.

Pastors often find themselves in tough situations.  At the moment, Pastor Marion is leading his church in a massive building campaign, while working night and day to minister to his growing flock.  In the five years he has been there, his church has doubled or more in attendance. And then, this happens….

A deacon who is used to getting his way in the church called a meeting of the key leadership. He was upset about some of what Marion has been preaching, he says. Furthermore–it will not surprise you if you have ever been the target of this kind of abuse–-“many others in the church feel the same way.”

He threatened that steps may be taken to remove the pastor from the pulpit.

What is a pastor to do?

I mentioned a few possibilities, but with the caveat that “these are just some thoughts.” No way do I want to take responsibility for whatever he decides.


–a) I said, “You can take it to the church. This Sunday morning, tell the congregation that a couple of deacons are suggesting you need to resign, that they are unhappy with your leadership. And that you are calling a business meeting for Wednesday night to discuss this.”

The upside of doing that is you take the initiative, take the matter out of their hands and put it where it should be, in the hands of the congregation. This tends to stop a bully in his tracks. His anonymity has been a winning technique for him–that is, working on the pastor in the background. But you are now flushing him out.

The downside of this is that anytime you ask a church to affirm your ministry, you should anticipate the possibility that they might just hand you your walking papers. More than one pastor has gone into a church meeting expecting affirmation only to suddenly find himself jobless.

–b) Another possibility, I told Marion, is “You can meet privately with the other deacon or two who had partnered with the bully. Find out if they feel strongly the way he does or are allowing themselves to be pushed along by the force of his personality.  Get them thinking about the cost of forcing you out in the middle of a building campaign.”

–c) “But before you do anything else, Marion,” I said, “I would meet with those two mentors and give them the entire picture. See what counsel they have for you.”

Every pastor needs a few counselors.

Proverbs says, “In a multitude of counselors there is victory” (Proverbs 11:14).  The wonderful KJV says there is “safety.” Not wisdom, necessarily, but surely safety and eventually, if we do it right, victory.

We’re more likely to make the right choice after running the situation by several people whom we respect and considering their take on matters.

One question we would like to ask Marion is, “So, what have you been preaching that would cause this deacon to react this way?” There is always the possibility that the deacon is right. Older mentors could help him look at all angles.

Another question to be asked by the older guys: “In case the church should terminate you, do you have any fall-back support, anywhere you could go, any way to support your family?” If not, this will limit the pastor’s choices.

“Marion, how strongly do you feel that God has placed you there in that church and still has His hand on you?”  This may be the most important question of all.

I once had a deacon take me to lunch with an offer of a lot of money if I would walk away from the church. I said, “I’d love to leave. I’m so tired of this stress. But God won’t let me. I have to see this through.”

It’s not about me; it’s about the Lord.

Get that straight and you’d be surprised how quickly it clears up matters.

No young pastor should ever do anything just because his mentors advised it.  But they can help him reason things out, can pray for him, and can be there in the future when and if things go badly.

Why pastors are reluctant to get mentors

Something inside us wants to go it alone. That feeling is not from God. No one in Scripture was commanded to go into the Lord’s work all by himself. The Lord intended that His people would have partners, co-laborers, advisers and counselors and helpers. Some will be–you will understand the expression–“above” you in ranking and some “below” you.  You need both groups.

Your pride can become your worst enemy. “I don’t need anyone else. The Lord is with me.”  The last part of that is true, the first part is a fatal error in your machinery.  You need lots and lots of people in your life. Check out all the “one anothers” found throughout the New Testament. We are to love one another, pray for one another, encourage one another, rebuke one another, and so forth. At least 31 different such commands are given in the NT. That ought to tell us how strongly the Lord wants us to be part of His team and not long rangers.

Notice how often Paul identifies certain ones as his co-workers, co-laborers, and partners in ministry.

How to get a mentor

First, toss the terminology. When a deacon asked if I would “mentor” him, some 20 years ago, I asked what he had in mind and then declined. He was looking for someone to meet with regularly, with whom he could share his every wayward thought, and who would function as his manager in spiritual things. I was his pastor, admired a hundred things about him, but simply did not have the time or energy for this.

Just call these guys your “friends.” That’s what they are and all they need to be.

Second, if you have had a favorite professor or pastor along the way who lives in the area and is still working in the Lord’s vineyard, call him up for coffee.  That’s how you start. And, under no circumstances should you tell him you want to meet with him like this every week or month or whatever for the rest of your life. That sounds burdensome.  Don’t do that to him or yourself.

Just enjoy the visit. Be sure to ask what he’s doing and what you can pray for concerning his work. And don’t overstay. Thirty minutes may be a tad short. Forty-five minutes is ideal. An hour is pressing it. Two hours is too long and will cause him to hesitate the next time you call inviting him for coffee.

Third, wait two weeks, then call him again. If the meeting place was ideal, stay with it. If it was too crowded or noisy or the chairs were uncomfortable, find another coffee shop. This time, have a situation in your church or your sermons for which you need his advice. Take notes. Jot down his advice, scriptures he mentions, books he recommends.

Then, wait a month before you do it again.  After that, you will know–and so will he–if this should be an ongoing thing.

Remember, it’s fine to have several such friends. You are not betraying the first to do the same thing with one or two others.

Finally, if you are leaning heavily on those two or three friends, at least annually drop them a personal note to say how much you appreciate them. Every couple of years, give each one a gift card to a local bookstore with a note of thanks.

They may make the difference in your ministry.

Now, while you’re at it, look around for some younger minister who may be needing you.  What comes around should indeed go around.

Pastor Joe McKeever

Being Bi-Vocational or Part-Time in Ministry Podcast

Being Bi-Vocational or Part-Time in Ministry Podcast

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Bivocational or Part-Time Ministry?

Bivocational or Part-Time Ministry?

By Barry L. Davis

If you’ve been involved in ministry for any length of time, and been on the search for a new ministry opportunity, you’ve seen the terms “bivocational” and “part-time” thrown around pretty loosely to describe the role the seeking church expects their future minister to fill.

To the average person, part-time would describe someone who works under 40 hours per week, and most likely 20 or less. Bivocational means that in addition to the ministry, this person also works at another job as well. On its face, most of us would assume both of these are part-time positions, but in the church world, things can get a little muddy.

For instance, while some churches really mean it when they say they are not expecting the minister to work full-time, their actual requirements tell a different story. Here is an example of a church advertisement for a part-time position that was just recently published:

We are looking for a part time minister to take over for our current aging pastor. We are a small country church with a beautiful church building, Sunday School Rooms and fellowship hall. Position would include all the normal duties of a pastor who loves people, wants to help our church grow spiritually as well as attendance.


Teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, teach the members to witness and serve the Lord. To preach/teach in 3 services a week, as well as plan revivals and special functions. Be willing to visit the community, hospital and nursing homes. We are seeking a God called man who has a deep seated desire to serve the Lord and to lead his people in all aspects of a ministry.

This ad is fairly typical of what I see from churches looking for part-time/bivocational ministers. It is blatantly obvious that this church is not really looking for someone with minimal hours to devote to the church ministry. No matter how gifted you might be, you cannot preach/teach three services every week, do extensive visitation, and meet all of these other expectations on a part-time basis.

In these instances what the church is really saying is that they can only afford to pay you on the level of someone working part-time, but they are expecting you to put in full-time hours. While it is perfectly understandable that many churches do not have the finances to offer a full-time salary, it would be better, and certainly more honest, to say, “we need someone to fulfill all the duties of a full-time pastor, but we can’t afford to pay you what we’d like to.”

If you are looking for a ministry position and find one that is listed as part-time or bivocational, you would do well to ask the following questions before moving too far forward in the process:

1) Could you share with me how many times you are expecting me to preach and/or teach on an average week? (are you expecting me to lead a Sunday School Class, mid-week Bible Study, Small Group, etc…?)

2) Do the lay leaders of the church cover hospital and home visitation, or is that something you are wanting me to do exclusively?

3) Who is in charge of planning and implementing special services during the year, such as Holidays, Graduations, Fellowship Meals, etc…?

4) Will I be overseeing Weddings and Funerals?

Those should be enough to give you a good idea of what the expectations of the church really are. You can probably think of some more.

Please understand that none of this is written to discourage you from accepting a ministry role in a church that is not able to pay a full-time wage if that is what you believe God is calling you to. The purpose of this article is simply to help both you and the church walk into this relationship with a very clear idea of what the expectations are.

I’d love to see your Comments below. Have you been in part-time ministry? Share with us your experiences.



Barry L. Davis, D.Min., Ph.D.
Founder/Owner — The Pastor’s Helper


  • Good article.
    I’m looking for one in the DMV. preferably MD.

  • Quillie Dasher

    very good article. I pastored for more than fourty years and have been a minister for fifty years plus. Everywhere I pastored but one, they were looking for a full-time 24/7minister for less than part time pay. The thing that made the difference was they did not call me. GOD did. He said he would make away when there seemed to be no way. He has and I am thankful.

  • Pastor Donley

    A church seldom ever wants a part-time pastor. What they are really saying is ” we want to get the most we can for the least money”. They will never admit this, but after more than 40 years as a pastor, I am painfully aware of this. But since being a pastor is my calling, I always give 100+ % anyways. I know many pastors who do the same. The problem as I see it is not a pastor doing it. It is a church a church expecting it.