Pastoral nurture is the central focus of the Pastor’s ministry. The church is the ecclesia of God, the body of Christ and the Koinonia of redeeming love. These attributes reflect a people-oriented focus. The church in its mission engages in warming everyone and teaching everyone in order to present everyone perfect in Christ. It engages in preparing God’s people for works of service.

The organizing of the local church is all geared towards enhancing this central function of the pastor as nurturer. What then does it mean to nurture? The word nurture denotes “training” “rearing:, “feeding”, “nourishing”. In administering through pastoral nurture, the pastor trains, rears, feeds and nourishes his flock. He maintains a consistent relationship with Christ, sensitivity to the spirit of God, and faithfulness in using the means of grace for the enrichment of souls. He also anchors himself on biblical truth.1

As a member of society, he should be alert to the world in which he lives. This should result in his opposing the evil and promoting the good, bringing the judgment of God as well as the comforts of His grace upon the congregation and its life. It is his task to make the glory, judgment, and love of God real in the midst of the congregation. He must bring to bear on the concrete issues of life the reality of God’s presence through His word of judgment and promise. The pastor is a witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.2

In administering through pastoral nurture, the pastor learns to share leadership responsibility. It is his task to equip the laity for its facilitates communication and promotes dialogue. He provides the congregation with preaching and worship, teaching, pastoral care and administration.

The Bible divides the task of the Minister into two classes: (i) He is to feed the flock of God; (ii) He is to take oversight thereof. As the overseer, his first duty is to rule (Rom. 12:8; Thess. 5:12; 1 Tim. 5:17). The ministry of shepherding is carried out without desiring personal glory.3

In administering through pastoral nurture, the pastor employs all of the power and functions of personality – mind, heart, will and conscience. It requires complete administering of time, talents and money. It involves motives, purposes, principles, relationship, and every contact of life. Pastoral work is never narrow. Whatever specific responsibility one may have in relating to a particular cause or activity in the church, that responsibility must be discharged with regard for the work of the Lord in its oneness.4

The Pastor should have knowledge of the truth, and that is the starting point. Additional qualities, so essential to his work as administrator, can be acquired only by careful guidance in the discovery, development and exercise of his jobs. The art of pastoral work as he administers involves dedicated ministry to believers in which theologically correct concepts are applied to the conduct of congregational and individual living. One of John’s striking phrases that capture this concept in a memorable manner is, “walking in the truth” (2 Jn. 4; 3 Jn. 3).5

The Shepherding Role of a Pastor

The Pastoral function is clearly identified in the New Testament as a spiritual gift (Eph.4:11). The word pastor or shepherd is used infrequently in the New Testament. The normal New Testament pattern was a range of leadership gifts exercised in each congregation. Therefore, in speaking of pastoral priorities today, the strategic question is not the precise biblical meaning of pastor. Rather, it is this: How can modern pastors together with others in their congregations, implement the kind of leadership which will help the church function in harmony with biblical ecology of the church?6

What then, should be a pastor’s chief role today? Some say preaching. Others say evangelism or counseling. Most pastors confess that administration takes an unhealthy chunk of their time.

Some say the pastor’s first priority is to be a man or woman of God and of the word. But this is not unique only to pastors. The same can be said of all Christians, and certainly of all Christian leaders. While a pastor must first of all know God intimately and live by the word, this is not a definition of the pastoral task.

Pastoring cannot be defined primarily in terms of preaching or evangelism. Many men and women genuinely called pastors, suffer confusion and frustration because they do not have the necessary gifts for preaching, evangelism or some other responsibility commonly expected of pastors. If God had given a person ability to preach, he or she is responsible to be a good steward of that gift. The same is true regarding evangelism and other gifts, and certainly the conscientious pastor will “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). But if one is not gifted in these areas, he or she may still be an effective pastor if the pastor focuses on pastoral priority?7

The Chief priority of pastoral leadership is discipling men and women for the kingdom. Epheians 4:11-12 says that God has gifted pastors and other leaders to equip God’s people for ministry. Jesus said he was sending out his followers to make disciples (Mt. 28:19). Essentially, the pastor’s first priority is to so invest himself as minister of Jesus Christ. It involves giving oneself to others and to the work of discipling so that the New Testament norm of plural leadership or eldership becomes a reality in the local congregation.8 In other words, it is to bring the ministry of all God’s people to functioning practical reality. God has promised to give sufficient gifts so that through the discipling process all leadership needs are met, whether in evangelism, social witness, teaching or any other area. Only on this basis, in fact, has God promised that the church can reach spiritual maturity, the Fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:11-16).9

All pastoral functions should be oriented toward the priority of equipping God’s people for kingdom life and ministry. Disciplining is not a specific, specialized activity. It is the exercise of all pastoral gifts, focused on the making of disciples. Discipling is teaching, understood from the perspective of the kingdom, not from some other perspective, such as secular education.10 It is what Jesus said in Matthew 28:20 – teaching believers to put into practice what Jesus taught. Once the discipling priority is clear, then preaching, teaching, counseling, worship, guidance and other activities can serve the priority of disciple making.11

Pastors minister according to their gifts. They will, naturally have to serve carefully and faithfully in some areas where they are not gifted. This is the cost of servanthood. But the defined task of pastoral work is discipleship. It is shepherding, taking care of the flock. Because Christians are human, God-imaged persons, not sheep, pasturing goes beyond feeding and protecting the flock to include transforming believers into priests, ministers and servants in their own right.12 Lording it over the flock is contrary idea to the task of shepherding. So the pastor must not change his care into a throne. He seeks to enlist the goodwill of the people rather than instilling fear in them.13

The Pastor as a shepherd recognizes that it is wise to forgo some present pleasures for the sake of lasting, future gains for his flock. He adopts a new sense of values. He is willing to deny now in order to help his flock to obtain later as emphasized in Philippians 3:7-11. He is willing to accept new ideas, lay aside his old ways, expand his outlook and broaden his associations. His activities evidence his way of development. His attire is in accord with his development, willing and ready to exercise authority and control from within rather than relying upon outward authority.

The pastor as a shepherd acts in love towards others (Eph. 4:15; 1 Jn. 4:21). He gets more satisfaction from giving than from receiving. He provides his helpers with four satisfactions: a feeling of self-esteem; a chance to develop; the stimulation of new patience, modesty, and enjoyment of his work. Impatience can tear holes in any so he must be patient enough to see his suggestions pulled apart by a committee without being upset, patient enough to wait for others to understand and accept an idea which already seems clear to him.14

He needs emotional stability. It is unwise to let his temperament rule. He builds and operates a church of men and women who have individual skills and accomplishments. He must provide a climate in which these diverse people can function as a team. The spirit of teamwork will be maintained if he gives everyman enough responsibility to make him feel his own importance.

Pastoral Nurture and Human Psychology

Man was created in the image of God. He has a rational capacity thus, he can think and reason. He has a volitional capacity; thus, he can be driven by will. He has an emotional capacity; thus he can feel. He has a spiritual capacity; thus, he can engage in a quest for the supernatural.

Since persons are not mere things, it stands true that in pastoral nurture, the pastor has to appeal to the rational, the volitional, the emotional and the spiritual make-up of persons. The key question is this: What does the pastor need to know about persons in order to nurture effectively?

There are three important aspects to the make-up of persons, which govern human behaviour in relation to personal attitude to oneself, personal attitude towards others and personal attitude toward community/society. The aspects are personal needs, motivation and personality structure.

Personal Need

The basic question here is this: what do people need to live effectively? Dr Lawrence J Crabb points out that people have one basic personal need which requires two kinds of input for its satisfaction. The personal need is a sense of personal worth. Personal worth manifests itself in the inputs of significance and security.15 Every human being wants to have a sense of significance and security. Human society itself has been designed in such a way with many facilities which anyone can pursue to achieve the sense of significance and security.

Let us consider, for instance, a typical African village setting. In that community, people are taught to fish, hunt, farm, weave, build houses et cetera. The life of the community is enhanced through the promotion of secret society activities: traditional weddings also take place in which the woman becomes the man’s property. These communal activities provide for the individual his basis for significance and security. The sense of personal worth is achieved when one becomes skilled in a certain occupation, or when one is initiated into a secret society and becomes like his peers or when a man gets married. It is no wonder then that in such communities, whatever threatens to undermine such aspects in the life of an individual or the community is not looked upon favourably.


The basic question here is this: Why do we do what we do? Dr Crabb makes the following notation:

“It is not uncommon when asking this question to hear any

number of completely unhelpful evangelical clichés like,

‘You’re not trusting in the Lord’s power, you’re depending

on your own’ or “Let go and let God’ or ‘You’re not reckoning

your old nature to be dead’ or ‘pray more earnestly for deliverance.”16

Let us consider the following situation.

Mrs A is a member in local church D. she is known to be a quarrelsome person in the church. Most times she is at odds with people in the church and her community. The pastor has preached sermons, which convicted her of such an attitude. She has been convicted and has prayed and fasted for deliverance from the problem; yet, the problem lingers. Why?

The problem with Mrs A is not that which appears on the surface – that is, being quarrelsome. Her quarrelsome attitude is her means of defense against whatever threatens her sense of significance and security. During her growing in years, she has lived insecurely through unlovable parents and friends. Knowing her real problem is a step towards helping her develop the right motivation and ultimately overcome her problem.

Human motivational response to need helps us realize two levels of needs: (i) Felt need- what I know I need (ii) Real need. A person’s felt need at a given time may be the need for food. Rather than going to attend a church’s prayer meeting which coincides with his felt need, he would definitely go after satisfying that need. A person’s real need at a given time may be the need for a job so that he could care for himself.

Personality Structure

The basic question here is this: what are the operational elements in human personality which govern our thinking, feeling and actions? There are four elements: (i) the mind; (ii) the heart: (iii) the will: and (iv) the emotions.

The mind has two parts to it. There is the conscious mind and the unconscious mind. The conscious mind is that part of consciousness which governs perception, understanding, feelings, judging and determining of things. The way a person perceives what happens to him has a lot to do with his emotional and behavioural reaction. The unconscious mind is that part which is a reservoir of all basic assumptions which the person acquires from society as he develops. The conscious mind draws information from the unconscious mind for response to situations.

The heart here refers to a person’s entire mental and moral activity, both the rational and the emotional elements. It is that which governs the basic direction a person’s life may take. A person’s basic direction may be to live for self and the world or it may be to live for God.

The will has to do with a person’s capacity to choose how to behave. It would be noted that a person’s freedom of choice is limited to his level of understanding. So, as the mind is enlightened, so a person’s choice of behaviour is determined.

The emotions have to do with a person’s capacity for feeling. Dr Crabb gives two sets of emotions: Negative and non-sinful emotions.

1. Negative/sinful emotions

(1) Depression – involves self-preoccupation, self-pity, giving up, no concern

for others.

(2) Crippling guilt involves feeling of worthlessness and self punishment

which do not lead to a positive connection of the problem.

(3) Resentment – involves holding a grudge; a behaviour motivated by vengeance.

(4) Frustration – involves the attitude of giving up; having a smoldering anger against unchanging problems.

(5) Anxiety – involves having an apprehension about anticipated unpleasant


2. Positive/non-sinful emotions

(1) Anguish – having deep hurt over difficult circumstances, emotional pain over loss, soul-searching agony as problems mount.

(2) Constructive sorrow – an attitude of contrition and sorrow over misdeeds which leads to changed behaviour.

(3) Anger – reaction to moral wrong which asserts the holiness of God and rebukes sin with a view to restoring the offender to right behaviour.

(4) Motivated discontent – concern over difficult circumstances which leads to a plan to change them if one can.17

(5) Concern – anticipation of possible future event which provokes intelligent forethought.18

What we have discussed in this section are very important considerations for the pastor if he is to truly fulfil his role as a shepherd. He needs to understand individual and group dynamics. J Rishcar Spann makes the following statement:

The minister (pastor) should realize all of the resources for

understanding human nature and improving his own

effectiveness that are available. Recognizing that he is

to work with individuals as a pastor, he should make

use of the findings of the social and psychological

sciences for these have a vital and significant contri-

bution to make.19

The Mode for Nurturing Church

Shepherding is the unique mode for the nurturing of a church. This uniqueness, in the sense of the essential meaning and significance of shepherding is seen pre-eminently in the familiar story of the Good Samaritan. We recall that Jesus used this story in reply to the lawyer’s question “who is my neighbour?” (Lk. 10:30-35). This is, of course, a story with moral implications. One cannot profess one thing and do another. Every man is our neighbor. Good works are owed to every man in need. But the story says more than that. It implies that anything standing in the way of the best possible meeting of the need for healing is an offense against God. The Samaritan, despite the enmity between his people and the Jews, performed a healing service, as intelligently as possible under the circumstances. He manifested mercy and compassion in his attitude, and intelligence in his use of means.20

The attitude revealed in the story is akin to that of the Pastor (shepherd) devoting his energy and attention, at a particular time and place, to the one sheep that was lost. When the timing and need are of this kind, no other justification is needed. There is no counting of statistics. There are pleas of emergence against normalcy. There is attention according to need. From the point expressed here, we see care of souls as one way for the nurturing of a church.21

The Pastor should have a servant attitude. He administers the church not to be served, but to serve. He must be ready to identify with “the wretched of the earth.” He must serve the poor, widows and orphans, refugees and sojourners.

The pastor should understand what the Bible teaches concerning the gifts of the spirit. He gains understanding himself in order that he can lead his flock, through teaching, to understand about spiritual gifts. Then, he guides members to discover their gifts and motivates them to use the gifts for the edifying of the body. Gifts emerge out of the community life of the church as God manifests Himself. In the community gifts are awakened, discovered and facilitated. Therefore, the pastor needs to involve its members in various forms of small-group structures so that community can be fostered and spiritual gifts can spring forth.22

From the definition of nurture – “training”, “rearing”, “feeling”, “nourishing” – we can conjecture that the following elements play a key role in the mode for nurturing a church.

1. Preaching the Word of God

Paul exhorted Timothy to preach the word (2 Tim. 4:1-2). Preaching can give enlightenment and set the course for changed behaviour (cf. Ps. 119:105, 130).

2. Teaching the Word of God

Paul nurtured his converts through wholistic teaching (Acts 20:20, 21, 27). He exhorted Timothy to do the same (2 Tim. 2:2).

3. Interpersonal Counseling

This provides the closer contact upon which caring concern can be built. In African culture, people matter. The pastor in the African setting has to be people-oriented and community-oriented. He promotes community life so that people get to know one another intimately and express care towards one another. The Principle of “I am my brother/sister’s keeper” holds.

4. Promoting Koinonia

This involves the spirit of sharing and communal participation. The term koinonia in the Hellenistic world denoted “the close union and brotherly bond between men.” In one of Plato’s works he made the following statement, “neither had any of them anything of their own, but they regarded all that they had as common property. “This sociological framework of the first century world enhanced nurturing in the ecclesia.23


The Chief shepherd of the pastor is the Lord Jesus Christ. The pastor cannot nurture his flock into maturity in Christ if he is not living a Christ-centered life. Paul said to Timothy, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” (1 Tim. 4:12). Paul said to the Christians at Corinth, “Follow me, as I follow Christ,” (1 Cor. 11:1). The exemplary living of the pastor provides motivation to his flock to grow in Christlikeness.

End Notes

1A Grace Wenger, Stewards of the Gospel (Pennsylvania: Herald Press, 1965), p. 4.

2Tumbull. s v ‘Steardship’ by G Ernest Thomas

3Ruck Benjamin, “We are God’s stewards”, Herald of His Coming. Vol. 51, no. 6, 1992, p. 3.

4Wenger, pp. 29-30.

5Ibid., pp. 29-30

6Webley, p.p. 13-14.

7Samuel Young, Giving and Living (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1974), pp. 54-60.

8Leopold A Foullah, “Biblical Motivation and Methodology for Giving and Fund Raising”, Evangelical Ministries, vol. 6, no. 3, 1987, pp. 22-23.

9Ibiid., p.23

10Ibid., p. 24-25

11Webley, pp. 23-25

12Perry, pp. 11-12

13Ibid., p. 11-12

14Ibid., p. 13

15Ibid., p. 14

16Walten H Greever, The Work of the Lord (London: Fleming H Revell and Co., 1937), pp. 60-61

17Jay E Adams, The Pastoral Life (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1974), p. 3

18Howard Snyder, Liberating the Church (U K: Marshalls, 1983), p. 247

19Ibid., pp. 12-14

20Snyder, p. 248

21Greever, p. 55-56

22Snyder, p. 22

23Adams, pp. 15-16