THE BOOK OF PASTORAL RULE
by Gregory the Great (c.540-604)
Back in seminary, I was required to read this classic book on Pastoral Theology in my History class with Dr. Peter Wallace. I remember reading this and many other ancient texts with great delight. The modern publisher of this book summarizes its comment about this volume by saying, “Recognized as the most thorough pastoral treatise of the patristic era, this sixth-century work by Saint Gregory the Great carefully details the duties and obligations of the clergy concerning the spiritual formation of their flock.”
Here’s my summary of Part I and Part II of this book. I hope this helps to remind us pastors and elders, and those aspiring to the work of shepherding God’s flock, that the work of ministry is a privilege God has given to those whom He called to the pastoral office to use His gift of leadership to serve His people and to glorify Him.
Part I. Concerning Qualifications for Spiritual Leader and Shepherd
1. Knowledge of the Lord and sufficient pastoral experience.
2. One who lives and practices what he learns.
3. He does not fear adversity or desire prosperity.
4. A person who is not easily distracted by 'managerial' tasks but able to focus on the main task of pastoral leadership.
5. A man of virtue who is willing to expend oneself and one's personal enrichment in order to lead and feed the flock of God.
6. He is humble to recognize his unworthiness to the office but willingly obeys when called.
7. One may willingly aspire for spiritual leadership while another may have been brought to it by compulsion.
8. While the office of a bishop or elder is a good work to be desired, one has to seek not the honor of the office but the office itself and what it entails.
9. The one who aspires for spiritual leadership should not assume that he will do well when he is into it even though he showed no virtue as a layperson.
10. Being a good example for everyone in life and piety must be a quality for the one to assume spiritual leadership.
11. Those who lack the qualities for spiritual leadership should not present themselves to it.
Part II. Concerning the Life of the Pastor
1. The life of a pastor must outshine that of his flock. He must retain a life of righteousness.
2. His thoughts must be pure so that he can reasonably deal with those who need cleansing of the heart.
3. The pastor must be exemplary in his service, not just with his words.
4. He must know when to keep silent and listen to his people and when to speak the right words to build his people up.
5. The pastor needs a delicate balance of sympathy and compassion to his neighbor and a solemn piety and intimacy with God.
6. He must be able to humble himself in the company of the good yet firm enough to confront and assert his authority over those who are delinquent in their life.
7. The pastor should not abandon his private internal life due to the demands of public external responsibilities, nor should he be overwhelmed by the needs of his private interior piety to the point of abandoning the public matters of his office. He should therefore watch himself not to be preoccupied with one at the expense of the other for both his internal piety and public responsibility are important in serving the people of God.
8. The pastor should be careful in his ministry not to seek to please others or seek their approval. His concern, however, must be to lead others to what pleases them, that is, the truth of God, that which satisfies their soul.
9. He must have the capacity to distinguish between virtue and vices in self and in others for some of the vices seem to look like virtues at first instance, but through careful consideration vices manifest themselves as they really are.
10. A good pastor must know when to rebuke and correct those who err and when to forego and forewarn those who need to be warned. He must also be able to discern when to be firm and when to be gentle in dealing with his flock.
11. By the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit, the pastor must learn to devote himself in the meditation and sacred study of the Word of God in order to gain wisdom and insight in fulfilling his office.