Shepherding Ministry Venue: Pastors

Is the preacher really a pastor?

We call them pastors,

but are they?


Ministry Description of a Pastor:

What a pastor is and does in the modern church often differs from or falls short of the scriptural use of the word "pastor."

Greek Word for Pastor:
        poimen = herdsman, a shepherd
                 .... one who cares for, feeds, guides, and protects the sheep

If you were to read through the pages of the New Testament, you would not find any of the church leaders called "pastors." You would locate those given the titles of apostles, elders, overseers, and deacons but no one called "pastor."

Elders are to shepherd the flock (1 Pet. 5:1-3). The word "shepherd" (Greek word 'poimaino') in the passages referring to elders is a verb, not a title or position. Their titles are distinct Greek words from the Greek word for 'pastor.'

Apart from being used of the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ, the word 'pastor' or 'shepherd' in the noun form is only used for believers in Ephesians 4:11 referring to the spiritual gift of pastor. The gift of pastor may be given to many people within a local body of believers not merely to one person in the position of "pastor."

In reality, not all people in the position of "pastor" have the gift of pastor.

  • Some in the position of "pastor" have the gift of leadership. They are the "pastors" on the cutting edge who are constantly developing new means of ministry. More than tending to the daily and routine needs of the sheep, they are mapping out ways to take the sheep to greener pastures.
  • Some in the position of "pastor" have the gift of evangelism. They are the "pastors" who are very seeker-oriented. More than building up believers they are into rescuing lost sheep.
  • Some in the position of "pastor" have the gift of administration. They are the "pastors" who tend to emphasize smooth running programs and schedules. More than relating to the sheep, they tend to look after the pasture itself, the water, and the fence to make sure everything is in good condition for the proper care of the sheep.
  • Some in the position of "pastor" have the gift of teaching or prophecy. They are the "pastors" who concentrate on good preaching. More than caring for the sheep's total well-being, they focus on feeding.

The dilemma for these "pastors" is that by gifting they do not have the ability to fulfill the complete ministry description of a shepherd yet they are called "pastors." With that title often comes the expectation of many within the body that this person do the full work of a shepherd.

Congregations must understand the spiritual
gifting of the person(s) they call "pastor."

Sometimes the total gift mix of the person in the position of pastor will enable them to do some of the shepherding work but no one person has all the spiritual gifts. Consequently, if the church is not careful to put others in place to help accomplish the full-orbed work involved in shepherding ministry, the church will tend to be out of balance, fashioning itself according to the gifting of one person, the one they call "pastor." The effects soon become evidenced in the condition of the sheep:

  • When always being moved to greener pastures with little other shepherding, the sheep may become anxious.
  • When everything is built around rescue efforts, the sheep already in the fold may feel abandoned.
  • When not getting fed sufficiently, the sheep may become anemic.
  • When constantly being warned and corrected with little nurturing, the sheep may become afraid.

The solution for churches whose "pastor" is not truly a pastor by gifting is to purposefully build a network of shepherds.

  1. First and foremost is to free up the elders of the church to do what they are biblically called to do -- to shepherd, not to merely administrate the affairs of the church (1 Pet. 5:1-3; Acts 20:28).
  2. Seek out those within the body who have the gift of pastor to be strategically and purposefully involved in shepherding members of the body.
  3. Seek out those with complimentary gifts to come along side of the person in the position of "pastor" who does not have the gift of pastor to care for the sheep in ways that person will tend to neglect.
  4. On occasion, these "pastors" must step out of their gifting and do the work of shepherding even if it is not comfortable for them.

Those in the position of "pastor" must
understand that the work of shepherding
must be done regardless of their gifting.

Remember, even if the "pastor" has the gift of pastor, caring for the total church body will be too much for one person to do it all effectively. The elders and others with appropriate gifting still need to be involved in shepherding ministry. The key is that needs are met, not that the person called "pastor" does it all.

Regardless of gifting, the "pastor" needs to keep informed about the condition of the flock to gauge what needs to be done to more effectively and more completely shepherd the flock.

The "pastor," who may also be an elder, must work cooperatively with the elders to keep aware of the varying aspects of the flock's condition. The elders may need the "pastor" to guide them in seeing needs unknown to them. The "pastor" may need the elders' reminder to be more sensitive in areas that are not within the pastor's strengths.

Knowing the condition of the flock does not require that the "pastor" tend to all the issues. It may, however, mean locating that network of shepherds who will meet the needs. And, while "pastors" should not be required to do all the work, they do need to communicate that though they may not be personally involved, they do care.

Pastors are also sheep, members of the body, with responsibilities different from the rest of the sheep. They are not the head of the body.

In talking about the church, "pastors" must be careful of using phrases like "my church." It is not their church. The sheep are not their flock. All belongs to the Chief Shepherd. Pastors and elders are His assistants. Scripture designates only one Person to be the Head of the church, Jesus Christ. Churches through the ages have divided because people have taken possession of that which only belongs to Christ. The church of Corinth was called worldly because of such attitudes (1 Cor. 3:1-11).

Hierarchical structures find their origin in the world, not in God's design for the Body. Remember that Jesus Himself said "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:25-28).

This does not mean the church is devoid of organization. Nor does it mean that the church shouldn't have people with the responsibility of leading. Effective functioning requires knowing who is responsible for the accomplishment of various tasks. People need to be held accountable for doing their part. Organization and leaders, however, are there to serve and not to control. Power corrupts. Serving brings life.

The Shepherding Ministry Manual contains this content along with some questions for further reflection and evaluation to help personalize this teaching.

You might also be interested in reading: Balancing Pastoral Duties

Share This with Others: