The word Pastor is only found once in the English translation of the New Testament, and since we are talking of pastors of the church and the church didn’t start until the New Testament, that is the most direct reference we have to the position or gifting of a pastor. That being said the same Greek word is used several other times in the New Testament, but translated primarily as shepherd and mostly in reference to Jesus. The idea of a pastor of people is also found in the Old Testament but obviously is not directly addressing the Church. The one time this word is translated as “Pastor”is in Ephesians 4 the very passage we have been discussing. So how are we to know what the actual qualities of a pastor are if it only appears in a list once in the bible. Well, we look for other passages that might have something to do with it based on what we know of the world pastor. The word pastor comes form the idea of shepherding or of a pastoral profession (i.e. livestock farming).
The two most helpful passages for our discussion are 1 Peter 5:1-3 and Acts 20:28.
1 Peter 5:1-3 states:
“Therefore, as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of the Messiah and also a participant in the glory about to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you: 2 Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but freely, according to God’s will; not for the money but eagerly; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.”
The word shepherd here comes from the same word pastor in Ephesians 4. So we see that a pastor is to care for those under his care as a shepherd would his sheep. An interesting point here in 1 Peter is that he addresses the body of elders over the church, and reminds them of their “pastoral” responsibility, not a single man. We will discuss the place of elders/deacons in a later post but understand the elders are the leaders of the church the final authority of the workings of the church and as such are responsible to see that all of the commands to the church are observed not the least of which being care and concern for the individuals that comprise the community of the church.
The second reference that is particularly helpful in understanding the qualities of a pastor is Acts 20:28 which states:
Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock that the Holy Spirit has appointed you to as overseers, to shepherd the church of God,which He purchased with His own blood.
We see the teacher aspect of the pastorship in this verse. The pastor may not be the preacher, he may not be a theologian, and he may not even be the primary teacher, but he is responsible for the spiritual teaching inside the church. The context of this verse speaks of people that will come to churches and teach things not in line with the bible that are ultimately harmful for the people of God. It is the pastor’s job to notice this and address the issue in what ever way would be necessary in the particular situation.
What these and other verses show us is that the pastor’s duties are two sided. One side is the traditional thoughts of a pastor. The compassionate care giver. The comforter in times of trouble, the chaplain, the counselor. This is the shepherd side of pastoral ministry. The pastor also has teaching responsibilities in that he will ultimately be responsible for the teachings that are propagated amongst those he pastors.
This discussion of the Pastor is likely more complex then most of us realize. However, God has designed a beautiful system for the church to share responsibilities and duties so that each person and serve where they and be most effect and passionate.
If you missed the previous posts in this series you can find them below.