What is a pastor? Part One

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What is a pastor?

The term “pastor” comes from the Latin word for shepherd. It describes the mentality and action of a person who holds the biblical office of elder in the Christian church.

The apostle Peter says, “So I exhort the elders among you... shepherd the flock of God that is among you.” (1 Peter 5:1-2) In Latin this would have read “pastor the flock of God”. This means that to pastor is to shepherd God’s people like a good shepherd cares for his master’s flock of sheep.

For the next two weeks we are going to look at six ways pastors shepherd their church. Here is the first two:

 Pastors take ownership. Shepherds take personal responsibility for the well-being of their sheep. Their entire job depends on it. They own it. As a dad, I respond very differently to the behavior and actions of my own children, as opposed to someone else’s kids. I am personally responsible for the well-being of my children. Pastors are responsible for their church and must take action accordingly.

Most of the time, this ownership is pre-emptive ownership. Pastors must assume responsibility as their church’s shepherd long before the people in the church start acknowledging them as their shepherd. Many adoptive parents function as the parents of their adopted children for years before those children start calling them “mom” and “dad.” Our Father in heaven elected us to be his children long before we started calling him “our Father.”  As a church-planter, I’ve been praying for and pastoring my people for four years, but it hasn’t been until this last year that many of them started to trust me as their pastor. It takes time, but pastors take responsibility of their people’s well-being regardless of their people’s disposition toward them in the present.

 Pastors are like dads.In many ways, shepherds are like dads to their sheep. This is where the catholic church gets the idea of calling the priest “father.” A good dad knows that his job is to raise his children to become healthy adults. The goal of every pastor is to raise the people of the church up into maturity in Christ. Kids grow up to be healthy adults when they go through proper stages of development. It is the same for Christians. So it is the job of a pastor to discern each members stage of development and to treat them accordingly. A wise pastor knows he cannot  expect a new Christian to behave like a mature Christian just like a wise dad knows he cannot expect his toddler to act like a young adult. He also knows it is problematic for a mature Christian to behave like an immature Christian just like a good dad will not accept his twenty-year-old acting like a two-year-old.  Like dads, good pastors will discern when to help, challenge, encourage, exhort, rebuke or discipline the people God has entrusted to them.

Watch next week for four more ways pastors can biblically shepherd their church.