If you ask believers what they think about the purpose of a pastor you will get many different answers. Some churches see the pastor as someone who is called by God to lead the congregation. Others see pastors as nothing more than hired hands to do a job under the direction of a board or committee. However, if one were to take even a summary look at the purpose of a pastor, they might be surprised. Because of the differing opinions, there is something to consider about the purpose of a pastor.
What is a pastor?
As surprising as it may seem, many people are confused about what is a pastor. This often may be because their church does not have a pastor. Instead they may have elders or bishops or even no pastor at all. Although the roles and qualifications of elders and bishops are often used interchangeably with pastors in the Bible, the word pastor has a slightly different meaning (1 Timothy 3: 1-7; Titus 1:6-9; 1 Peter 5:1-4).
The first mention of a pastor is found in Jeremiah 2:8 when the Lord told Jeremiah to go and chastise the Israelite people (Jeremiah 2:8). The Lord mentioned priests, scribes, pastors, and prophets as pursuing heathen gods. Likewise, in several other places, pastors were admonished because they did not do what they were called to do by God (Jeremiah 10:21; Jeremiah 12:10-13; Jeremiah 23:1-2).
Although God admonished these pastors, He also said what He would do for the flock of believers who suffered or participated in and supported the deeds of these pastors. He challenged them to acknowledge their sin and turn back to God and God would bless them with new pastors (Jeremiah 3:12-15; Jeremiah 23:3-5).
These new pastors are described as men (1 Timothy 3:1-7) who would have the heart of the Lord and will feed the flock with knowledge and understanding. He will feed and care for the flock so that they will be fruitful and increase. Because of the loving care of their pastor, they will not be afraid, nor dismayed, and they will have all that they need (Jeremiah 23:2-4).
When you look at the Hebrew word for pastor in the Bible, it literally means to tend a flock, pasture it, or graze it. It is most often translated into the English words “feed” or “shepherd” along with pastor, herdsman, and other words lesser times. Likewise, the Greek word for pastor found once in the New Testament is most often translated as shepherd or Shepherd. It is also found translated once as pastor in Ephesians 4:11 (1).
What is the role model of a pastor?
Since a pastor is most often described as a shepherd, Psalms 23 is a good example for pastors to model as Christ is the Chief Shepherd (Isaiah 40:9-11; Ezekiel 34; John 10:1-18; Hebrews 13:18-21; 1 Peter 2:21-25; 1 Peter 5:1-4). This is reinforced in Acts 20:17-32 when Paul charged the elders at Ephesus to continue the work he had done. He challenged them as follows:
- He challenged them to listen to what he says about preaching all of the Word of God without holding back
- He challenged them to continue to watch over their own lives as well as the lives of the flock
- He challenged them to oversee the flock by the gifting and power of the Holy Spirit
- He challenged them to feed the church of God with the discipleship in the Word and learning to live like Christ
- He challenged them to remember that they were purchased with the blood of Christ
- He challenged them to watch out for those who would come into the flock like wolves and teach perversion in an effort to get people to follow them
- He challenged them to become emotionally invested and dedicated to pray and warn everyone with tears
When you consider all of these things, a pastor is a man who is to be an under-shepherd of Jesus Christ to the people whom God has put under his care and authority (Hebrews 13:7; Hebrews 13:17). He is to love his flock as Christ loved the church so that the flock is inspired to be like Christ (1 John 4:19).
Finally, a pastor is not a man to be ruled over by committees and boards like a simple employee, yet will value the advice and guidance of the same. He will seek to fulfill the role of a pastor because Christ inspires him to do so, not as a hired hand who flees the sheep when the wolves come in (John 10:11-13). Simply stated, the role of a pastor is to be like Christ in His love while inspiring the flock to love Christ and one another.
Resources – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, King James Version. (1) Strong, James. Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary. Austin, TX: WORDsearch Corp., 2007. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.