What is a Pastor?

Encouragement for Your Heart and Mind from Pastor David Staff

Okay…so you can “Google” that question.  You know what?  You will get scores of articles offering many answers, often with long explanations.

He (and sometimes she) is:
  • a person with the church office of minister
  • someone with the authority to lead religious services
  • the leader of a Christian congregation
  • someone who gives advice and counsel to people from the community or congregation
  • a man who is older and experienced in the faith
  • the spiritual leader and teacher of a protestant congregation (hmmm…what is a protestant congregation?)
  • an overseer of the flock of God
  • a clergyman
  • someone responsible for spiritual nourishment
  • a preacher of the Word (who holds nothing back!)

And on goes the list.  It can be confusing.  Kinda like asking, “What is a trunk”?  (is it the back of a car, the bottom of a tree, that chest in your attic, or the front of an elephant?)

How would you define the role of serving as a pastor?

Perhaps we should consult the Bible?  What might the Spirit of God tell us?


You might be surprised to discover that the word “pastor” (as we commonly use it) does not actually occur in many English translations of the books of the Bible.  The word pastor occurs most often in the King James Version (or translation) of the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible.  In both those languages, the term is actually “shepherds.”  Pastors, then, are individuals who watch over, care for, and protect a herd of sheep or goats.
The Bible uses the metaphor of shepherding sheep to describe the work spiritual leaders do of caring for a group of people.

In the Old Testament, the prophet Jeremiah -- speaking for God, tells God’s chosen people (Israel) that the Lord gave “shepherds” for his people.  These shepherds were leaders who were to self-lessly care for God’s people, especially leading them to know God, His word, and obey Him.  They were given responsibility for nurturing God’s “vineyard” (a metaphor God used to speak of His people).  Shepherds were to be loyal to the Lord, and servant leaders of His flock.

Yet so often – too often – these shepherds (usually priests or false prophets) were unfaithful, disobedient, and used their position of leadership to ingratiate themselves, misusing their authority. Often, they faithlessly also led God’s flock to worship and serve other gods.

In the New Testament, the word “pastor” (or shepherd) is used only once.  Paul tells us that the Lord Jesus gave “gifted individuals” to lead His church (Ephesians 4:11).  “Shepherds” and “teachers” (or perhaps “shepherd-teachers”) were given to the body of Christ “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.”  Elsewhere (cf. 1 Peter 5:2), Peter exhorts those who are “elders” of churches to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you.”  Verses 1-4 describe what that shepherding should look like, and elders will be evaluated by the Chief Shepherd (or pastor) when He returns. Paul, speaking to the Ephesian church elders, exhorts them to the work of “taking care” of the flock of God selflessly and diligently (cf. Acts 20:26-35).

The work of “shepherding” God’s people may involve all the kinds of things found in the bulleted list which began this article.  But at the heart is the work of taking care of “sheep,” people who belong to God and are in the “flock” (or body) of Christ.


Pastors are to be godly shepherds, and clear-headed, spiritually mature leaders.  Thus the writer to the Hebrews says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.  Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Heb. 13:17).
This week, and through this weekend, you have the opportunity to get to know Pastor Brent Lively, a gifted shepherd who is coming to offer himself as the lead shepherd of the Free Church of Canon City.  Welcome him (and Charda his wife).  Get to know them.  Talk with them and ask questions.
And pray, both about God’s will and your decision (as a member), that the will of the Lord Jesus might be known and affirmed by our congregation.
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