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What is a pastor? Eph 4:11 says, "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers." So we see that "pastor" is not just the shepherd of a local flock; it is also one of the five-fold offices of Christ and is of the same governmental importance as apostle or prophet.
We know the Lord cares very much about each one of His sheep. Matthew 18:12-14 makes this very clear. Jesus said He cares about each individual sheep, not just about the flock overall. When one is lost or hurting, Jesus gives it the individual attention it needs. Jesus said He was the "good shepherd" in John 10:11,14-15. He is the good shepherd Whom His sheep know personally and Who would lay down His life for His sheep. This is the mantle of Jesus and this is the role model for those God appoints in the office of pastor. God gives pastors to the Body of Christ to care for individual sheep.
Somewhere along the line, people got the idea that teacher/preacher and pastor are synonyms. This is not really the case. A person does not have to be a good teacher or a good preacher to be a good pastor. (Of course, those things are nice to be good at since in most of our services, the pastor spends part of it teaching or preaching. The reason that came about is because the training and equipping is part of what a pastor does to care for the sheep in his/her flock. Apostle Paul helped train and raise up a young pastor by the name of Timothy. He gave Timothy instructions on how to pastor in 1 Timothy 4. Among those instructions is to teach God's truths and teach good doctrine (verses 2-7), raise the flock up in godliness (verse 8), to command (lead) in verse 11, to teach (also verse 11). Then he goes on in verses 13 through 16 to say:
"Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save yourself and your hearers."
We see from this that a pastor trains and teaches his flock. He has to help them understand scripture so they don't fall into false doctrine. He also operates in his spiritual giftings.
But that is not all a pastor does. He also needs to pastor the flock, help and minister to people as per John 10:11,14-15. Jesus talked about the shepherd laying down His life for the flock. Many pastors do that. They put their personal goals, ambitions, hopes and desires aside for the good of the flock. Many pastors take a smaller salary than they would get working a secular job and live a simpler lifestyle so they can minister to those God has committed to their care. Jesus is their role model. He laid down His life for the flock.
There is another thing about Jesus as a role model. He said, "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me" (John 10:14). This is personal relationship. And just as Jesus was in personal relationship with His followers, so the pastor is to be in personal relationship with his "flock." He is to know them personally, to speak into their lives, to comfort and strengthen them, to be there for them in times of crisis, etc.
Note that a shepherd does not "herd" his flock; he leads it. In other words, he does not sit and issue edicts of how a person should behave; he models and demonstrates it in his own life. A pastor leads by example. As he follows Christ, his flock follows him. 1 Peter 5:2-4 tells the pastor to, "Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away."
In our modern society, the role of pastor is not just a five-fold office appointed by Jesus, it is also a "job." People train for this job by going to Bible college and then seminary (graduate school for ministers). Then they are interviewed by churches and "hired" to pastor a local congregation. Some denominations assign pastors to congregations without giving the congregation a say in who their pastor is. Other denominations allow the local congregation to interview/select their own pastor. Sadly, the process of selecting a pastor is sometimes driven more by "credentials" (Bible college or seminary) than it is about the call and anointing of God on the person's life. Some people who are pastors are not appointed by God in the "office of pastor" to care for the flock. Some are merely trained workers looking for a paying job. (I am sure your pastor is not like that. But sadly, there are a few out there who are. This is because modern society has secularized the process by which pastors are trained and appointed. It can become more about schooling and less about God's call of their lives.)
I went to Fuller Theological Seminary for a season. This seminary turns out a lot of pastors, as well as missionaries, evangelists, teachers and even Christian psychologists. I was in the Master of Divinity program - many denominations require that pastors have a Master of Divinity degree. I had many classmates who were in seminary because they planned to be pastors. Many were excellent candidates for this, with the call and anointing of God on their lives. But not all the people in this program were there because God called them to be. And some of them had very poor interpersonal and communication skills. Some had their own deep issues and were in desperate need of inner healing - they needed to be ministered to rather than being able to minister to someone else. These people were good scholars and did well at academia, even though they were not doing so well in their personal walk with God. These "good students" got pushed through the program, graduated and took jobs as pastors. They were hired because of their academic degrees. They had been through the academic system, but had not really been equipped to care for people, to interact with them, to be effective pastors.
The problem is that "pastor" is a job as well as an office of God. Ideally, a person is called of God and hired into a paying job as pastor. It does not always work that way. Some pastors are called of God and function in a pastoring role, but are not paid for it. They have to take a secular job to pay the bills so they can do what God called them to do. Others are in the "job" and being paid, but were never called of God to be there. These people do not have the mantle, the gifting and anointing, to be effective in caring for their flock. In short, some people get into pastoring for the wrong reason.
And occasionally abuses arise out of that mismatch between profession and call of God. I have heard horror stories of pastoral abuse that can all be traced to the same root problem - the person acting as the pastor of the church was not called/gifted by God as a pastor. Some were excellent teachers, some where powerful healers or evangelists. But they were people who act as pastors but were not called by God to pastor a flock and as a result their sheep were not being adequately cared for.
Fortunately, the problems/abuses are the exception rather than the general rule. Most pastors are there because God called and gifted them to be there. (Really, the pastoring job has a lot more drawbacks than perks, so most people whom God has not called as a pastor don't want to serve as a pastor.) Most pastors do a great job caring for, loving, training and equipping their congregations and are sacrificially laying down their lives to serve the Lord. That brings me to my next topic, which is the price tag people in the five-fold office of pastor pay, for there are many "costs" associated with being a pastor. We will talk about those costs in our next two lessons.