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What are Pastors for?

HomeChristianity and the BibleWhat are Pastors for?

The New Testament describes different roles for church leaders. Here’s Ephesians 4:11-13:

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

What is a Pastor?

When Paul wrote Ephesians 4, he used the word poimenas. We translate that Greek word as “pastor.” Think of a pasture, where a shepherd takes care of a flock of sheep. Pasture… pastor. The word literally means a “shepherd,” or a “herdsman.” In a metaphorical sense, it’s someone who leads a group of people.

This isn’t a unique idea. In Matthew 9, Jesus felt compassion for the crowds because they were like sheep without a shepherd. In John 10, Jesus calls Himself ‘the good shepherd.’ In Hebrews 10, Jesus is called the ‘great shepherd’ who God brought back from the dead. In 1 Peter 2, Jesus is ‘the shepherd and overseer of your souls.’

So: a pastor, in the context of Ephesians 4, is one who shepherds Christians. Not every Christian everywhere, but those Christians who lived in their area and gathered together for worship, study, and encouragement.

What is a Pastor For?

Let’s look again at Ephesians 4 and see what we can learn:

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

This passage not only explains why Jesus gave us pastors, it also explains what we – those who are pastored – are to become. We’re to be like Jesus, and it’s the pastor’s job to lead us there. We should seek to be equipped for service, which creates unity and knowledge and maturity, which makes us like Jesus.

Good Pastors

From this passage, we learn what a good pastor is like. It doesn’t include everything that makes a good pastor, but every good pastor will be doing at least this much. If your pastor is not specifically equipping you for works of service, you should go and ask them for help. If your pastor is unwilling to help equip you for works of service – or to delegate that to another responsible leader in your congregation – then you need another pastor.

Yes, that sounds a little harsh. Yes, that’s exactly what we should learn from this passage. Jesus gave us pastors for these reasons, and that’s what pastors should be focusing on. Yes, most of them need to do other things, like visiting the sick, preparing quality lessons, and more. A lot of their time may be consumed by board meetings, and financial responsibilities… but none of these are why Jesus gave us pastors. Pastors are to equip the people to become more like Jesus. If they don’t, they’re not doing their job.

Bad Pastors

Not every pastor who isn’t equipping the people is a bad pastor. If your pastor isn’t currently equipping the people for service, it may be that they haven’t been taught properly. That’s not uncommon. We should always be kind and gracious toward our brothers and sisters, and pastors should be considered family… but that doesn’t mean we have no expectations for them.

There are, however, bad pastors out there. What do I mean by “bad pastors”? I don’t mean that they’re bad people. I mean that they’re bad at their job. Imagine an airline pilot who refuses to fly a plane, or an auto mechanic who won’t fix cars. They may be nice, and friendly, and generous, and compassionate… but they’re bad at their jobs.

Pastors don’t fall into a special category, where nobody gets to ask whether they’re doing their job properly. They’re people, and most of them get paid to shepherd. If they’re not doing the job Jesus sent them to do, they either need to get busy doing it or they need to be replaced by someone who will. If your pastor has no interest in equipping the people in your congregation for works of service, which helps them mature and makes them more like Jesus, then one of two things needs to happen:

It’s really that simple. No, that’s not an excuse to stop going to church. It means that you need to go out and FIND a pastor who will willingly do what Jesus has called them to do. Yes, that may be difficult. No, that’s no excuse.

However

Keep in mind that YOU also represent Jesus to those around you. Don’t run right over to your church and challenge the pastor, especially in front of others. Make sure you handle yourself in ways that honor God. If you can’t do that, fix yourself first. If you take Ephesians 4 to your pastor, do it humbly and ask what opportunities for this kind of equipping are available to you. If there are opportunities, prayerfully get involved in them. If not, ask whether opportunities might be available in the near future.

Pray for your pastor. It’s a tough job, and most pastors are somewhat insecure about doing their job well, and most get a lot of criticism already. Be a team player, not a traitor. Ask your “coach” for opportunities to be in the game. If you know what kinds of service might be a good fit for you, ask whether you can help in that way… like going with the pastor on hospital visits, or serving the children, or cooking meals for the sick, and so on. Don’t demand that the pastor be the one to personally train you, either. Your goal is to be equipped, not to dictate which leader equips you.

It’s Awesome

Take a peek at another passage from Ephesians:

We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

Speaking from personal experience, it’s really really great to be equipped for service. When you’re doing the things that God has prepared for you to do, it may be hard… but it’s wonderful, energizing, inspiring, and fulfilling. Very little in this life thrills me more than being able to serve in ways that match my personality, my experience, my interests, and my gifting. When you find your niche in the kingdom, you will find that same satisfaction for yourself.

Let me know if I can help.


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