A Pastor – What Is He?
Pastors are very much like electric light bulbs. Just about everybody has them; few really comprehend how they work; once in awhile you break one completely; and whenever they are connected to the right outside power source, they are able to provide significant light and understanding. What exactly are these strange entities who show up at critical times in our lives? They often materialize when there is a wedding, a funeral, a sickness, a serious personal problem. They work one day a week in the morning and often, though absent, provide the conversation for Sunday lunch.
Four words to identify a pastor appear in the New Testament; and each term, like a DNA molecule, assists us to grasp his purpose. First, he is a minister. That word is the Greek term diakonos, usually translated “deacon” and referring to the second of two officers assigned by Christ to care for the needs of His church. Actually, diakonosis one of the descriptive words for a slave and most often references a slave who is a table waiter. The vital point is that whoever is referenced is not a lofty, exalted director but a servant, meeting the needs of people.
A servant he may be, but the commodity that he serves to his guests is the invaluable Word of God. While the position of the pastor may be that of a lowly servant, the asset that he serves is nothing less than the Word of God. Consequently, while he is a servant, he is to be honored as though he were an aged servant and is therefore called an elder or in Greek a presbuteros. Out of recognition and appreciation, a senior citizen is accorded a level of reverence and a dignity not available to all. As an “elder,” the pastor is granted that same recognition. To treat a pastor as some have been targeted is shameful.
The pastor is also the bishop, a vivid Greek word episkopos, meaning literally “to see above.” The pastor is the overseer of the church, a term pointing not only to his administrative assignment but also to his vision casting. A pastor without a great vision for what his church will achieve will surely accomplish his goal and do very little. The staff belongs to the bishop in the service of the assembly. All humans respond to the one who hires, supervises, and, if necessary, releases those individuals. As such, the bishop must be fair and just, but he must be the bishop.
Finally, and most crucially, the spiritual leader is the pastor. He is not the senior pastor, not the executive pastor, nor the teaching pastor. He is the pastor. The word is poimén, and the meaning is “shepherd.” The sheep need a shepherd who takes them to food and drink, who protects them from predators, who is spiritual physician to their hurts, and who presides over the birth of new lambs. Herein is the heart of the work of the man called of God to this task. Feeding the flock, caring for the flock, and the evangelistic task of increasing the flock – these above all else are the pastor’s assignments.
In 1 Peter 5:1-4 these last three words are used together to describe the work of the pastor. They are synonyms in that they reference one and the same individual. But as has been emphasized here, each word shares a distinct observation about the work of the pastor. Baptists have been correct across the years when using the word pastor as a primary term describing the work of God’s spiritual leader for His people. As pastor, he is God’s “anointed” (1 Chronicles 16:22); and under no circumstances is the congregation to lift a hand against him. If there is sin in a pastor’s life, a specific approach is given to handle the problem (1 Timothy 5:19-20). Otherwise, the pastor who labors in the Word is worthy of double honor (1 Timothy 5:17-18).
Walking one day through the streets of Prague in the Czech Republic during the days when Marxism ruled, in the middle of the square I discovered the statue of John Hus of Bohemia towering over the visiting throngs with his Bible open, preaching the Word of God. Forbidden to preach further in the pulpit of the cathedral, Hus repaired to Bethlehem Chapel, where multitudes assembled at services on Sunday and throughout the week to hear an anointed preacher proclaim the Word of God. Preaching God’s Word was the ultimate duty of the pastor. As the case will always be, the hungry come by the hundreds to hear a sure word from God. Remember, pastors do many things, but nothing is as important as feeding the sheep on God’s Word.