This post is part of a series looking at Fivefold Ministry. This post focuses what the office of a pastor is in the Bible and considers the role they should play in the church. You can find links to the rest of the series at the end of this post.
For many of us, ‘pastor’ is a synonym for ‘church leader’. But scripture doesn’t use it this way; as I wrote elsewhere, those responsible for leading churches are called ‘elders’. ‘Pastor’ and ‘elder’ are not synonyms, and although there could well be some role overlap they are definitely two different roles. So what is a pastor in the Bible?
What is a pastor?
The word ‘pastor’ (Greek poimēn) means ‘shepherd’. We can define the pastoral ministry as ‘cultivating Kingdom character and community through coaching, counselling, and care’. For a shepherd, pastoring involves watching, herding and tending to the sheep. It means being mindful of their needs and fears, whilst doing what is best for them even if they do not understand it. It is much more than just reacting to expressions of desire. Biblical pastoring ultimately seeks to empower people to grow in maturity as a disciple of Christ.
How does the office of pastor serve a church?
The pastor will serve a church broadly in a number of ways:
- Resourcing the church inwards towards one another
- Cultivating a shepherding heart
- Developing compassionate guides
- Promoting spiritual maturing
- Championing family connection
- Guarding the people
- Facilitating wholeness
- Developing communal inclusion
Developing compassionate guides
The first role of the pastor, in line with the mandate of the Ephesians 4 fivefold ministries, is in identifying, developing, and deploying pastoral gifts in others. They will disciple others and help them grow in their ability to love, care for, guide and shepherd others within the church.
Promoting spiritual maturing
As we’ve seen, pastors are shepherds. Their goal is to see increased Christlikeness and sanctification as a result of this pastoral culture. A healthy church values pastoral care and has a shepherding heart. This leads to the people in the church becoming more mature spiritually, breaking off sin and strongholds, growing in their security and identity, and being able to feed themselves and others. Pastors guide others in their journey of spiritual formation.
Championing family connection
As the family of God, believers are meant to live interdependently with one another. The pastor helps connect and maintain loving, godly relationships between people and makes sure that in the busyness of church life and ministry focus, people are not forgotten or overlooked. Reconciling and bringing people together is built around the concept of family, with us all being brothers and sisters, sharing Christ as our elder brother.
Guarding the people
This has two forms – guarding the people from destructive outsiders (‘wolves) and guarding the people from one another (‘goats’ or misbehaving sheep!) God’s community is made up of imperfect people who make mistakes, so there are times where the pastor needs to intervene, correct, admonish, rebuke, challenge or even discipline behaviour and attitudes that are detrimental to the community as a whole.
This covers a wide range of things, from the individual – such as prayer for healing, practical care for the sick, counselling, inner healing, and deliverance, to the corporate, such as mediating disputes. The pastor seeks health and wholeness for all, in the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of being. Biblical wholeness – shalom – is a holistic concept, meaning we have peace in our inner world as well as towards our outer world. This creates the perfect platform for people to discover who they are in God, and what He is calling them to.
Developing communal inclusion
The pastor helps champion connections between people, so all are known. Facilitating friendships is key, as is ensuring all are welcome and united. The church should be diverse and include people of all kinds – classes, genders, ethnicities, statuses. There should be openness to all, and favouritism for none.
The Office of Pastor amongst the Fivefold
We’ve seen how pastors work within a local church, but how do they impact other fivefold cultures?
- A pastor partners with an apostle by reminding them that not only are their people in the mission, but prioritising people because they ARE the mission.
- A pastor partners with prophets by helping keep them attuned to the flock and peoples sensitivities, helping the church grasp and lean into the prophetic promises and revelation so they can practically access them.
- A pastor partners with evangelists by championing discipleship, reminding them that discipleship is the goal of evangelism and not just conversion.
- A pastor partners with teachers by communicating the needs of the sheep, connecting them to the needs of the people and helping them apply scripture to their lives.
Without a healthy pastoral influence that brings compassion and love to move people forward in spiritual maturity, the church becomes inward-looking, needs-focused and takes its eyes off mission. People will not mature and grow the way they are intended to.
The Office of the Pastor: Summary
The office of the pastor exists to ensure the church is spiritually mature, healthy and whole. Without that mentality, the church will be full of broken, hurting and vulnerable people and ineffective in its mission.
Jesus is the good shepherd who not only lays down his life for his sheep but bought them into the family of God. He showed concern for people and was moved by compassion. Mercy and kindness were hallmarks of His life. These traits are embodied by the ministry of the pastor in the Bible.
You can read fuller descriptions about each fivefold ministry definition, and resulting cultures they create, in the following posts:
- Fivefold ministry: what it is and why it matters
- What are the signs that help us recognise a fivefold minister?
- What about apostles?
- What about prophets?
- What about evangelists?
- What about pastors?
- What about teachers?
- Fivefold ministry and church government
- Cultivating APEST Leadership
Each fivefold ministry is essential for any healthy, mature church. Do you know how strong your church in each of them? Are you strong in some, and weak in others? Do you know why? How did you test to see? To help churches like yours answer these questions and discover their fivefold health, I designed a FREE Fivefold ministry test for churches.
To find out more, and take the Fivefold Ministry test, click HERE.