What is a Pastor?


The word pastor means shepherd. I am a pastor and have been for over 30 years. Sometimes when you do something for a long time you have to be reminded of the basics.  We can get lost in detail or repetition and we lost sight of the goal.  We can move from being pastors to being survivors, or salesmen, or self promoters.  We can be in business for ourselves.  But we are shepherds under The Shepherd.

I was taking a day off walk through a near by natural area, and a thought I’d scribbled on  a post it note the previous week reappeared in my mind.  I’d written down “lost sheep, potential shepherds and the lost”. So as my walk turned into a sort of prayer walk and meditation, I began to think about this.

As a Pastor I am a shepherd.  What does that mean?

Practically I have no actual sheep, but I deal with people.

In the Bible the word Pastor means shepherd and there is a lot on that theme.  Moses and David were shepherds before their calling to be leaders.  The Prophets sometimes spoke of the false shepherds in Israel who led the people into danger.  Jesus called himself a true shepherd. Psalm 23 is a loved psalm because we need the Lord to be our Shepherd.

So I have come to this description of a pastor:

  • Feed the Flock – go read John 10 where Jesus speaks of himself as the shepherd and then John 21 where he called Peter to “feed my sheep.”  Pastors feed by teaching, preaching, praying, guarding and training the gathered believers.  We care for the sheep who belong to someone else.
  • Find the Strays – Luke 15 has three stories of lost things that were found, the lost coin and the lost son are in there, but the first is the story of the shepherd who left the flock (regular attenders) to go find the lost one from the flock (a stray).  So we need to find those who are off in the bushes and invite them back into fellowship with the Lord and his people.
  • Welcome the Lost – Jesus used two metaphors to describe the mission of the church in Matthew 9.  After Matthew summarizes Jesus ministry in v.35 as teaching, preaching and healing, he spoke of the crowds of outsiders as sheep without a shepherd.  Then he switched from shepherds to harvesters, that God would send workers into the harvest.  Pastors should find ways to reach out to the outsiders.  They are not enemies, and even if they are, “while we were enemies, Christ died for us.”
  • Maintain the Pen – I’d like to stop at the first three, but there are practical matters.  Sheep would lived in walled in areas, pens.  We pastors have some practical structures to deal with like buildings, budgets and boards.  These can not be neglected, but a building, a budget and a board without the people would be nothing at all.

If this is so, then I can summarize my work simply.  As a pastor I am to:

  • Feed the Flock
  • Find the Strays
  • Welcome the Lost
  • Maintain the Pen.



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