I have read some posts on what a pastor is and what a pastor is not. Each echoed what I have been seeing for the past several years. Here are a few observations, some based on what I’ve read, others on what I have personally observed:
- A pastor is not a proprietor.
- He is an overseer, not an overlord.
- He is to minister, not to manipulate.
- He is a caretaker, not a controller.
- He is an under-shepherd, not the owner of the flock.
- His job is to build people, not an organization.
- He is not in control
- He is not a covering
- His position is not supposed to be “professional”.
Over the centuries, the office of the pastor has become more of a position than a place of service. Many pastors have been exalted as well as other pastors have exalted themselves. People, like the Israelites wanting a king, want a leader – which is fine, as God places people in certain authorities, even within the Church. However, leadership in the Church was not meant to take on the position of a king, making all the rules and doing all the thinking for the masses. Sadly, many people want this in a pastor…someone who will not just guide them, but tell them what to do, where to go and even what God’s will is for their lives.
What do some feel qualifies a person to take on the title of pastor? I have seen many who are called “pastor”, are really no more than a talented orator (some would call this a ‘preacher’) or a teacher with certain administrative abilities. Calling someone, “pastor”, in this case, is to redefine not only the word, but the function of the office. A pastor should be able to teach, but this is not the top criteria of what makes up a pastor. Therefore, the function has become an honored title and higher ranking position, rather than a called place of service. There are even rules among some denominations concerning minimum pay for pastors. This reduces the position to nothing different than an executive position in the secular workplace – title, salary, esteem.
Many pastors, themselves, have so manipulated their position and their people that they are seen as the ultimate go-to-guy. They explain what God’s will is for individuals and even encourage their people to come to them before making any major decision (do a search for Shepherding Movement – kinda scary), convincing people that they are the “covering” for them. Some reading this will know what I am talking about, while others will find this a bit unreal. Well, I have witnessed this sort of thing, first hand – it’s plenty real. For anyone who reads this and has been convinced that their pastor is a “covering”, there is not one hint of this in scripture.
The quick definition of pastor is shepherd. A shepherd is a caretaker of a flock, not the owner. He feeds the lambs and the sheep. When we look at Psalm 23, the rod and staff are a comfort, since the rod is used to fend off enemies and the staff is used to guide the sheep and (by the hook-end) to pull them out of ditches and such. If this is a picture of our Great Shepherd, an under-shepherd would be seriously amiss to assume a role which the Lord Himself did not take on.
There are those “pastors” who use the proverbial rod and staff as a way to “discipline” people under their trust, claiming that the rod was used to “break the leg” of a wandering, wayward…a.k.a., rebellious lamb. What they consider as such could be as simple as someone who questions their decisions or actions. The “leg-breaking” could be placing an officer in the church on sabbatical, removing someone from a position, keeping someone from doing what they feel called to do, or even as far as dis-fellowshipping someone, should the alleged infraction be serious enough. The rod and staff, incidentally, were used to protect the sheep, not “discipline” them.
A pastor, as well as the other offices of ministry (Eph. 4:11-13), is supposed to equip and train. His first and foremost concern is people, especially those in his trust. He is to care for them, teach them and lead them toward maturity. For those whose call and desire is to serve, he needs to do whatever it takes to be sure they are trained and equipped for whatever area they feel called to serve in.
I am glad for the good seminaries and Bible colleges available, but not all teach what a pastor needs to know. Some of these schools are turning out well educated orators who do not care for the flock as they should. I believe that these people need to be taught and examined for two very important virtues; love and humility. All the education and oratory skill is worth nil if the possessor of such skill and training has limited (or no) love for people, and/or is more interested in securing his position than he is in raising up those in his trust.
I believe the real pastor is reasonably transparent, loves people and is humble. He should be a caretaker, not a controller. He is a man of character before he is a man of influence. He does not lead because he says he is a leader or that his office demands he is the leader – he leads because the Lord has led others to follow him. The real pastor does not see his position as something to be attained, but as a high responsibility bestowed upon them by the Lord.
Will the real pastor stand up? Likely not. He will probably have to be encouraged to stand up by those whom he has poured so much love and attention toward. He will acknowledge he is a pastor and embrace the job, but he will likely not be the first to admit he is a real pastor.