I have been in pastoral ministry for nearly 18 years. I started my role as a pastor in youth ministry. I worked part-time at a church and then had a full-time job in the marketplace selling steel and managing projects while in seminary. I learned early that students like adults wanted to be shepherded and not be managed by a boss. I believe most people would prefer shepherding over management.
Leadership theories are numerous and often complicated to navigate. A person can study Servant-Leadership, Transformational models, or even Hersey-Blanchard’s perspective on Contingent Leadership. Leadership theories are important, and one should explore their helpful insights. There is a wealth of good models for a church or non-profit organization to consider.
However, for the nature of this blog post, I like to direct the reader’s attention to the variously ascribed names that the Pastor-Leader is often assigned. The clergy has various names attached: reverend, minister, rabbi, priest, rector, vicar, or even brother.
The Use of the Word Pastor
In Ephesians 4:11, we have the designation of the pastor/leader/person. The role of the leader is to shepherd and teach. Scholars mostly agree that the term Pastor-Teacher is referred to the elder worthy of double honor (1 Timothy 5:17), and therefore, denotes the plurality of elders leading in shepherding and teaching (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9).
The word pastor has a rich background, for in Latin the word pascere means “to put to pasture or to feed.” The word has a slightly modified difference in the Greek New Testament. The word poimen is a word that describes a shepherd or one who tends herds or flocks.
The word shepherd appears several times in the New Testament: Matthew 9:36; 25:32; Mark 6:34; Luke 2:8, 15, 18, 20; and John 10:2, 12. The word describes the person who has the care and concern for a group of individuals even as a shepherd cares for the sheep.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Being a Pastor
Now there are signs of a good shepherd and there are also signs of the bad or ugliness of a pastor. Most search committees are evaluating the traits of leadership, calling, and personal holiness. I remember interviewing for a pastoral job and having to fill out several pages of devotional practices that I normally and routinely practiced. The church wanted to know if I was spiritually ready to pastor. I might have felt it was overkill, but looking back, I think it was a strong assessment tool.
In Ezekiel 34, God has an assessment tool that He marks out. He has a harsh word of judgment and of condemnation for shepherds of Israel that abuse, obstruct justice, and do not tend to the sheep’s needs. Ezekiel gives several negative descriptors of Israel’s shepherds.
8 Signs That You Are a Bad Shepherd
- The false shepherds fed themselves upon the sheep (v. 2).
- They clothed themselves (v. 3).
- They slaughtered the sheep (v. 3b).
- They did not strengthen the sick (v. 4).
- They did not heal the afflicted (v. 4).
- They did not bind up the broken (v. 4).
- They did not seek the lost (v. 4).
- They dominated them (v. 4).
The shepherds lacked servitude and services to the sheep. They were dictatorial and ill-fitted leaders.
16 Blessings of a Good Shepherd
In verses 9 and 10, Ezekiel gives several intended actions of the Lord. They are powerful words planned to attempt to solve a severe leadership problem. God tells Ezekiel His intentions. God says what He is going to do in response to this ill-fitted leader. I have broken the text into sixteen blessings that every leader should seek to follow.
- He will search for the sheep (v. 11).
- He will show care for them (v. 12a).
- God will deliver His Sheep from harm (v. 12b).
- He will bring the Sheep to their land (v. 13).
- He will feed them (vv. 13b-14).
- He will lead them to rest (v. 15).
- He will seek the lost (v. 16).
- He will bind up the broken (v. 16).
- He will strengthen the sick (v. 16).
- He will deliver them from oppression (vv. 22, 27c).
- He will set a new shepherd over them (v. 23).
- He will be their God (v. 27).
- He will make a covenant with them (v. 25).
- He will make them a blessing (v. 26).
- He will establish them (v. 29).
- He will make them secure with Him (v. 31).
God’s assessment of the false shepherds and their care for the sheep are thoroughly examined and identified. His feelings are very clear, concise, and He intends to act.
The New Testament Description of a Shepherd
The New Testament describes Jesus in John 10:11 as the Good Shepherd (John is most likely reviewing the Ezekiel passage to his audience). The Good Shepherd is the one who lays His life down for them, and He is the Great Shepherd of the flock (Hebrews 13:20). Not only is He the Great Shepherd, but He is also the Chief Shepherd, who will come for the sheep (1 Peter 5:4).
Jesus depicts himself as the Good Shepherd, who knows His sheep. The sheep know Jesus (John 10:14). He has a heart for the lost and will not be satisfied until they are also in the fold (John 10:16).
In 1 Peter 5:2-4, we are given instructions on how the shepherd is to respond and how the shepherd is not to respond. First of all, the shepherd is to seek volunteers willingly. Secondly, the shepherd is to have an eager mind to serve. Finally, the shepherd is to be an example (Greek: tupoi) as one who leaves his stamp or seal on the people. Conversely, the shepherd is not to force or coerce people into serving nor to be driven toward materials or to aspire to a position of ascent. Shepherds are servants at heart.
Biblical Roles for the Shepherd-Leader
The Scriptures provide the church several ways that a pastor fulfills the role of eldership. You may want to pull out your Bible and possibly underline the verses for future reference. Or perhaps, you may want to commit the verse to Bible memory. I have provided you the Scripture as I believe it is sufficient to stand alone for each of the roles a pastor fulfills in the church.
- The role of prophet (2 Timothy 4:2): “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.”
- The role of priest (2 Corinthians 5:20): “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Verse 18 says: “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
- The role of pastor (1 Peter 5:2): “Shepherd [pastor] the flock of God among you, not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God.”
- The role of teacher (2 Timothy 2:24): “And the Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged.” 1 Timothy 4:11 tells us: “Prescribe and teach these things.”
- The role of an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5): “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardships, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
To God Be the Glory! I pray that our churches will find humbled and valiant shepherds leading the flock with courage and biblical authority. Do not merely serve for gain, but serve because Christ acted as an example to follow.