A Pastor as a Shepherd

Pastors fulfill many roles, but the most important is conveyed in the meaning of the word. Pastors are called to be loving shepherds of God’s flock.

In the article “What Is a Pastor?” we describe what a pastor is and also give a list of things that a pastor does. But there is still more to the description of a pastor. There is a personal relationship that pastors are to build with the members, and a bond of trust that should be established.

Pastors as shepherds

Ephesians 4:11 lays out certain offices given in the Church, including that of pastors. The word translated “pastors” here is the Greek word poimen, meaning “a herdsman, especially a shepherd” (Thayer’s Greek Definitions).

In the Old Testament we see examples of men that God used in positions of leadership who were first trained as shepherds. Moses and King David are just two clear examples.

Moses was trained in the knowledge of Egyptian military and leadership, yet then God prepared him for leading the children of Israel by having him tend sheep for decades.

Part of David’s training to become king involved learning to be a good shepherd.

Shepherds and the Chief Shepherd

Consider the apostle Peter’s instructions to the ministry:

Jesus Christ is called the Chief Shepherd, since He is the Head of the Church and the One who loves the flock so much He laid down His life for all of us. He set the example of how to be a good shepherd.“The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Peter 5:1-4).

Here the analogy of a pastor to a shepherd—and a congregation to a flock—is clear. Jesus Christ is called the Chief Shepherd, since He is the Head of the Church and the One who loves the flock so much He laid down His life for all of us. He set the example of how to be a good shepherd.

A good shepherd doesn’t use power to forcefully control the flock. He humbly and gently leads them. He serves the sheep that are in his care. When one has gone astray, he goes after it and tries to bring it back. A good shepherd leads by example. The flock will know and recognize the shepherd’s voice (Luke 15:4; John 10:1-5).

How important is a pastor?

Instead of giving you my personal answer to that question, I sent out a survey to areas across the U.S. and asked members of congregations for their answers to this question. Their responses describe not only what pastors do, but also how important pastors are to those they serve.

One man wrote: “A pastor can at times . . . be like a dad, uncle or brother. A dear friend and confidant who can give you both a hug and a nudge to grow, who is there through life’s storms and cheering in life’s triumphs. There is a special closeness with the pastor who counsels you for baptism.”

A woman said that her pastor “has always been there for us! He has served in so many ways, not just to the whole congregation, but also to individuals. He has helped brethren move, he has worked on their homes, and has driven far to anoint. And when needed for counseling, he never turned his back.”

Another woman wrote: “A pastor leads by example! He shows me how to follow Jesus Christ and encourages me with the challenges in my life. When my pastor talks to me, he gives his undivided attention. He makes me feel valued and listens well. My pastor has gone out of his way to come to the hospital to pray for my . . . mate. His wife is modest and sets a great example. Their hospitality and genuineness are important and appreciated.”

A man said, “[The] local pastor is someone who provides guidance, instruction, direction and unification. It is extremely important that he is able to serve towards strengthening the bond of the local family (the members in the congregation) and provide an atmosphere where everyone feels as if we are all part of the family.

“[He does this by] talking with everyone, giving everyone the time and attention so that they know they’re heard, they are valued, and that they are a valuable member of the congregation. Giving everyone the opportunity to serve as well as participate in services, study and activities. Letting everyone know that no one particular duty or service is more important than the other—from the mind-set that we all have different talents, and just because one person may be physically visible in their service, doesn’t mean that another member’s hidden (not as obvious/visible) service is [not] equally important . . .

“Promoting the bonding that so many of us need to feel part of the family of God. Excellent instruction and thoughtful messages every Sabbath should not be overlooked here.

“I will always remember when our minister showed up, without us needing to ask for help, at a time when we were strapped for options . . . He offered to help in any way possible.”

Another man said, “My pastors gave us leadership and were my mentors in my Christian walk of life. As a husband and father, it was important for me to have strong leaders and pastors of moral character, pastors that I was proud to call my friends and mentors.

<p>A good shepherd doesn’t use power to forcefully control the flock. He humbly and gently leads them. He serves the sheep that are in his care.</p>

A good shepherd doesn’t use power to forcefully control the flock. He humbly and gently leads them. He serves the sheep that are in his care.

“My pastors have had a servant attitude and served with humility. Showing a great deal of compassion for people, and very forgiving, especially during times of crisis . . .

“They have given of their time with hospitality, with genuine concern when you had to meet late at night at the hospital with a sick baby, or later on in life with a young adult child that required surgery. Our pastors and their wives have shared the good times and bad times as we struggle in our physical lives and have encouraged [us] to continue on the narrow path of Christianity. They have become like our family and that makes the difference, it creates a special bond that continues to develop and mature over many years.”

Another man said that his pastor “keeps confidences, is trustworthy, and does not gossip. He is always accessible, always willing to respond in a timely manner, and puts a priority on the needs of the congregation.”

A woman said, “Our pastor has congregations that are in different states, yet he visits individual members at their homes as often as possible. He listens and really cares about what we say. I love his wife, too; she really cares as well and exhibits joy to the congregation.”

Another woman shared, “It’s very important that there’s trust and confidence [between] my pastor and myself. That I could rely on him to help light my way and take me to the road of righteousness. It’s so inspiring to hear my pastor speak with clarity, honesty, loving and encouraging. I always look forward to coming to Sabbath services to hear him speak. I can never get enough of his inspiring sermons.”

And another woman said, “What really stands out to me about our pastor is he is always rock-solid in his messages and is biblically sound, backing everything up with Scripture and not his opinion.

“What I find valuable is that our pastor provides online evening Bible studies and leadership classes that are meaningful and scripturally sound.”

As you can see by these people’s replies, it’s clear that their pastors are understanding and are trying to follow the example of what Jesus instructed Peter to do.

Jesus said “feed My lambs”

A pastor is a shepherd who is to care for the flock of God. Christ’s words to Peter in John 21 are very poignant in showing Christ’s love for the flock and His desire for Peter (and, by extension, all pastors) to lovingly care for His people:

“Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Feed My lambs’” (verse 15). Spiritually speaking, “lambs” may be young or inexperienced members. In verses 16 and 17 Jesus also said, “Tend My sheep” and, “Feed My sheep.”

Here to serve you

The Church of God, a Worldwide Association, which sponsors this website, has pastors around the world who would be happy to talk with our readers. If you would like to talk to a pastor in your area, you can find the one closest to you on our “Congregations” page. Our pastors are more than happy to serve you.

About the Author

Paul Carter

Paul Carter is pastor of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, congregations in Los Angeles and Bakersfield, California. He is a contributing writer for Life, Hope & Truth, as well as the director of two summer camps for teens and preteens in the Southwest. He is married with three wonderful children, and enjoys the outdoors including hunting, fishing, hiking and volleyball.

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