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The Shepherd: The biblical role of Pastor

The title of my message today is “The Shepherd: The Biblical role of the Pastor”. As you can imagine this is something I have been thinking a lot about over the last year.

One of the questions I am often asked is what I do for a job. And once I tell them I am a Pastor all sorts of questions arise. So what do you do during the week? Have you got another real job? Who pays you? You only work on Sunday for an hour don’t you?

One of the best descriptions of a Pastor that I have heard is comes from Canon J. John in the UK. He often travels on planes and people ask him what he does. He says he works for a global enterprise that has been around for a long time with outlets on every continent and in every city. He says we are involved in hospitals and healthcare, schools and universities, involved in food programs and helping the homeless, dealing with people from birth to death, we spend all our profits on making people better people and we are involved in long term behavioral alteration. Then when they ask what company it is, he says “The church”.

We all have our ideas what a Pastor does or what a Pastor should do. If we asked all of us we would probably say things like preach, teach, care for people, counseling, do good deeds, reach out to others, visitation, marry and bury people, give our practical help like food parcels. And we would be right.

I think it is important for us all to understand what the Bible says about a Pastor is and the role he plays in and for the church and the role the Bible calls them to be accountable for.

1. Equipping the church for the work of ministry

The first role of a Pastor is an equipping role. They are to equip the church in works of service. This is the major focus according to the Church of Christ head office.

Ephesians 4:11-13 – It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

These roles in the church are known as the four-fold ministries or the five-fold ministries depending on what church tradition you are from. Some traditions group Pastor and Teacher into one. Some separate them. These five roles are there to “prepare God’s people for works of service”.

APOSTLE: Eph. 4:11; 1 Cor. 12:28 – to be sent forth to new frontiers with the gospel, providing leadership over church bodies and maintaining authority over spiritual matters pertaining to the church.

PROPHECY: Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:10; Eph. 4:11 – to speak forth the message of God to His people. This can be one on one, to a church group in the case of someone speaking in church or through a sermon.

EVANGELISM: Eph. 4:11 – to be a messenger of the good news of the Gospel. People with the gift of evangelism are always thinking about bring people to Christ and are able to teach others how to share their faith.

PASTOR: Eph. 4:11 – to be responsible for spiritually caring for, protecting, guiding, and feeding a group of believers entrusted to one’s care.

TEACHING: Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11 – to instruct others in the Bible in a logical, systematic way so as to communicate pertinent information for true understanding and growth.

The primary ways the Pastor/Teacher equips the church is through preaching, setting a godly example in living and through things like Bible studies.

God wants us to grow and mature in our faith and He uses our own personal Bible reading and the teaching of Pastors we hear in church. I have grown so much and learnt so much from my Pastors over the years. I wouldn’t be the person who stands before you if it wasn’t for them. I am so thankful to God for them.

It is interesting to note that the word Pastor only appears once in the New Testament. However, the Greek word Poimen, is used in a number of places. In the other places it is translated as shepherd.

The primary role of the Pastor is to equip the church for the works of service.

2. Shepherding and Overseeing the church

The second role mentioned in the Bible for a Pastor is shepherding and overseeing the church.

1 Peter 5:2-4 – 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.  4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

This is the second key role of being a Pastor or Elder in the church. In most Churches of Christ, the Pastor becomes one of the Elders of the church. In our case that means Robbie, Tom, Matt P, Matt BL and myself are Elders or overseers. So, we are called by God to shepherding the flock that is under our care. So, who are the flock? Those who are connected to the church. The Greek word is the local body of believers. So, the Pastors / Elders responsibility is primarily to the church members.

As we saw earlier the Greek work for Pastor is Poimen and this can be Pastor or Shepherd.

Two other closely related words are poimano which means shepherding and poimnion which means flock.

As you can see on the screen – the Pastor/Shepherd (poimen), shepherds (poimano) the flock (poimnion).

So how does the shepherd oversee the flock and care for them? Each church is different and has different focuses. But common aspects of preaching and teaching of the Word, preparing and attending Bible studies, prayer for the church and congregation individually, spending time with people in small groups and one on one visitation, more recently connecting via social media, working with the Elders to keep the church on track.

This is the second role of the Pastor Shepherd.

Now I want to move on to some examples of good and bad shepherds.

3. Ezekiel’s example of Good and Bad Shepherds

In my Pastoral Care unit at Bible College we looked at some examples of good and bad shepherds. In Ezekiel 34 it gives us a guide to what good and bad pastoral care is.

Ezekiel was told to prophesy against the shepherds of Israel that were taking care of themselves and not the people. Ezekiel 34:1-5 are the negative examples.

Ezekiel 34:1-5 – Then this message came to me from the LORD:  2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds, the leaders of Israel. Give them this message from the Sovereign LORD: What sorrow awaits you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep?  3 You drink the milk, wear the wool, and butcher the best animals, but you let your flocks starve.  4 You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the injured. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with harshness and cruelty.  5 So My sheep have been scattered without a shepherd, and they are easy prey for any wild animal.

  • v3 – You drink the milk, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock.
  • v4 – You have not strengthened the weak, healed the sick or bound up the injured.
  • v5 – You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost.
  • v5 – You have ruled them harshly and brutally.

All in all, this is a pretty bad picture of how they were taking care of the flock. They were selfish and not doing what they were meant to be doing. You can see why God has asked Ezekiel to speak out against them.

The bad shepherds focused on themselves.

In the latter part of the chapter God says that He Himself is going to care for the people. In this He says what He is going to do. Ezekiel 34:16-22 gives us some good examples.

Ezekiel 34:16, 22 – I will search for My lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again. I will bandage the injured and strengthen the weak. … 22 So I will rescue My flock, and they will no longer be abused. I will judge between one animal of the flock and another.

  • v16 – I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.
  • v16 – I will bind up the injured.
  • v16 – I will strengthen the weak.
  • v16 – I will shepherd the flock with justice.
  • v22 – I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered.

In this simple picture of good and bad shepherds we see what God wants and expects from Pastors and shepherds. He wants them to care for, watch out for and strengthen the flock. And they are to do this with justice and a selfless motivation.

Good shepherds focus on God and others.

4. The Good Shepherd

Another great passage in the Bible that talks about shepherds and flocks in John 10.

John 10:1-16 – “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.  2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.  5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”  6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.  7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.  8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them.  9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.  10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So, when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.  13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.  14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me– 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father–and I lay down my life for the sheep.  16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

Some key things that stand out in this passage are…

  • The intimacy of the shepherd in the knowledge of the flock and how he holds them in his arms.
  • The way the shepherd calls each one by their own name. They are not just one large flock for him, but individual sheep.
  • The shepherd, unlike the thief and robber, enters the pen by the gate and not by trying to climb over the wall. He is authorised to do so.
  • The flock listens to the shepherd’s voice. They distinguish it from all other voices.
  • The shepherd leads them out of the protected area into pastures that are suitable for them – feeding them, leading them out and coming back in.
  • Jesus as we know is known as the Good Shepherd who is willing to lay down His life for His sheep.
  • The Good Shepherd is contrasted with the hired hand or temporary worker who may run away if danger comes.

I love this analogy of the shepherd and the sheep pen. The shepherd cares for his sheep and provides safety. By day he leads them to food and water and at night he takes them back to the pen. There is also aspect of inspecting the sheep as they came in at night. The shepherd would check each sheep over as it went into the pen. He would then tend to their wounds if required.

The pen was often a simple brick wall or a cave and the shepherd would sleep at the entrance. Anyone wanting to get to the sheep would have to get past the shepherd first.

To me, Jesus’ example of the Good Shepherd is the bar that all Pastors should strive for. The dot points on the screen give some great examples to follow. Of course the Pastor will lay down his life for the sheep in the same way Jesus did, but he should strive to live selflessly in service of his church.

Closing summary

So in closing, these are the two things that the Bible charges the Pastor with as their responsibility.

1. Equipping the church for the work on ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13)

2. Shepherding and overseeing the flock that is entrusted to them. (1 Peter 5:2-4)

We also looked at some examples of…

3. Good and bad shepherds (Ezekiel 34:1-5, 16-22)

  • Bad shepherds put themselves first
  • Good shepherds focused on God and others

4. The example of the Good Shepherd Jesus. (John 10:1-16)

By Dave Quinn
Founder of PASSIONAustralia.org








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