What Is A Pastor?

I am in a happy mood. I wonder why? Oh, I know, I attended my church, and we had a great time of “breaking bread” together, enjoying our fellowship and spending an excellent time in worship! What could be better than that? Oh, I know!

I attend two churches, but I am only committed to one. Not only that, it dawned on me that after 29 years of living in Ann Arbor, I finally have a Pastor! Does that confuse you? Well, you are not the only one(s).

I was in a place of leadership when the Lord instructed my wife and I to move to Ann Arbor. When we got here, I received what was called a “Pastoral Leader” (whatever that was). The brother who was my Pastoral Leader did not have the insight and “discernment” and well, spiritual maturity I was hoping to have. He neither knew me nor understood the way the Lord has worked in my life.

Many times I have shared that we need to understand the roles of the various ministries the Lord has placed in the church. Paul describes this in Ephesians 4:11:

Christ gave gifts to people — he made some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to go and tell the Good News, and some to have the work of caring for the church and other to teach God’s people [apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors/shepherds, and teachers]

Hmm, that doesn’t explain it, does it? Well, let me help. A pastor is a shepherd, just like our Great Shepherd! So, in many ways, your pastor should reflect the care that Jesus provides. In Matthew 9:36 it says, “When he saw the crowds, he felt sorry for them. They were troubled and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.” So your Pastor should be “moved” when he sees the needs of the people. Luke 2:8, “Shepherds were in the fields near Bethlehem. They were taking turns watching their flock during the night.” John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”

Do you see a pattern here? A Pastor weeps over the people he oversees; they watch over the people, and are willing to “lay down their life” for the people they oversee. All of these attributes are a matter of the heart, not in their training. I love what E.M. Bounds said:

“The preacher is not a professional man; his ministry is not a profession; it is a divine institution, a divine devotion.”

John Piper confirms that analysis:

“We pastors are being killed by the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry. The mentality of the professional is not the mentality of the prophet. It is the mentality of the slave of Christ. Professionalism has nothing to do with the essence and heart of Christian ministry. The more professional we long to be, the more spiritual death we leave in our wake ….

“Our first business is to pant after God in prayer. Our business is to weep over sins…our business is to strain forward to the holiness of Christ and the prize of the upward call of God … to pummel our bodies and subdue them lest we be cast away … to deny ourselves and to take up the blood spattered cross daily.

“The aims of our ministry are eternal and spiritual. They are not shared by any of the professions. It is precisely by the failure to see this that we are dying.

“The world sets the agenda for the professional man; God sets the agenda for the spiritual man.”

I love it! In a way, Jesus is “diversifying Himself” in the Church when He allows men and women to function as he did. As one writer stated, “The role of a Pastor is to comfort the person who is discouraged, to strengthen the person who is weak, to encourage the person who has no hope, to come alongside the person who is alone, to guide the person who is lost his way, to give wisdom to the person lost in foolishness, to warn the person who is beginning to wander, to correct the person turning the wrong way, to give eyes to the person blind to God’s presence, and to physically represent God’s presence and love.”

Being a pastor is more than preaching sermons and designing programs! It recognizes the needs within the lives of those under their care. A Pastor can steer a teenager who is attracted to the world, in the right direction. A Pastor can guide the single person who is facing the death of a personal dream. A Pastor can comfort a mom who is overwhelmed with her responsibilities. A Pastor can bring support and correction to the man who is tempted to walk out of his marriage. A Pastor can instruct the little boy who has lost his father to divorce, like “Paul” to a young “Timothy.”A Pastor can comfort, encourage and pray with a woman who is living with the ravages of cancer. The same applies to that couple facing debts they cannot pay. What about the woman who just lost the man who was her companion for decades? A Pastor needs to come alongside her with prayer and comfort. I could go on and on with scenarios: hurts, grief and burdens that require the love and protection of a Pastor. But also, a Pastor, needs a Pastor! They carry a heavy weight of spiritual responsibility and should not be allowed to carry it alone. A Pastor can love others because the One they represent, never fails.


With these Morning Messages, I take you on guided tours to, as Bunyan described, the Celestial City. At times we linger at corners familiar and unseen. And explore the depths of our faith along the way.

The trail is long, but there’s no hurry. Though we do need to stock up on supplies for the way, and that’s where I need your help. If you enjoy these messages, please consider becoming a contributing member of this tour group. It will be very much appreciated.

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