The word pastor is translated from the Greek poimen, which means “a shepherd.” Jesus is the great Shepherd of the flock. He said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…” (John 10:11-18).
The apostle Peter talked about spiritual shepherding when he wrote: “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder…. Shepherd the flock of God which is among you serving as overseers…and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Peter 5:1).
Also, in Acts 20, we read that Paul “sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church” (ch. 20:17). He instructed them, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (ch. 20:28).
From these verses in 1 Peter 5 and Acts 20, we learn that the “elders” of the church were the ones instructed to “shepherd” or “oversee” the flock.
Regarding pastors, Paul wrote, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11). The apostles spoke of two phases of one office for an effective ministry. This includes that of both pastor and teacher. Therefore, the pastoral function of the ministry is presented in John 21:16; Acts 20:28, 29; 1 Peter 5:2, 3; etc. The teaching aspect is then presented in Acts 13:1; Rom. 12:7; 1 Tim. 3:2, etc. Jesus was the great pastor-teacher. The disciples followed in His steps. Therefore, the word pastor includes aspects to that of teacher.
In addition, the term “bishop” is also linked to the terms “elder” and “shepherd” (or pastor). In Titus 1:5, the apostle Paul explained to Titus, “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you.” The word translated “elders” comes from the Greek word presbuteros. This word is often used to describe a spiritual office held by those who shepherded the church.
He added, “For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God” (Titus 1:7). Thus, we can learn that a pastor (shepherd) was similar to that of an “elder” and this office was that of a spiritual overseer of a local church.
Also, in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Paul gives a list of qualifications similar to the one found in Titus. But he begins the list by stating, “A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife…” (3:2). The term “bishop” comes from the Greek word episkopos which means “overseer.
Thus, we can see that the term “pastor” originated from the biblical discussion of spiritual leaders in God’s church. The New Testament uses the terms “pastors,” “elders,” “shepherds,” “overseers,” and “bishops” to speak of somewhat a similar spiritual office. The word pastor is a term for one who leads in God’s church. May God send His people good pastors for His flock.
“And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3:15).
In His service,