I have not done a Words Not Found in Scripture post in a while, so I decided to pull out a quick one for everyone. Today I would like to talk a little bit about the word “pastor”. In the modern Evangelical Christian Church the Pastor is basically the CEO. He runs the show, his vision is cast and the people are expected to follow. We as Christians put a lot of faith in our pastors… which is a little scary, considering the word only occurs in our English translations one time – and probably should not occur at all!
According to Merriam-Webster the word “pastor” is defined as…
A spiritual overseer; especially : a clergyman serving a local church or parish
The English word is dated to around 14th century and is used once in the entire Bible (NASB). The Greek word it is translating is ποιμην (poimen). According to BDAG ποιμην means:
- one who herds sheep, shepherd, sheep-herder
- one who serves as guardian or leader, shepherd
The Greek word actually occurs 18 times in the New Testament. The majority of those times is in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In these books the word is used to refer to actual shepherds, sometimes the word is used in a parable spoken by Jesus, and sometimes the word is used to refer to Jesus himself (as the shepherd gathering his sheep).
The word occurs three times outside of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John:
- And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers… – Ephesians 4:11
- Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant… – Hebrews 13:20
- For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. – 1 Peter 2:25
As you can see two of the three times are referring to Jesus (once as the “great” Shepherd).
What do we do with Ephesians 4:11?
I think the word in Ephesians 4:11 would be better translated as “shepherds”. Especially since it is translated as “shepherd” every other place in the New Testament. I find it interesting that Paul mentions a few types of people God has put in our lives to help equip us to serve — Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds (Pastors), and Teachers. Ephesians 4:11 is the only time that we see ποιμην being used to describe a type of Christian. Regardless, we seem to ignore several of these types and focus on the one we know (and understand) the least about — Pastors.
If pastors are the shepherds of Jesus’ church, then they should be the ones who reflect Jesus’ shepherding the most. Jesus was a far cry from the CEO’s of today’s churches.
What do you think a Christian shepherd should look like?