Words Not Found in Scripture – Pastor

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:

  1. one who herds sheep, shepherd, sheep-herder
  2. 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:

  1. And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers… – Ephesians 4:11
  2. 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
  3. 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?

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  1. Lew, the pastor is not CEO of the church… the Executive Pastor is the CEO; the Teaching Pstor is the teacher/preacher; the Administrative Pastor is the CFO; the Missions Pastor is the evangelist…

  2. Since the word “pastor” is only found once in Scripture, those who call themselves by the title “pastor” have freedom to pick and choose which passages of Scripture apply to them. (By the way, this is not necessarily an indictment on the people who are called “pastor”. Often their understanding of the term “pastor” is handed down to them.)

    For example, if there is something that is appealing, then we’ll apply that to “pastor”… like the “vision” thing of Proverbs. But, if there is something that is not appealing, then we won’t apply it… like the part about working for support like Paul in Acts 20.

    Really, its a pretty good setup.


  3. Alan,

    Yeah, it’s a pretty nice setup… which is exactly why it’s a “Word Not Found in Scripture” :)

  4. A disciple of Jesus should never be called Pastor or any religious title. The confusion comes from Paul when he wrote: That is why it says: He went up to the heights, took captives, he gave gifts to humanity. When it says, ‘he went up’, it must mean that he had gone down to the deepest levels of the earth. The one who went down is none other than the one who went up above all the heavens to fill all things. And to some, his ‘gift’ was that they should be apostles; to some prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers(Ephesians 4:8-11)Paul because he wanted to create positions of authority among his followers, he deliberately misquoted old testament scripture. For this reason you find Christians calling themselves all kinds of titles which are based on the deliberate misrepresentation of scripture by Paul. The Psalmist wrote: When you ascended on high, you took many captives; you received gifts from people, even from the rebellious, that you LORD God might dwell there.(Psalm 68:18). It was men who gave gifts to God because when Jesus takes you captive you are supposed to bear the fruits of the kingdom which are gifts to God.

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