“Pastor” defined and refined: Part 3

Shepherd The word "pastor" was never actually in the Bible.  It’s not an original biblical word.  It’s actually a Latin word that now shows up in our translations.  We end up with the word "pastor" based on a Latin tradition of translating the Greek word "poimen."  Poimen is the Greek word for "shepherd."  "Pastor" orignally in Latin meant "shepherd" also.  But "pastor" in North American English generates many concepts that begin to stray away from the original meaning (like CEO, Master-Networker, General-Manager, Motivational-Speaker, Result-Producer, Attendance-Grower, Superman, etc).  None of those other things are inherantly wrong… until they become the definition of what "pastor" means. 

Consider for a moment that pastors are actually shepherds; shepherds of people.  Shepherds who lead people to Jesus and that care for God’s flock, feeding God’s sheep, protecting them, and ultimately laying down their lives for God’s people.  I’m concerned that to truly consider our current North American pastors as shepherds would force a reorientation of the structure and missions of many churches and their leaders.  Can you imagine calling Pastor Joe by the title "Shepherd Joe".  It sounds foreign!  "Associate Shepherd of Assimilation" just doesn’t sound appropriate, does it?  Nor does "Youth Shepherd."  The truth is that we have tended in recent years to avoid the humility and the lowly servant-hood of the shepherding identity of a true pastor.  I suspect that we have succumbed largely to the cultural temptation towards high-powered, presidential pastors.  And it now seems awkward to call a pastor a shepherd… even though a shepherd is what a true pastor is.

I’m convicted when Ephesians 4:11-12 is retranslated:  "It was Jesus who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be shepherds and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…"

I’m willing to experiment for a while.  Don’t call me "Pastor Ken" for a bit.  Try "Shepherd Ken."  It will probably be good for me.

(By the way, if you were a pastor who also operated as a spy for the government, then you could be called Shepherd Spy. Ha! Get it?!  Ha!) 


  1. This is real sweet shepherd Ken. (Yeah, that does feel wierd.)
    “Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
    -Mathew 20:26
    I really like that ransom word. It is so bold. I like the slave one too. Really powerful words.
    Jesus is the only one who can inspire anyone to be a slave! How profound is our Lord!
    slave marko
    Mmmm…shepherd’s pie…

  2. i just read “next reformation’s” paper through his blog regarding the emerging definition of leadership: poets, prophets and pastors…
    sounds like you two are moving in the same direction as far as clarifying the role and definition of church leadership.

  3. i think you’ve got an effective head start on researching all this so i’m just waiting for your dissertation to get published before i recommend books on the subject…

  4. Great thoughts Shepherd Paul,
    I knew we clicked brainfully! Your question is at the focus of my upcoming thesis work. I am desperately tossing around in my heart and head and prayers the probable transformations that existing congregations will need to experience in order to do God’s work in the generation to come. Any good reading or good examples that you’re aware of, Paul?

  5. thanks Shepherd Ken.
    i wonder if there is a kind of cyclical tension when the church, like the Israelites wanting a king in the OT, call a pastor to be for them that which they don’t think they can be for themselves (priesthood of believers…)?
    as well, when they call this pastor (shepherd) there may be the underlying expectation that they will indeed be a shepherd, but when they translate what “equipping the saints” means in our current culture it looks more like a CEO, Master-Networker, General-Manager, Motivational-Speaker, Result-Producer, Attendance-Grower, Superman, etc…
    the Shepherd description has become the underlying expectation, not the primary expectation of pastors, thus resulting in pastors becoming too busy with pastoring that they are unable to shepherd. in a pastor’s attempt to be relevant they forget how to be a shepherd.
    and i think you’re right about the whole reorientation idea, yet most churches see this as a major shift and those are usually not well received. thus, planting new churches has been the result of this tension most of the time.
    so, in our attempts to be culturally relevant while attempting to stay connected to a first century understanding of shepherd, can churches begin making baby steps toward a new paradigm shift in the responsibilities of their pastors?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.