Reclaiming the Meaning of “Pastor” as Care Giver

I know hearing the word “pastor” can be a hot button for us, who have been victims of spiritual abuse. But, it is a real Bible term, and it is a real spiritual gift, as mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. Again, sadly, it is a term that has been twisted and abused to represent false, “authoritarian” leadership exerted over the Ekklesia (The Called Out, “Body of Christ”), which type of perverted authority is otherwise known as Lording.

It is time to recover the meaning of “pastor.”

Pastor (or shepherd or elder) is coupled with a teaching gift. One may have a gift for teaching but not a gift for pastoring; but if one is a pastoral gift, then he/she will also have a teaching gift. Both pastoral and teaching gifts are equipping gifts for the Ekklesia. According to Richard Jacobson’s accurate observations, these gifts are supposed to train others in the Ekklesia to do what they (the equipping gifts) do.

Not all students of the Bible agree that the pastoral equipping gift includes a teaching gift. That is a point on which many good people and students of the New Testament (NT) disagree. There is room in it to wiggle. To me, the role of nurturing the spiritually needy back to health in faith, hope and love would necessitate regular imparting of words of knowledge and understanding and wisdom to the shepherd/pastor gift by the Spirit, so that God can grant repentance to those who are spiritually trapped. The pertinent Bible verses (2 Timothy 2:25, 4:2) are clear that God requires the patient, long-enduring and gentle instruction of the pastoral/shepherding gift in certain cases, when people are their own worst enemy. So, the pastor/teacher connection is by necessity, as I see it.

Instead of a position of lording (via abusive spiritual narcissism and clutching to administrative / hierarchical control) over the flock, the true pastoral gift exemplifies and trains others in shepherding (a.k.a. care/restoration of the spiritually stuck, failing or wounded; protecting, nursing/feeding them to health), just as teachers teach and train others in teaching (Bible interpretation), etc.

Biblical data show there is always a multiplicity of elders/shepherding gifts/pastoring gifts in a genuine congregation (Acts 20; all NT letters). The pastoral gift works organically and very relationally (upon occasion or basis of an arising need in a member or members of the Body; not professionally) for the support, restoration and nurture of the spiritually needy and for the protection of the members of the Body against spiritual threats. Barnabas was a “son of consolation.” Barnabas was of a pastoral gift. They tenderly and masterfully guide those, who are knocked down or immature or deceived, toward (re)establishing a big, vibrant and healthy connection with God, The Holy Spirit, for themselves. That is what those with the pastoral gift do well by God’s Grace to them!

Other passages which mention “pastor” are:

1 Peter 5:1-5, especially v. 4, which reads, “and when the Chief/Prince of Pastors shall appear” (Douay—Rheims; this is a formal equivalence in translation, which means it is highly precise and transparent to its Greek text).

Also, most serious students of the Bible, especially of 1 Peter 5, notice that the terms elder (parent figure) and episkopos (“one who watches over”) are interchangeable with “pastor” and “shepherding” (See Acts 20:28 and Titus 1:5-9; 1 Timothy 3:1-13).

Let’s reclaim the meaning, the true nature and function of the pastoring / shepherding gift!

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