In this series, I’m going to discuss various biblical terms that are often misused or misunderstood because of the way we use the English terms today. In other words, we often read our modern day definitions into scriptural words. This is not a valid way to understand Scripture.
For example, consider the English word “pastor”. As a noun, the Greek term that is translated “pastor” (Ï€Î¿Î¹Î¼Î®Î½ – poimÄ“n) usually refers to Jesus. Only once in the New Testament does it refer to someone other than Jesus (Ephesians 4:11). This noun refers to someone who takes care of sheep. The Greek verb (Ï€Î¿Î¹Î¼Î±Î¯Î½Ï‰ - poimainÅ) usually refers to the work of an actually shepherd. At least twice it refers metaphorically to the work of church leaders (Acts 20:28, 1 Peter 5:2).
In the metaphorical uses, this word group always refers to caring for people. It is not used as a title, but as a function. However, today, the church often uses the term “Pastor” to refer to an official position in the church – much like we use the word “Minister” from yesterday’s post. Likewise, when we read the word “pastor” or “shepherd” in Scripture, we often read this modern definition into the meaning of the Scripture.
For example, wiktionary gives the following definitions for “pastor”:
Pastor: The minister or priest of a Christian church.
Recently, I heard from a man who referred to himself as a “Pastor”. The church referred to him as “Pastor” as well. The man said that he loves to study Scripture and teach, but he doesn’t like caring for people. However, when he read Acts 20:28 or 1 Peter 5:2, he thought that it referred to him because he was a “Pastor”.
If someone refers to himself as “Pastor”, but does not care for people, then that person is not a “pastor” and is not “shepherding” in the scriptural sense. Even if the church gives someone the title of “Pastor”, if that person is not caring for people, then the person is not a “pastor” in the meaning of Scripture.
The person may be a great person. He or she may be a terrific teacher. But, that does not make the person a “pastor”. But, of course, if someone is giving the title “Pastor”, they naturally read Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:2 as referring to them. Again, this is an example of reading a modern meaning of the word “Pastor” back into Scripture illegitimately. This means that we are not understanding Scripture the way the original authors (and God!) intended for us to understand it.