There are four characteristics of a good pastor. To understand how these four describe a pastor we need to know what a pastor really is. The word that is used in the New Testament we get pastor from is the Greek word "poimen", which means to shepherd. However, there is a more direct translation into English from Latin (spelled the same way). To put it into clarification, it is one chosen by God to guide His people and watch over them spiritually, such as a shepherd does with sheep.
There are two types of pastors or shepherds. There is the preacher/teacher who is hired as the giver of the Word every Sunday morning to a local congregation. He is a spiritual leader. He feeds the sheep the Word of God. And there is an elder. An elder is also a spiritual leader but also needs to run the affairs of the church. He sheperds by making sure things going on in the congregation is sound, biblical, and correct in doctrine. An elder also has different titles that he can go by: bishop, overseer, episkopo, presbyter, even congregational leader. They all mean the same thing, i.e., shepherd.
A common mistake by too many churches is that they say the preacher is an elder. And that is not necessarily accurate. A preacher can be an elder but doesn't have to be one and is not automatically one. Or to sum it up: an elder is a always a preacher, but a preacher is not always an elder. The scripture that people will distort for this view is 1 Timothy 5:17
- The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.
Somehow the words pastor and preacher became the same word and excluded elder and that would not be completely accurate. That is not what this passage is saying. It is saying that some preachers will come from the eldership. Not all elders preach. But one who does preaching is especially worthy of a high honor. Too many times churches that are small or ones with weak leadership allow the "pastor" or even claim the "pastor" to be the chairman of the elders when in actuality the "pastor" is only the preacher and is also under the authority of the elders.
Pastors (both types) are visionaries. They see the way a church can grow and be lead. But they present their ideas to the eldership. The eldership should pray about it and see if the vision is from God or from man. Too many times the visions come from man and his own ideas and that causes pride. It becomes his project instead of God's. So with this in mind let's look at what a good pastor does (in this case, this is referring to both types of pastors).
- Preaches Christ-centered sermons. 2 Corinthians 4:5 says that when we preach so to speak, we should do so not to uplift ourselves but to spread the word that Jesus is the Christ. If a pastor preaches about how well the church does all the time and what it stands for then that pastor is not fulfilling his job. If a church is doing well, it doesn't needed to be patted on the back. It is supposed to be doing good things. What the pastor should do is always have a sermon that makes Christ the center of all things. That doesn't mean that once on a while they can talk about problems we all face but they still need to make sure that Christ is somewhere in the lesson. Some pastors (preachers, ministers) spend too much time on just prophetic messages or financial freedom. These are fine to talk about but too many focus on those things.
- Shepherds the flock with a tender heart. If you take Jeremiah 3:15, Ezekiel 34:23 and Acts 20:28 it is easy to understand this. Acts says it clearly that we need to watch out for ourselves and for all the flock in which the Holy Spirit has placed us over as overseer. Be shepherds. But when they do lead as Jeremiah says, they should do so with understanding and knowledge. In other words they shouldn't be judgemental and/or harsh when they are pastoring. They need to lead such as a shepherd does with his flock. He doesn't whip the sheep, he gently nudges them back into the herd.
- Watches over people and keeps them accountable. Hebrews 13:17 says that leaders need to be obeyed because they watch over us in a spiritual way. And we need to be careful for them as well because they will be held accountable for us. Too many times people leave the church due to some situation, whether it be a physical, emotional, or spiritual problem that has risen. But even worse, when a spiritual matter arises and the pastor does nothing about it and the person leaves then bad blood, if you will, has been spilled and no one cleaned it up. If it is a spiritual matter then it is the job of a pastor to clean it up. If it is a emotional problem, then it is someone with the gift of counseling to intervene. If it is a physical problem, then most of the time it is the problem of that individual and nothing really can be done.
- Teaches and gently instructs. 2 Timothy 2:25 says that if someone is hurt or needs help that we should teach them (or oppose them) gently. Because the person may have gone through a lot to get to where they are at and if they see a spiritual leader take them down just like the world did then what separates us from the rest of the world? A pastor needs to be able to take some of the heat yet not dish any of the heat out.
So in essence a pastor needs to be a spiritual example that leads with compassion, understanding and knowledge. He needs to be tough yet gentle in his ways. The ego needs to be checked yet the vision needs to be explored. He does not have to come from a Bible Seminary but has to be God-lead. He is a spiritual leader but not the spiritual leader.