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Pastor, Christian

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literally a shepherd, from pastor in Latin. It may be considered the exact equivalent of ποιμήν in Greek and רֹעֶה in Hebrew. See above.

No idea has been for ages more familiar in Oriental countries than that of the shepherd as the feeder and guide of a flock. Yet the terms expressing it seem never to have been applied in the Old Testament in their figurative sense to the Jewish priests except by the later prophets, more especially Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah, whose writings have a strong Messianic tinge. Those prophets denounced terrible woes against the "brutish pastors"' who sought not the Lord, but who destroyed and scattered the sheep of his pasture. That they were also authorized to announce the glorious coming day of "the Lord our righteousness," and to promise that he should "feed his flock like a shepherd," "gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom," "seek that which was lost," "bind up that which was broken," "strengthen that which was sick," "feed them with judgment," and "be their shepherd." They also recorded God's promise, in which he said, evidently with reference to the days of the Messiah "I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding" (Jeremiah 3:15). Under the new dispensation the Lord Jesus Christ was prominently recognized as "the great Shepherd of the sheep," "the chief Shepherd," and "the Shepherd and Bishop of souls." In this character Christ portrayed himself when he said, "I am the good Shepherd and know my sheep, and am known of mine." "The: good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep" (John 10:11; John 10:14). He employed a similar idea when giving his parting injunctions to his disciples: "Feed my lambs," "Feed my sheep."

The foregoing injunctions, taken in connection with the great commission, "Go teach all nations," show at once the nature and importance of the pastoral office in Christianity. That office is a function of the Christian ministry supplementary to the preaching of the Word. In order to make full-proof of his ministry, the man of God must be both a preacher and a pastor. Preaching and the pastoral care have a common object. Nevertheless they employ somewhat different though never antagonistic mnans for its accomplishment. Their relations and correspondences will be better understood from a comparative view. Preaching is the initial work. It awakens attention, arouses conscience, proclaims the terrors of the law, offers the mercy of salvation, and persuades men to be reconciled to God. Pastoral care feeds the flock of Christ, nourishes and cherishes the lambs of his fold, gives milk to babes, and strong meat to them that are of full age. Preaching introduces the Gospel. Pastoral care establishes and perpetuates the institutions of Christianity. Preaching enlarges the area of Christian influence. Pastoral care individualizes the application and consolidates the results of pulpit labor. Pastoral care increases attendance upon preaching, and secures interested hearers. Preaching attracts hearers within the circle of pastoral influence, and pastoral care waters the seed sown in their hearts. Preaching is aggressive. It is the pioneer work of the Church. Pastoral care follows as the work of occupation. Preaching challenges attention and. awakens inquiry. Pastoral care removes doubts, settles anxieties, and imparts consolation and instruction., Preaching attacks error in its various forms, and unfolds and defends the truth of God. Pastoral care folds, watches, and guards the gathered flock. Preaching not followed, or not duly sustained by pastoral care, fails of its ultimate objects. Pastoral care, without preaching, is insufficient to accomplish the designs of a Christian Church. Churches in which preaching is neglected decline both in numbers and spirituality. Those in which preaching is depreciated, or becomes powerless, verge over into ritualistic ceremonies and profitless formalities. Churches in which pastoral care is neglected lose their organic power, and tend to dissolution. Preaching and the pastoral care are, in fact, so closely correlated, and so reciprocal to each other, that they should always be maintained in unison, and in mutual co-operation. Yet there are some particulars in which the administration of the two functions widely differs.

Preaching, in some important senses, is a universal duty, whereas the pastoral care is committed to comparatively few. All God's people may be prophets, to the extent that they may, by their lives, their example, and their influence, preach Christ, and make known the knowledge of his name and the power of his grace, thus multiplying Christian activities at every point of contact between the Church and the world. Pastoral duties cannot be thus subdivided and made diffusive. They are limited in extent of territory, and for completeness and efficiency they must necessarily focalize in an individual pastor, however he may be aided by assistant pastors or lay helpers. Not merely is a pastor to take the spiritual oversight of his flock, but also to stimulate and guide the individual efforts of its members. Into this responsibility a stranger cannot enter, however good or great as a preacher. The spirit of true Christianity always demands illustration, by private as well as public labor, for the propagation of the faith and the salvation of men. It is therefore important that such labor be under wise direction, and not wasted through circumscribed views or impulses, lacking a worthy and specific aim. As well might there be many heads to an army as many pastors for a single flock. The apostle James rebuked this error when he said, "My brethren, be not many masters." Rather should the energies of an entire flock be guided by the wisdom and zeal of a single responsible head. In this view Christian churches should not be too large, so that individual talent will be in danger of being overlooked or unemployed. When, however, by internal growth or centripetal attraction, a pastorate becomes too large for efficient superintendence or practical work, preaching, as a centrifugal force, should come to its relief by going forth with colonies to plant new centers of Church action. While in all these respects the wise pastor will encourage and guide the efforts of his people, he will not forget that he, too, is a preacher, and that, in order to make full proof of his ministry, he must personally "preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long- suffering and doctrine" (2 Timothy 4:2).

The administration of the ordinances, whether of baptism or of the Lord's Supper, is peculiarly a pastoral function, and its right discharge involves no little solicitude and personal attention to their subjects. The ordinances of Christianity are not to be administered heedlessly or by mere routine, but rather with a just discrimination as to their design and significance. Nor is the minister to act merely as a judge in discriminating character, but also as an instructor to the ignorant, a helper to the weak, a guide to the erring, and as an appointed agent, by appropriate means, to turn men from the service of Satan to the obedience of the truth and the service of God.

The exercise of the preaching office is a primary requirement of the divine call. Whoever has received that call should preach wherever hearers can be found, and whether invested with the pastoral office or not. Faithful preaching will usually, if not invariably, create the necessity of the pastoral care, but that care will not necessarily devolve on the original preacher. Many useful preachers, in fact, never accept the pastoral oversight of a flock. Some feel themselves unadapted to it. Others are prevented from engaging in it by the demands of the Church in other departments of labor. Some, from constitutional or cultivated preferences, choose to labor wholly as evangelists, while other good men may not be chosen or accepted as pastors by the people. The last remark develops a distinctive peculiarity of the pastoral office. It cannot exist, in any proper sense, without the consent of those who are embraced within its jurisdiction. There are, indeed, various ways in which the pastoral relation may be established; as, for example, by a formal compact between churches and ministers, or by the routine of a system accepted by both. In other instances the pastoral relation may be imposed by government authority or private patronage, and may have a legal and ceremonial existence, even contrary to the wishes of the people; but in no case can it be fully exemplified without the personal and cordial consent of its proper subjects. The pastoral relation, as between a minister and his people, being practically a matter of agreement, is capable of dissolution by either party. Owing to this fact. good ministers are sometimes dismissed or excluded from pastorates through misapprehension or the untowardness of circumstances. In such cases their pastoral functions may be involuntarily suspended for a longer or a shorter time, but not necessarily their duty of preaching. They may go forth and seek other fields, found other churches, and again resume pastoral relations under more favorable auspices. But if from any cause the pastoral relation should not be resumed, the preaching office, so far from being abandoned, may still be maintained, and great usefulness result from even its occasional exercise.

The ultimate rather than the primary order of pastoral labor in the Church is indicated by the New-Testament record. The whole period of our Lord's earthly ministrations was that of preparatory and missionary effort, and the pastoral office was not definitely established till near its close, while that of preaching was appointed at its beginning. It was during the last six months of Christ's public ministry that the Savior distinctly illustrated to his disciples, then somewhat prepared to understand it, his own character as the good Shepherd who was to lay down his life for the sheep. It was not till the night before his betrayal that the Savior instituted the Holy Eucharist and commanded its perpetuation in the Church, and not till after his resurrection that he gave to his disciples, through Peter, the urgent and comprehensive command, "Feed my lambs," "Feed my sheep" commands speedily and significantly followed by the great commission, "Go teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost." When our Lord sent forth his disciples on a mission of evangelization, he sent them two by two, thus indicating that in the early stages of evangelical labor a plurality of preachers is needed. In like manner the apostles, in their more important missionary tours, went not singly, but- accompanied by one or more assistants. Modern efforts for the propagation of Christianity, whether in pagan nations or in nations nominally Christian, illustrate a similar necessity for a preponderance of evangelical rather than pastoral effort up to the time when churches become established. After that, a single pastor can take the oversight of a flock that has been gathered by multiplied labors, of which preaching is usually the leading and principal agency.

While preaching is not limited to the Sabbath, yet the regular and most impressive occasions for its exercise occur on that day; whereas the most laborious duties of the pastoral office, such as pastoral visiting and the visitation of the sick, are necessarily to be performed on week-days.

Summarily stated, the chief duties of a pastor are:

1. To feed the flock of God;

2. To guide its members in the pathway of duty and holiness;

3. To guard them so far as may be possible from moral and spiritual evil of every kind.

In the discharge of these duties, not only ministerial but personal influence must be employed with the greatest diligence. In this manner only may be illustrated the design of the Savior's gift of pastors and teachers as supplementary to that of apostles and evangelists, viz. "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12). The coupling of the terms pastor and teacher together in this connection is in itself a comment on the meaning of both. It shows that the pastor is to feed his flock with intellectual and spiritual food, while as a religious teacher he is to communicate the saving knowledge of the Son of God as a means of edifying, singly and collectively, the body, of Christ. Pastors are also to be watchmen, as indicated in the apostolic injunction, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls. as they that must give account" (Hebrews 13:17). The idea of watchfulness for souls had been strikingly illustrated in connection with the prophetic office among the Jews. "I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet" (Jeremiah 6:17). "If the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand" (Ezekiel 33:6).

Paul, in the last epistle written by his inspired pen, specially enjoins watchfulness on Timothy as essential to the accomplishment of his ministerial work. "Watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry" (2 Timothy 4:5). The human mind cannot grasp a higher sense of responsibility than that with which the watchman for souls is invested. He should recognize himself and should be recognized by his flock as, in an important sense, his brother's keeper. The care of souls rests upon him as an anxiety for which he can have no relief but in their salvation. Yet how has this sacred idea been trifled with in the perfunctory discharge or habitual neglect of pastoral duties! True pastors, according to St. Paul, are made overseers of the flock of God by the Holy Ghost. Peter also enjoins the duty of oversight, not by constraint, but willingly, and thus teaches that pastoral oversight is not that of a taskmaster lording it over God's heritage, but rather that of the tenderest and most disinterested solicitude for the welfare of each member of the flock. It is the solicitude of the nurse for her charge. "We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children; so, being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you not the Gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us" (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8). The apostolic tenderness and solicitude rose higher than even that of the nurse, and became parental. "Ye know how we exhorted and comforted, and charged every one of you as a father doth his children" (1 Thessalonians 2:11). Again the same apostle says to the Corinthians, "My beloved sons, I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Jesus Christ I have begotten you through the Gospel" (1 Corinthians 4:14-15). Paul also enjoins upon Timothy filial respect towards elders in the Church, "Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him a father" (1 Timothy 5:1). Few ideas are more beautiful than that of a pastor attaining parental influence over his flock, and of his people gladly according to him parental oversight of their most sacred interests.

The Greek and Roman churches apply the term pastor to all who assume the clerical office, and in so doing indicate what the office and its possessor ought to be. Yet there is reason to think that the apostolic idea of spiritual fatherhood as an attribute of the pastoral office is less comprehended in those old and spiritually dead churches than in the living churches of Protestant countries. On the part of the people there is a greater appreciation, amounting, indeed, to a superstitious reverence for the clerical office, but on the part of the clergy, priests so-called, lax views, of spiritual experience and obligation, and still looser practice. Happy would it be if the character of the true Christian father were consistently illustrated by pastors of every name and every branch of the Church.

The pastoral office has thus far been considered in the light of a personal agency, and as such alone it is sublime. But it rises to a still-grander importance when seen to be invested with organic power. Pastors die, but the Church is immortal. Nevertheless, each true pastor, by faithful service, contributes not only to the perpetuation, but to the wider extension of the Church. A Christian shepherd takes the oversight of souls. Aggregately they form a single flock. But the flock is designed to increase in numbers, and with its growth to become divisible, forming additional flocks and founding other churches, each of which will have expansive and self- multiplying power. Individuals in the original flock and in every Church that may grow out of it may, under pastoral influence, be themselves called to the ministry, and become, in due time, the founders and pastors of other churches which shall go on multiplying to the end of time.

"So shall the bright succession run

Through all the courses of the sun."

See what glorious results have followed from the faithful ministry of the apostles, and also from the initial labors of apostolic men in the various countries of the world results which would have been impossible to individual and disconnected effort, but which flowed as legitimate consequences of evangelical and pastoral effort, working through the divinely appointed agency of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. (D.P.K.)

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Pastor, Christian'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​p/pastor-christian.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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