Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pastors: an endangered species

Psalm 95:7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

John 10: 1-6  “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
- Crossway Bibles (2011-02-09). The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition. 

Several years ago after my mother-in-law died, I was honored to speak at her church in Culver City, California representing our family. Her pastor was a real pastor, and was present in the hospital with her when she died. I was able to thank him being there for her. In this, I also commented that today we have many preachers, but few pastors. I thank God my mother-in-law had a pastor.

Years ago my aunt was suffering from cancer, and near the end fell into a coma from the painkillers she had to take. Her pastor came to the hospital room while she was in the coma, and family and friends gathered around her as he read from the Bible and prayed. It was very moving. He knew my aunt personally, and I later found out he had lost his wife to cancer some years before. So, this was something he had been through, as well. Another pastor had come to the hospital room the day before, but he did not know my aunt or any of the family and friends gathered there. His intentions were good, and I appreciated him coming to see her and be there for us. However, the personal touch was absent because he did not know her well.

I have known many a "pastor" who was like this. They work very, very hard, putting in long hours most every day of the week. However, they do not know their church members personally. These "pastors" are there when a crisis occurs and are available for council and comfort, but they are not well known by their people.

Most clergy I know are preachers, builders, managers, and some are scholars, but few are pastors. A pastor is one who shepherds a people. As the above passages from Psalms and the Gospel of John note, pastors know their sheep by hand, the sheep know their shepherd by his voice. Pastoring is personal, while preaching, building, and managing are all personal at best only to a few in the church who work with the pastor in these endeavors.

Tonight my wife and I were talking about pastors, and something came to me: pastoring does not begin with a crisis. You see my mother-in-law's pastor was already shepherding her. He knew her personally and was involved in her life. My aunt's pastor likewise knew her personally before she was diagnosed with cancer. Then when the crisis hit, they were their as a shepherd in the mode of the Shepherd, Jesus. He is the true shepherd.

Like I noted above, we have many preachers. We also have many builders, managers, and some scholars. Yet, we have few pastors. They are an endangered species.


  1. Rob,

    Thank you for your thoughts. I am teaching a course on Pastoring at a Seminary in Costa Rica. Could I use your article to present to the class? I think it represents well what we are talking about and the direction that I am steering them towards.


  2. would enjoy posting this on our church website.
    Thank you,
    Dr. Bill Taylor