If your pastor does not:
- know your name
- know your story
- know the consistent struggles you face
- know the dynamics of your marriage
- notice when something is up with you
- spend time in your home and vice versa
- know and play with your kids
- make themselves accessible to you, for example…
- have your cell # in his phone and his in yours
- spend enough time with you for you to know that he meets the Biblical qualifications of an elder
- be a great teacher
- encourage, challenge or inspire you
- exemplify great leadership qualities
- say things from the pulpit you need to hear
- counsel you during a time of crisis
but they are not:
- a practical shepherd in your life
- keeping watch over your soul
- able to give account for you
- bearing your burdens
- effectively and consistently pastoring you
I’m sorry—they are not your pastor. It’s not possible that they can shepherd you if they don’t really even know you, or you them. I am not putting down the necessity of the gift of teaching. It is critical for the life of a healthy church. Rather, I offer the perspective that operating in a teaching gift/ministry alone does not mean you are shepherding people God has entrusted to your care.
If you are a pastor and think you and are shepherding more than, say, ten people—I don’t believe that’s actually possible. You can’t be in close enough relationship to provide real spiritual care to that many. (I chose the number ten somewhat arbitrarily, but this metric has been informally confirmed in conversations I’ve had with numerous current/former pastors.)
This is why I believe the apostles set up churches to be cared for by a plurality of elders who can share the honor of discipleship, shepherding, teaching, protecting, counseling, guarding, exhorting, and building up the Body into the one Head of the church: Christ and Christ alone.
It’s the great safeguard against burnout or overwork in the church—the spiritual labor is distributed among so many that the yoke is easy. The Body practically operates by what each joint supplies. The “body” concept from Scripture transitions from metaphor to reality. Abstract to practical. Ethereal to obvious.
And finally, I don’t know where the idea of someone being “your pastor” comes from anyway. Nobody refers to someone as “their apostle” or “their evangelist”. But if there is someone who is your pastor, it’s probably not somebody on the platform, but someone who pulls you aside after a gathering or calls you on Tuesday to check in with you about a spiritual battle they know you are facing. That is what a shepherd does.