Jesus is the Good Shepherd and will one day personally shepherd His flock when He returns, but for the meantime, He has placed men over His flock who are supposed to be good shepherds as well. These “pastors,” which is derived from the Latin word for “shepherd,” are ultimately measured by Jesus’ definition of a good shepherd.
Do you have a good pastor? I guess the answer to that question is based upon the measurement you use. Too often we measure our pastors by the world’s standards: how many the church baptized under his leadership, how much the attendance has grown under his leadership, how big the budget has grown under his leadership, how well he says and does what I think he should say or do. These are worldly standards, indeed.
Is there anything in the Bible that would help us gauge the quality of our pastors? Certainly there is. God never calls a person to do something without also explaining to them how to do it. That’s why the Bible is replete with objective marks to help rightly measure how well our pastors pastor.
Mark 1: A good pastor loves the Lord and the Lord’s sheep.
Every Christian is to love the Lord (Mt. 22:36-38), but the one who is to shepherd Jesus’ flock must love the sheep as well. Jesus demonstrates this truth with a negative example in John 10:12-13 of the hireling who has no concern for the sheep. A good shepherd in contrast has concern for his sheep—in fact, loves his sheep. Does your pastor love you?
Mark 2: A good pastor strives to study the word God so that he might rightly teach it.
Paul tells the young pastor Timothy to be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth, (2 Tim. 2:15). The gospel is easy to understand, but the Bible as a whole is fairly complex. It takes dedication and effort and prayer to rightly divide it. A good pastor strives to study Scripture and understand it rightly, not only because he loves the sheep and wants to feed them well, but also because he knows he’ll endure a stricter judgment because he is a teacher (James 3:1). Every pastor must strive to be a theologian! It just comes with the job. Does you pastor strive to study the Bible so that he might rightly teach it?
Mark 3: A good pastor places prayer and study as the priority of his time.
The contemporary pastor has a multitude of things draining his time and energy. However, no matter how big that list gets, prayer and study should be the priority of a good pastor. That’s why the apostles, who were the first pastors of the church, instituted the office of deacon. They wanted to free themselves up for the priority of prayer and study (Acts 6:1-4). The pastor must learn to protect and make the most of his prayer and study time, and the congregation must help him. Does your pastor place prayer and study as the priority of his time?
Mark 4: A good pastor lives an exemplary life.
A pastor isn’t called to a life that’s any different from the regular Christian other than to teaching in the church. His life is simply to be the more complete package. That’s what Paul means when he says that an overseer, which is another Bible word for pastor, is to above reproach (1 Tim. 3:2). There should be nothing present in the pastor’s life that is disgraceful, and he should be worthy of imitating. That’s exactly what Paul was calling young pastor Timothy to when he instructed him to show himself in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity an example of those who believe (1 Tim. 4:12). Does your pastor fit that description? Is he living an exemplary Christian life worthy of imitating?
Mark 5: A good pastor feeds the sheep faithfully and abundantly.
In the wake of Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, Peter was essentially the lead pastor of the New Testament church. In fact, Jesus had told him that He was going to build His church upon Peter (Mt. 16:18). After Peter’s triple denial of knowing Jesus on the night of Jesus’ betrayal, Jesus sought to reinstate Peter after His resurrection. Three times Jesus asked Peter if Peter loved Him, and three times Peter said that he did. But also, Jesus followed up each affirmation with a commandment to feed Jesus’ sheep (John 21:15-17). As the first pastor of the church, this was Peter’s job and is now the job of every pastor. Pastors must feed the sheep, and a good pastor does so faithfully and abundantly. He brings substantive messages from God’s Word week in and week out and doesn’t simply give the sheep what they want to hear (2 Tim. 4:3). He’s not just a preacher, but a Bible preacher. Does your pastor faithfully and abundantly feed you from the Word of God?
Mark 6: A good pastor corrects wayward sheep.
I’ve never shepherded actual sheep, but word is that they tend to stray from the flock. A good shepherd goes after those wayward sheep and corrects them. The same is true for the metaphorical shepherd with his metaphorical flock. Paul captures this mark when he tells young pastor Timothy to preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction (2 Tim. 4:2). No good pastor likes to the task of reproving, rebuking, and exhorting, but every good pastor does it. Does your pastor correct wayward sheep?
Mark 7: A good pastor commits himself to the sheep long-term.
Jesus says that the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep while the hireling runs at the sign of trouble (John 10:11-13) or when greener pastures are spotted elsewhere. The average tenure of Mainline Protestant pastors is only four years. Evangelical pastors do a bit better with an average tenure of seven years. Nevertheless, those averages mean that many pastors stay for much shorter times, looking for something less troublesome and greener.
I have a friend who pastors a church that has shown itself to be very difficult. In its 122-year history, it’s had 48 pastors, which is an average of getting a new pastor every two and a half years. On several occasions, the lay leadership tried to run my friend off, but he is committed to the flock there. Certainly there was greener grass. Certainly the wolf was howling outside the sheepfold. However, he stuck it out. Finally, in a moment of frustration, one of the lay leaders said to him, “God would have to kill you to get you to leave.” The man didn’t mean that as a compliment, but I believe it certainly was one because Jesus said that good shepherds lay down their life for the sheep. My friend showed his commitment to his sheep. In fact, he’s now doubled the average pastoral tenure of his church. Is your pastor committed long-term to your church?
Mark 8: A good pastor searches for Jesus’ sheep.
Jesus has sheep out there that have not yet come into His fold. They’ve not trusted Christ yet, but they are already His sheep and will in time trust Him as Savior (John 6:37; 10:16). A good pastor searches for these sheep, which is the work of evangelism. Indeed, Paul tells young pastor Timothy to do the work of an evangelist (2 Tim 4:5), meaning that he should personally take the gospel to every person and equip others to do the same. Does your pastor do the work of an evangelist, searching for Jesus’ sheep?
After looking at these marks, do you have a good pastor? Which ones are his strengths? Which ones are his weaknesses? Encourage him in his strengths, and pray for and fill up his weaknesses. STOP USING THE WORLD’S STANDARDS TO MEASURE YOUR PASTORS! May you be a channel of blessing so that your shepherd will be made better!