What is a Pastor? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary a pastor is defined as a spiritual overseer. The dictionary also lists the word shepherd among the synonyms for pastor.
Now that we know what a pastor is, the question is: Do you have a pastor?
In a culture of individualism and self-sufficiency we can often reflect an attitude of, "I can take care of myself, Who needs spiritual oversight over their soul?"
People can even "Christianize" their individualism and self-sufficiency. "I have Jesus and I do not need any man to be my shepherd or spiritual overseer."
While it is true that Jesus is our Shepherd, we are not the only sheep and Jesus has appointed under shepherds (Ephesians 4:12).
The individualistic and self-sufficient person should remember that Jesus is the Shepherd of a flock, there are other sheep beside you. Too many professing Christians view their relationship with Christ as "Jesus and me."
It is true that Jesus is my Shepherd, and Christians do have a personal relationship with Him, but our personal relationship to Him influences all other relationships.
What is our personal relationship to Jesus as Christians? Is he not our Lord and Saviour? If Jesus is Lord, what does He have to say about our other relationships? What does He have to say about our need for spiritual oversight?
We should not relegate our personal relationship to Jesus to an exclusively private relationship. Like a Husband has a personal relationship with his wife and there are private matters between them, their personal relationship has implications for all their other relationships. So Christ has a personal relationship with us, and that personal relationship has implications for all our other relationships. The words of Jesus serve as a reminder of these realities: Matt 10:32-33 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. A husband will not be happy with his wife if she publicly behaves like an unmarried woman, and much less will Christ be pleased if we profess to be followers of Christ while we continue to live for ourselves at the cost of the flock.
Why would we prefer to view our relationship to Christ as limited to the personal and private? Is it maybe that we want to be the ones to answer the question: what are the implications of my relationship to Christ? Do we perhaps want to set the terms of our relation with Christ? Do we perhaps want to be in control of what can be expected and demanded of us in our life? It sounds like a wife who does not want to submit to her husband, but to do whatever pleases her. It sounds like a sheep that does not want to be shepherded.
If Jesus is our Shepherd, we must remember that we are the sheep. The sheep do not lead the shepherd, but are lead by him. The sheep know the shepherd and they follow him. Jesus said in John 10:14, "I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me."
If we look at the context of Jesus' words in John 10 as quoted above, Jesus confronts the religious leaders in Israel, by calling them "thieves and robbers" (John 10:1,8,10). These religious leaders refuse to submit to God and instead of leading God's people to submit to Him alone, they are leading God's people away from God.
Jesus calls out their hypocrisy. They pretend to be pastors and shepherds to God's people. They are religious leaders who pretend to lead people to God John 9:40-41 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains. Jesus exposes them, they know and see that Jesus is the Son of God (you say "we see"), but they refuse to stand in a right relationship to him. Their refusal to acknowledge Christ is evident in their evaluation of His miracle of healing the blind man John 9. They have cast out the blind man, John 9:34 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out. They insist upon the opposite conclusion of what Jesus set out to teach through this miracle. John 9:2-3 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. They have not concluded that God's work had been displayed through the blind man. They insist that he is a sinner and how dare he teach them!
Their refusal to acknowledge and submit to Jesus is proof that they are not really shepherds, they know the work of God but refuse to acknowledge it. They are not worshipers of God, they are "thieves and robbers."
Jesus then contrasts their behavior with that of a true shepherd. The shepherd enters through the door of the sheepfold (John 10:2). The shepherd knows the name of his sheep and calls them out (John 10:3). the shepherd goes before his sheep to lead them to the pastures (John 10:4). Every sheep is taught by Jesus to know the difference between a shepherd and a thief. When Jesus explains the meaning of this figure of speech we see that Jesus is the door (John 10:9), and every shepherd must come through Jesus to get to the sheep. Those who enter through Jesus will be saved and find pasture (food for their sheep).
From John 10 we see the very important foundation for pastoral ministry. 1) The shepherd must know Jesus and approach the sheep through Him. 2) The sheep must know Jesus and recognize the difference between their shepherd and a thief.
Jesus determines and governs the relationship between sheep and shepherd.
What then are the implications of my relationship to Christ? If Christ is Lord, I will follow his instruction. I will hear his Word. He has told me the difference between a shepherd and a thief. Today the implications of Jesus teaching in John 10 is just as relevant. Jesus is exposing the religious phonies as "thieves and robbers" and describing the behavior of a true shepherd. At the end of the Gospel of John, Jesus sends Peter out to "feed my sheep" (John 21:15,16and 17).
Will you submit to Christ by following a pastor that follows Christ? Will you submit to Christ, by becoming a disciple of Jesus teaching? Is this not part of the Great commission to "teach them to obey all that I have commanded you," (Matt 28:20). How will we teach what we do not obey?
As a pastor this gives me great comfort. I am reminded that I should not seek to gain sheep by behaving like a thief and a robber. Sheep do not like thieves and robbers. The church will be kept and shepherded by the Good Shepherd. Christ does this through the called under shepherds who come through the door.
Finally we come to our question: How well should I know my pastor? It seems like Christ is saying that Christians should know their pastor well enough to have assurance that he knows and walks with the Lord. The sheep should be concerned to follow the shepherd.
Another passage to help us and reinforce this biblical picture is Hebrews 13:7-8 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Remember means to call to mind, like the math students call to mind the math paradigms or a student of Greek remembers their paradigms. Do you know your pastor well enough to know how he lives? What is the paradigm he sets? Have you considered the outcome of his faith? Where does his way of life lead to? Does his life lead toward Christ or away from it?
Their way of life must be considered for the explicit purpose of following their faith. Imitate their faith! Not their bad habits, not their personality and not their sin. You are called to imitate their faith. People of faith are not sinless and perfect!
Hebrews 11 holds up heroes of the faith. None of them are sinless and perfect, but they are held up as examples of faith. Do not imitate their sin, imitate their faith!
It is a tremendous responsibility as a pastor to live by faith. But the responsibility of each Christian is equally tremendous! You are called to live by faith no less than your pastor.
Where the responsibility of the pastor differs from other church members, is found in Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. The pastor is called to keep watch over the souls of others. If your pastor is called to keep watch over your soul the question then becomes, how well should my pastor know me? How well does your pastor know you?