Who is Your Pastor?
It's a simple question, really. Who is your pastor? But the answer is rarely as simple as the question because you likely have multiple pastors in your life. And I don't mean people who file taxes with the occupation of "pastor."
The Bible lays out two official offices for the New Testament church--Elder/Pastor and deacon. This isn't a theological treatise on why I believe Elder and Pastor are interchangeable terms, but suffice it to say they are, and you are free to disagree with me.
Deacons are the servants of the church. In Acts, they are designated to serve food to the widows. Later in the New Testament, Paul writes to his trainees, Tim and Titus, to hammer out some qualifications and job descriptions for them as they start new churches. When you compare the qualifications of deacons and elders, you notice that there are a few things missing from the deacon list that make the cut of the elder list.
Deacons don't have to have the ability to teach. They are not commanded to manage God's church. They can be new converts. And their title literally designates a servant who is action-oriented rather than an overseer who is spiritually minded. That's not to say deacons are not important because almost no ministry would function, let alone thrive, without Godly men and women who desire to serve the church in tangible ways. But they aren't elders/pastors.
Paul also delineates some pretty significant character traits and job responsibilities to elders/pastors, and THAT'S where the question comes in. Who in your life meets these qualifications? Because although your church may have one pastor or 50 pastors. There is a high probability that someone is pastoring you without the title. It might be your group leader, a mentor, a teammate on Sundays, or just a friend. But we all have people who function in this role in our lives that don't hold the title.
I want to give some markers for you to check and see who fits the bill and then give you a warning. So let's get into it.
Your Pastor Teaches
One of the clearest ways to see who your pastor is, is to ask the question, who are you learning about God from? Often this happens on Sunday on a stage or behind a pulpit. But it can also happen in Sunday School, at dinner, or just around town. Whose thoughts about God do you take seriously? I don't really give a second thought to TikTok theologians, but I carefully consider my friend Jacob's thoughts because he holds that type of role in my life. Your pastor should deeply care about the gospel and its implications in your life.
Your Pastor Cares
The title "Pastor" doesn't mean great speaker. It doesn't mean excellent ministry strategist. It doesn't even mean paid staff. It translates to "shepherd," and if you use it as a verb, it means "to feed." The main job of a pastor is to tend to the flock--aka you! Who checks in on how you're doing with God? Who asks what you're reading in your Bible or how you're taking the next step with Him? Again, this typically comes with teaching, but many times it just means listening and being available. If your life goes sideways, who makes it into the top 5 "I need to call them" list?
Your Pastor Has Character
Do you know who I don't want fixing my car? Someone who rides a bike. Do you know who I don't want to lead me toward God? Someone who is going the other way. The reason Paul spends so much time telling Timothy and Titus about the character the pastors must have is because ministry might look different in each context, but godliness doesn't. Being a good person who is slow to anger, not a drunk, faithful to their spouse, self-controlled, and respectable are fairly universal. So who is someone you admire? When you think of the person you want your character to be like, who comes to mind? Who is well-spoken of by others? Whose family do you want your family to emulate?
Using the Bible and those summations above, you might have a few pastors in your life. And that is a good thing. No one person can be the sole spiritual provider for you other than Jesus, and even he designated the church to carry that out. So now comes the warning.
There are many people who will want to be your pastor but should not be.
The Bible calls them wolves in sheep's clothing, but a lot of times, they look like people who love Jesus but shouldn't be in a position of power in your life. Now don't get me wrong, there are straight-up heretics who want to shipwreck your faith, but more often than not, I see people trusting others who should not be trusted. It's people whose faith looks good on the outside but has some deeply rooted issues underneath. They may have just gone through a serious incident and need time to recover, but instead, jump back into leadership. It might be people who are hiding something due to fear. It might be people that meet all those qualifications, but you don't trust them. All of those are good reasons to restrict access to your spiritual life. You need to be extremely wise in who you let influence your faith.