And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding, Jeremiah 3:15.
Among the many English words used by the Holy Ghost to interpret the words of God into English is the word "pastor". It never shows up in the bible until Jeremiah uses it 8 times. It is never used again except for one time when the Apostle Paul uses Jeremiah's word to explain one of the gifts that God gives to men. To understand that word we need to look at a couple of things that made Jeremiah unique.
Jeremiah began his ministrations to Israel after the first third of King Josiah's reign. It was a time of promise and seeming revival. I call it Josiah's revival and see it as distinguished by its thoroughness and its zeal. It was a revival given reluctantly by God and it was cut off when Josiah misunderstood his mandate. Nevertheless Josiah would not turn his face from him, but disguised himself, that he might fight with him, and hearkened not unto the words of Necho from the mouth of God, and came to fight in the valley of Megiddo, 2nd Chronicles 35:22. In King David's time or in Jehoshaphat's time, God would never have allowed a Gentile King to have so traversed Israel. The sins of Manasseh changed all that. God spoke through a Gentile to Josiah and he didn't discern it as being of God.
The prophecy given to Josiah was that he would die in peace. Behold, I will gather thee to thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace, neither shall thine eyes see all the evil that I will bring upon this place, and upon the inhabitants of the same. So they brought the king word again, 2nd chronicles 34:28. Josiah died in peace in two senses. He was a peace with God which considering the history of the kings was quite a feat. Secondly, the chaos and war the engulfed Jerusalem started immediately after he died.
I think that Jeremiah had a hard time with that. Years later he was to say; O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived: thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me. For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily. Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay. For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side. Report, say they, and we will report it. All my familiars watched for my halting, saying, Peradventure he will be enticed, and we shall prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him. But the LORD is with me as a mighty terrible one: therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail: they shall be greatly ashamed; for they shall not prosper: their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten, Jeremiah 20:7-11. Jeremiah lived in difficult times of transition.
Jeremiah wrote the Book of Lamentations after Josiah's death, not when Nebuchadnezzar sacked the city as is commonly supposed. And Jeremiah lamented for Josiah: and all the singing men and the singing women spake of Josiah in their lamentations to this day, and made them an ordinance in Israel: and, behold, they are written in the lamentations, 2nd Chronicles 35:25. The Lamentations are prophetic of the sacking of Jerusalem and later times, but they date from Necho's conquest.
The temple was stripped of its glory during Jeremiah's ministry which overlapped with Ezekiel's visions. Then the glory of the LORD departed from off the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubims. And the cherubims lifted up their wings, and mounted up from the earth in my sight: when they went out, the wheels also were beside them, and every one stood at the door of the east gate of the LORD'S house; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above, Ezekiel 10: 18,19. Jeremiah's ministry was similar to the Apostle Paul's ministry in that he ministered in a time when the Nation of Israel was stripped of its secular power, stripped of the power of the law (Her gates are sunk into the ground; he hath destroyed and broken her bars: her king and her princes are among the Gentiles: the law is no more; her prophets also find no vision from the LORD, Lamentations 2:9.) When the false Jews of Paul's day sought to bring the emptiness of the covenants that they themselves had defiled and rendered worthless, Paul quoted the Philistine leaders who were confronted by Israel seeking to hide behind the Arc which they themselves had dishonored. As the Philistine leaders had told their men; Be strong, and quit yourselves like men, O ye Philistines, that ye be not servants unto the Hebrews, as they have been to you: quit yourselves like men, and fight, 1st Samuel 4:9. Even so the Apostle Paul was to tell the Corinthians, Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong, 1st Corinthians 16:13.
What word can we use to describe those leaders of the people who for either ill or good lead the people, but do not occupy the traditional roles of the established Kingdom of Judah because those roles were made void by the hand of God? Jeremiah called them pastors. Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD, Jeremiah 23:1. For some odd reason scholars try to discern the meaning of the word through translation analysis when in reality the context of the usage pretty well gives it away. They are scattering flocks of sheep from the pastures of God. Do I really need to spend years in a classroom studying Hebrew to understand that they are shepherds? Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness, Jeremiah 12:10. Do I need to trudge through endless lexicons to see that they are husbandmen?
The priests said not, Where is the LORD? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit, Jeremiah 2:8. Do we need to go any farther than this verse to see that the pastors are something apart from priests and prophets? A pastor could be a dual role as in the case of Jeremiah. As for me, I have not hastened from being a pastor to follow thee: neither have I desired the woeful day; thou knowest: that which came out of my lips was right before thee, Jeremiah 17:16. When God wanted Jeremiah to prophesy, he did not cease being a pastor.
Almost all of my friends who are evangelists have heard me beseech them to take a church. They are good men. They are like the Americans who fought in Vietnam. Good men fighting a bad plan. They occupy a village for a weekend. Everyone swears loyalty and pays up their taxes. They count the bodies to report their success. They leave on Monday and the Viet Cong slip back in and run things until next year's visitation. It is the formula for defeat. God bless a man like Sammy Allen who has pastored a church since 1960 and yet preached 50 weeks out of every year since then as an evangelist. He is almost always back in his church every Sunday to lead his flock. Jeremiah filled two roles, he was a pastor, but he did not hasten from being so to follow God. My friends have done so, and it is hastening the destruction of this nation.
A good pastor is a gift from God. And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding, Jeremiah 3:15. This is where the Apostle Paul borrows the term from Jeremiah. He lists the gifts that Jesus Christ gave unto men when he resurrected from the dead. And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers, Ephesians 4:11. So often that verse is misread. It is errantly read to mean that God gave some men the gift of being apostles, some men were given the gift of being prophets and so on. That is not what it says. By reading it that way they stumble over the pastor and teacher combination.
Paul is telling us that if you study the Book of Acts you will see that God sent apostles to some men. That was the gift for those men. Peter or James or John came to them. To some men he sent prophets such as Agabus. To some men he sent evangelists such as Phillip. To most men he sends pastors and teachers. This is really part of the formula for the Baptist Church. They are two distinct different gifts given to men. The word pastor is often interchanged with the word bishop, but that is an error.
When the Apostle Paul described the two great offices of the church, he used the terms Bishop and Deacon. Pastor is not a church office though a man should never be a bishop who cannot be a pastor. A bishop is to be a seasoned leader who is apt to teach and can rule the church having proven himself in his lifestyle, his years of service and his ability to teach. Our modern church constitutions and bylaws call this office a pastor, but God does not. God calls him a bishop, but every qualification that he is supposed to have compels him to be a pastor.
I am the bishop of the Black Creek Baptist Church. Under God, I execute executive authority for the good or ill of my church. I am a pastor to my people, but I am not the only pastor. We have two men who have been ordained bishops of Baptist churches, myself and Pastor Roger Hain who in perfect Holy Ghost harmony exercises his gifts as a gift to my people. He retired after pastoring a church for 39 ½ years. In God's good grace to us, he gave him as a gift to us to co-labor with me.
We have another man, Dale Morey who because he has three living women with whom he has shared holy matrimony, it is not the practice of this ministry to ordain him as a bishop or a deacon. He ministers to the prisoners of Western New York. He counsels in our church. He teaches classes and he fills pulpits. To those men and women who weep while he preaches to them of the grace of God given to such a sinner as himself, and who receive his letters and other visitations, he is the only pastor they know. If the Pharisees were to forbid those people from calling him such, the very rocks and stones would call it out. He does not exercise executive authority in the church under any bible office.
What then is the difference between a pastor and a teacher. A teacher teaches. So does a pastor. A pastor goes farther than just teaching. He guides a flock. He chooses teaching material. A teacher is responsible for what he teaches. A pastor organizes who teaches, what is taught, and watches the flock to see to it that they are properly fed. Such a combination of men is truly a gift from God to men. Both Jeremiah and Paul tell us that in Jeremiah 3:15 and Ephesians 4:11. For the sake of bible accuracy, do not confound the words pastor and bishop. Bishop is a bible office. A pastor is a gift to men. They may be one and the same man in many cases, and certainly every bishop should be a pastor, but every pastor need not be a bishop, yet he needs to be under the authority of a bishop. That's how God runs his church.