A pastor is the head minister or priest of a Christian church. Pastor comes from the Greek word "poimen" (Strongs 4166) meaning shepherd, as used in Ephesians 4:11, “And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers”. From a New Testament perspective, these five "gifts" to a local church are designed to help and support all congregants on the road of life. Therefore, in a modern context, the term is often used to denote one who gives spiritual guidance and counsel, as opposed to the leader of a worship service.
Many Protestant denominations use pastor as a title (e.g. Pastor Smith) or as a job title (e.g. Senior Pastor, Pastor of Worship, Children's Pastor, meaning the church leader in charge of those areas). This usage is particularly common among denominations that believe in the priesthood of all believers and therefore reject the use of the term priest for their leaders. Such denominations include the Mennonites, Presbyterians and Reformed tradition churches, and Baptists.
Shaping the way people view both the "pastorate" and the "laity," begins with shaping the way people see a biblical foundation for the work of the pastor. Therefore, clearly making a distinction between the formal work of the pastor and the role of pastoral work is an important delineation. Simply completing a prescribed course of study in a religious educational institution does not produce a pastor. It will produce a potential member of the clergy, however the a pastoral life exceeds the work of leading worship or other ministerial responsibilities. The underlying life of the minister is what the Apostle Paul presents in the text above and the associate internal commitment to the fundamental values of personal sojourn, prayer, proclamation and interaction with others.
Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican churches typically refer to their leaders as priests, although the term "pastor" is used. In a Catholic parish big enough to have more than one priest, only one bears the title of pastor, and he is the head of the parish.
- Catholic Encyclopedia article 'Pastor'
- Teaching on the origins of the word Pastor and on what it means to be a pastor
- College Course Captures essential characteristics that transcend denominational distinctives