Another of the pastor’s primary responsibilities is spiritual care for people. The word pastor actually means shepherd. A pastor cares for his people like a shepherd does for his sheep. Peter instructed pastors to “shepherd the flock of God which is among you” (1 Peter 5:2).
What does a pastor’s care for his people include? First, he cares for their spiritual growth. A good example is a man named Epaphras. He is mentioned in Colossians 4:12. Many think Epaphras was the pastor of the church in the city of Colossae.
He visited the Apostle Paul, and Paul wrote the church members in Colossae. Paul included this statement: “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.”
This tells us a few things about Epaphras. He had the people on his mind. He prayed fervently for them. And he wanted them to grow spiritually. These same things are true of a good pastor. He has his people on his mind and heart. He brings them before the Lord in prayer. And his goal for them is that they would mature in Christ and do God’s will.
Opportunities to provide care for God’s people come through the normal life of the church. A pastor interacts with his people individually before and after services, seeing how they are doing and encouraging them. He conveys his heart for their spiritual growth in the way he leads the gatherings of the church, the way he prays publicly, and applications he includes in his preaching.
A pastor will want to get to know his people. Paul described Epaphras, mentioned above, as “one of you.” Peter addressed his instructions to “the elders (pastors) among you” (1 Peter 5:1). These descriptions imply that these men spent time with their people and were not isolated from them. Part of being a pastor is getting to know the people through visits, conversations, over meals in his home or theirs, and even having fun together.
A caring pastor will use the circumstances of people’s individual lives to encourage them and help them grow spiritually. The birth of a new baby, special family occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries he’s invited to attend, graduations, and other significant milestones are opportunities to show interest and “rejoice with those who rejoice”(Romans 12:15).
He also enters people’s lives when they are hurting. He practices the “ministry of presence” when his church members are sick, having surgery, lose a loved one, or go through other difficult trials in life.
A pastor often visits people going through hard times, expressing comfort and praying with them. He encourages them to trust God for strength and to see how God is working in their lives through these difficulties.
Have you or your family been helped by a pastor’s personal ministry to you during a difficult time? If you have, you know how helpful it is to have a shepherd providing comfort, prayer, guidance, and help. It reminds you that God cares for you and has a purpose in the trial. While it isn’t always easy to walk with people through challenging times, a pastor is used of God in a great way.
If you’re thinking about being a pastor, you might want to ask your pastor if you can go with him some time when he visits people in the hospital or in their homes. You can observe how he shows care and brings comfort, and points them to God’s purpose in trials. You might find that you have a desire in your own heart to help people in the same way.