Pastors are called many things. Some people address them as reverend, preacher, or even just brother. The term pastor comes from the Latin word for shepherd. Paul used this term to describe the work of the church leaders in Ephesus (Acts 20:28). Hoping to reach Jerusalem by Pentecost, the apostle stopped at Miletus and sent for the elders of the church of Ephesus. While he did not know exactly what lay ahead, he was certain that “prison and hardships” would be in his future (v. 23).
Paul’s tone was grave because he knew he would not see these leaders again. He began by reminding them of his own pattern of life and ministry. The heart of his message was a charge to “keep watch” (v. 28). Like ordinary shepherds, pastors must act as guardians over God’s flock. The threat from false teaching can come from both outside and inside the church. Personal ambition is a major motive for false teachers that arise within the church. They “distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them” (v. 30). False teachers are often motivated by greed (v. 33). They enrich themselves at the expense of God’s people. Using language reminiscent of the prophet Samuel’s farewell address in 1 Samuel 12:1–5, Paul urged the church’s leaders to follow his example instead.
The apostle’s warning shows that one of the primary functions of the church’s leaders is to teach God’s Word. This is why 1 Timothy 3:2 says anyone who serves as an overseer must be “able to teach.”
>> In Ephesians 4:11, Paul says that pastors whose ministry is teaching are Christ’s gift to the church. Do you pray for your pastor? Pastors need wisdom from God’s Word and the courage to speak the truth. Maybe you can write a note or send an email to offer your encouragement and express appreciation for their ministry.
We invite you to use today’s passage as a reminder to pray for your pastor and ministry leaders. Jesus, thank you for raising shepherds in the church! We ask that you protect them and guide them as they lead others.