You can’t describe the full spectrum of pastoral ministry with one single word. It’s impossible. But I think you can do it with one hyphenated word: servant-leader.
In the Scriptures and in church history there is an astounding record of men who have led the church. These are bold, passionate men who have led both the local church and the church at large with vision and a committed zeal. They were often misunderstood at the time, but history has exonerated them.
The church MUST have leaders like this! We desperately need men who are willing to speak truth even in the face of opposition. We desperately need leaders who have a passion for carrying the timeless truths of God’s Word into the future. We desperately need pastors who boldly lead their churches into a fuller realization of disciple-making.
But if history shows us good leaders, it also shows us “leaders” who were little more than self-centered narcissists intent upon using others to broaden their own fame. That’s why it’s so important to remember that while a pastor must be a leader, he also must be a servant. A pastor can’t just go his own way, but must do the bidding of God, for Whom he works. But what’s more, the pastor does God’s work for the benefit of others. The pastor is servant of both God and man.
It’s hard, at times, to find the right balance in applying servant-leadership. I’ve seen pastors lean too much upon “leader” and become petty tyrants, ruling their little empires with absolute domination. I’ve also seen pastors lean too much towards “servant” and become little more than people-pleasing hirelings. Neither is pleasing to God. Neither benefits people.
But when a pastor hits that balance, everything clicks into place! The Gospel is proclaimed. Sinners are comforted in Christ's forgiveness. Members are empowered to do ministry. The church moves forward, an unstoppable juggernaut, a barbarian horde, a disciplined army, a finely-tuned machine, a primal force. It is a loud, bold, private, humble, frantic, focused, wildly exciting free-for-all that is as unparalleled in sheer historical weight as it is in sheer weight of paradox. It is life-changing and world-transforming. It is history in the making. It is service. It is leadership.
It is one hyphenated word: servant-leader. That’s what being a pastor is all about.