Paul speaks to the pastors of the Ephesian church before he heads to Jerusalem, and they don’t expect to see him again (20:38). Be deliberate about your pastoring, he tells them. What does it mean to pastor? God’s plan for the church is to have pastors (sometimes called elders, other times overseers, but used interchangeably) to oversee congregations.
Pastor is a funny word. It means shepherd, but because of how we translate that word into English, pastor has stuck in our vocabulary. Worse yet, when we talk about being pastoral, most people think of pastoral care. Pastoral care is part of pastoring, but only part.
Shepherds look after flocks. A shepherd with one sheep is not much of a shepherd. So to pastor means to pastor a congregation, not individuals. Of course, there is a place for one-on-one work, but a pastor is never more pastoral than when he is preaching. That is the occasion when the flock is gathered together and directed and guided by the pastor. To pay attention to the flock is to pastor all of them through the ministry of the word.
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. (Acts 20:28)
O God, who didst lead thy holy apostles to ordain ministers in every place: Grant that thy Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, may choose suitable persons for the ministry of Word and Sacrament, and may uphold them in their work for the extension of thy kingdom; through him who is the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.