To answer your good question, let’s look at the definition of each word as they are used in the scriptures.

  • MINISTER: to run errands; an attendant, i.e. (genitive case) a waiter (at table or in other menial duties); specially, a deacon, minister, servant.  The Greek word for minister is ‘diakonos’ and is translated as minister, servant, and deacon in the New Testament. 
  • PASTOR: A shepherd.  In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for pastor is ‘raw-aw’.  In the New Testament, the Greek word for pastor is ‘poimen.’  Both of these words have the same definition.  They are speaking of shepherds.  In fact, in the New Testament, the Greek word ‘poimen’ is used 18 times.  Only once is it translated as ‘pastor.’  The other 17 times, it is translated as ‘shepherd.’

A minister is a servant, and the application is pretty wide. 

  • In Romans 15:16 the Apostle Paul is called, “…the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles…” 
  • In Ephesians 6:21, Tychicus is called, “…a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord…” 
  • In 1 Timothy 4:6 one who reminds others of the truth is called, “…a good minister of Jesus Christ…”
  • In Galatians 5:13 we are all told to “serve one another.” 

We have words of encouragement and direction to those who desire to serve the Lord in 1 Peter 4:10-11, “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”  Every believer on the Lord Jesus Christ has a spiritual gift given to him by the Lord Jesus as we read in Ephesians 4:8, “Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and GAVE GIFTS UNTO MEN.”  We can truly and effectively serve the Lord when we allow Him to lead us in using the particular gift or gifts He has given each one of us.  The Lord Jesus says to us in John 12:26, “If any man SERVE me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man SERVE me, him will my Father honour.”  In both uses of the word ‘serve’ here, the Greek word is the same as the one translated as ‘minister’

A pastor is a particular gift that the Lord has given some so that they may shepherd the Lord’s sheep by leading them to follow Him.  A careful study of the word ‘pastor’ will show that the work of the pastor is not an office to be held, it is a work to be done.  It is not a job to be hired for, it is an ability to be used under the Lord’s guidance.  It is not a gift to be used only in a local setting but is a gift “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, FOR THE EDIFYING OF THE BODY OF CHRIST.”  (Ephesians 4:12).  If a believer on the Lord Jesus Christ has been given the gift of a pastor, he uses that gift wherever he goes.  Everywhere he goes, he is to seeking to draw believers closer to the Lord and savior Jesus Christ, the true shepherd (Psalm 23:1), the good shepherd (John 10:14), the great shepherd (Hebrews 13:20), and the chief shepherd (1 Peter 5:4).

So, we conclude that every true shepherd is a true minister, but every true minister is not necessarily a shepherd.  Whatever service the Lord privileges us to do for Him, may we all have the attitude of those in Joshua’s day who boldly stated, “The LORD our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey.”  (Joshua 24:24).  (CC)  (495.4)