By Rev Prabhudas Koshy

Reproduced from Vol. 5, Issue 1 of the Bible Witness Magazine

Knowing their pastors is a biblical duty of all church members. In his first epistle to the
church in Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul wrote, “And we beseech you, brethren, to know
them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to
esteem them very highly for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.” (1
Thessalonians 5:12-13)

The implication of the Greek word “know” is more than just recognizing or identifying and
acknowledging the role of the pastor in the leadership of the church. It is also a call to right-
ly understand the nature of the work of the pastors and then to give due regard and appropri-
ate response to what they do in their leadership and ministry. Members of the church are
given charge here to be aware of the person, work, troubles, challenges, burdens, needs and
vision of the pastor. Paul is urging his readers to go beyond a superficial knowledge of their

What should you know about your pastors?

Know Their Labour

While Paul urges his readers “to know” their church leaders, he describes them as “them
which labour among you.” Every faithful pastor is full of labour. The Greek word for
“labour”, kopiao, is a derivative of the noun kopos, which is often translated as “trouble”,
“weariness”, and “labour”. The use of the word kopiao serves as a special reminder to the
readers that their good pastors who are very earnest and diligent in their pastoral work often
wear themselves out. They often feel spiritual, physical, emotional and financial weariness.
Nonetheless, good pastors continue to toil day and night for the nurture and care of their
congregation. Paul reminded the people of the church that their pastors’ work is “among
you.” In other words, the pastors’ labour is to meet the needs of the people. Members of the
church who do not take into consideration the labour of God’s servants in their midst will
not only be unthankful for their many services, but will also be unable to give the encour-
agement and support that they so desperately need. It is not uncommon for those who are
ignorant or negligent of the loving labour of their pastors to become unhelpful, incon-
siderate, rude and provocative in their words and deeds.

It seems obvious from Paul’s words that some feelings of tension and misunderstanding had
arisen between the members and leaders of the church in Thessalonica. It was obvious to
Paul that the members had not appreciated or rightly understood the nature of the work of
their leaders. Therefore, he decided to exhort the church members to know the worth of
their leaders. No church member should be ignorant of their leaders. They should discover
and ponder upon the true character and work of their pastors to come to a full understand-

For instance, a pastor who has promised to meet a church member at a particular time, may
call the member a few minutes before the appointed time to ask for a postponement of their
meeting due to some very troubling matters that broke out all of a sudden. If the member is
inconsiderate of the situation the pastor is facing, he may start complaining and accusing the
pastor as one who does not love or care for him. He may then tell others that the pastor cares
for everyone else, but him. Sometimes the nature of the emergency situation might require
the pastor to not disclose the problem to the member who had the appointment. If the
member is both ignorant and angry, he would start gossiping about the pastor – “he avoided
meeting me with some lame excuses.” How difficult and painful such occasions can be for
that pastor! May we, therefore, be careful to understand our pastors’ labour, and respond to
them with patience and supportive behaviour.

Know Their Authority

Another aspect that all church members should endeavour to understand is their pastors’
God-given leadership role. While exhorting his readers to know their pastors, Paul reminded
them that pastors “are over you in the Lord”. The Greek word translated as “are over”,
prohistamenous, carries ideas such as “to place at the head”, “to preside over”, “to
superintend”, “to rule”, “to go first” etc. The phrase “are over you” indicates their
“pre-eminence” as pastors or leaders in the church. In fact, another biblical word that depicts
the role of “elders” or “pastors” is episkopos, and is translated as “bishops” (Philippians 1:1)
and “overseers” (Acts 20:28). Pastors oversee the work of the church as well as the welfare
of our souls.

Pastors are over us “in the Lord”. It is the Lord who calls them and appoints them over the
congregation. When the congregation approves the appointment of a pastor, they are just
recognising the Lord’s own appointment of the man. So we must be careful to acknowledge
the office and ministry of the pastors as appointed by the Lord. The Lord appoints them to
“rule” over all the members of the church (c.f. Hebrews 13:17). They have God-given
authority to teach us as our shepherds (cf. Ephesians 4:11). Their pastoral authority is linked
to their faithfulness to God’s Word. Those men who take the office of pastorship without
total submission or loyalty to the Word of God do not wield the authority from God to watch
over the souls of His people. Those who compromise or dilute the truth of God’s Word are
false shepherds, who do not care for the flock of God. The pastors, who preach faithfully and
with authority, are leading their flocks as God would direct. Such pastors ought to be
respected and obeyed.

Though the pastors are with spiritual authority, they are particularly cautioned by the
Apostle Peter “neither as being lord’s over God’s heritage” (1 Peter 5:3). This Scriptural
guideline sets a certain boundary for the exercising of pastoral authority. How far a pastor
should exercise his authority is not specifically mentioned; nonetheless the biblical counsel
is that he cannot become like a despot or an authoritarian, who is without mercy and love. A
pastor is cautious not to become like an autocrat, and at the same time the congregation is to
be careful not to usurp his leadership and authority over them. The relationship ought to
guarded and nurtured by a mutually loving and godly relationship.

Know Their Admonitions

Another aspect that Paul urges his readers to get to know concerning their pastors is their
admonitions. He wrote, “Know them which . . . admonish you”. The word “admonish” is
from the Greek word noutheto, which can either mean “to rebuke for the wrong done”, or
“to warn about the consequences of a wrong action”. It is always done to prevent the hearers
from spiritual dangers and also to guide them to the safety of God’s truth. It is a pastor’s
duty and calling to provide instruction as to correct behaviour and belief. To ignore the
warning and advice given by a faithful pastor is to invite trouble into one’s life.


How much do you know your pastor? Think, pray and do whatever is necessary that you will
be able to know him and his labour for the church and respond to it appropriately. As much
as your pastor wants to know you, there must also be some effort from you to know him.
Then both will know one another and be a blessing to each other.

Such knowledge would not materialise, if people do not make an effort to know the pastor.
This would mean that members of the church must, first of all, assume the fact that knowing
their pastor is a God-given responsibility. Secondly, they must make every attempt to know
their pastor. This would mean carefully reading his articles in the church bulletin, listening
attentively to announcements concerning his visions, plans and concerns about the ministry,
meeting up with him to know his plans and desires, inviting him to your home to have
fellowship etc.

Such concern for the pastor has to be frequent and lasting. If it only happens very rarely, it is
as good as it is not happening. Be a loving friend and supporter of your faithful pastors.