The word "love", which summarizes the posture of a true pastor's heart for the church.

What does a pastor’s heart look like?

Several years ago, I worked hard to memorize the book of Philippians in its entirety. I agonized over every verse. I worked diligently to make sure that I had these verses locked in my mind and (hopefully) in my heart. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep up on my practice. As a result, my ability to recite the book has long since escaped me. Even so, I managed to keep the effect this book had on my heart.

Paul’s heart for his people

What is most clear to me in Philippians is Pauls’ evident love for his readers. You don’t need to read far—just the first eleven verses will do. Paul thanked God for them and joyfully remembered them in his prayers (Phil. 1:3-4). He yearned for them with the affection of Christ (1:8).

These are beautiful, powerful sentiments. But make no mistake—they’re not mere sentiments. They express the heart of a true pastor.

A pastor’s heart for his congregation

Paul’s love was deeply pastoral. I’ve seen the same kind of love in many of my pastor friends, including the elders at my own church. People who love the people they serve, because they now God’s love for them is even greater. Even in the most frustrating moments, their love shines through.

These are men who pray for their people regularly, even if they don’t think they pray enough. They want their people’s love to grow. They desire for them discernment and knowledge so they might approve what his excellent and so be pure and blameless before Christ.

When I read these verses, I’m thankful for Paul’s pastoral heart. For the example he gives me as someone who is not a pastor. One that helps me as serve my family in a pastoral way, my community group, and my church as a whole.

I might forget the precise words of Philippians. I might never get back to the place where I have it all locked down word-for-word. But this truth is one thing I carry with me continually. And that is something I’ll always be grateful for.


Originally published October 23, 2016. Updated on February 5, 2023, for style and content. Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

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