In seeking to reestablish [the importance of the pastorate], it would be helpful simultaneously to recover for these overseers the New Testament designation ‘pastor’. ‘Minister’ is a misleading term because it is generic rather than specific, and always therefore requires a qualifying adjective to indicate what kind of ministry is in mind. ‘Priest’ is unfortunately ambiguous. Those with knowledge of the etymology of English words are aware that ‘priest’ is simply a contraction of ‘presbyter’, meaning ‘elder’. But it is also to translate the Greek word hiereus, a sacrificing priest, which is never used of Christian ministers in the New Testament. To call clergy ‘priests’ (common as the practice is in Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican circles) gives the false impression that their ministry is primarily directed towards God, whereas the New Testament portrays it as primarily directed towards the Church. So ‘pastor’ remains the most accurate term. The objection that it means ‘shepherd’, and that sheep and shepherds are irrelevant in the bustling cities of the twentieth century, can best be met by recalling that the Lord Jesus called himself ‘the Good Shepherd’, that even city-dwelling Christians will always think of him as such, and that his pastoral ministry (with its characteristics of intimate knowledge, sacrifice, leadership, protection and care) remains the permanent model for all pastors.
John Stott, Between Two Worlds, p. 117