I'd be willing to bet that his name goes mostly unnoticed. It's only mentioned twice in Paul's letter to the Colossians, but this man, Epaphras, plays a very significant role in the church at Colossae.
For starters, Ephaphras is the guy who first brought the good news message to Colassae. Paul tells us that Ephaphras is the faithful witness who first preached Jesus to these people (Colossians 1:7). But it's not this detail that most intrigues me about Epaphras. The detail that gets me is found in chapter four. Listen to this:
Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. -Colossians 4:12-13
I don't know if Epaphras was the pastor of this little church in Colossae–nothing in the letter explicitly tells us he is–but in these two verses I hear Paul telling us what the character and heart of a pastor looks like.
Below are six qualitites that every pastor should posess and be growing in.
One Of You
It's easy to separate the pastors from the sheep. But this isn't how God intended pastors to be. A pastor is someone who is one of you . He is a man who is among his sheep and he really isn't all that different from them. Yes, pastors have the call and responsibility to shepherd the flock of God (1 Peter 5:2), but this isn't done in a distant and separated manner. Though Epaphras was not currently and physically present with the little church in Colassae (he was travelling with Paul), it seems he had such a close connection with them that he was still able to be called one of them.
The second thing Paul points out about Epahpras is that he is a servant. Many pastors feel entitled; like they are the men who don't have to serve but everyone around them gets to serve them. This shouldn't be. The pastor is the lead servant and to the degree that he serves so will his people serve. Jesus modeled this well for us. He said that he didn't come to be served but to serve and that the greatest among you must be a servant (Mark 10:43-45). Jesus is not only the Chief Shepherd, he is also the Chief Servant.
Paul told the church at Colassae, "Epahpras...greets you ." I get the impression that this greeting was important. I can imagine Epaphras leaning over Paul's shoulder reminding him, "say hi for me." A pastor doesn't need to be a cuddly guy that hugs everybody. He doesn't need to be a Mr. Rogers for the church, wearing a sweater and always talking in a subtle monotoned voice. But he should be a friendly guy. Someone who is eager to greet those who he is shepherding.
Epaphras was a man of prayer. This is absolutely not an option for pastors (Acts 6:4). They are to be men of prayer. Epaphras wasn't forced into prayer. He was a man who enjoyed prayer because he believed the God who he was talking to cared and was listening. Epaphras clearly believed that prayer made a big difference in the life of this church, so he did not only pray, but he struggled in prayer. It's only speculation, but I'm guessing the prayers of Epaphras for this church were not, "Lord, please bless them" prayers. Epaphras fought with his prayer life. He saw his prayers as a primary weapon of defense against the enemy and change agent for the church. Epaphras shows us that a pastor is a man who prays with great fervency for his sheep.
Epaphras had a vision for his little church. He wanted to see them "mature and fully assured of the will of God." Epaphras didn't see a church of dirty, selfish, messed up, confused, and religious people. Sure, he was shepherding these kinds of people, but what he chose to see was the finished product. Epaphras looked at his church in light of who they currently were in Christ and who they were becoming in Christ. His vision for this little flock was the end product. A people pure and spotless. A people mature and certain of their faith and of the God whom they worship.
All of the above points might sound like a lot of work. And you're right, it is. Paul recognized this in Epaphras and he highlighted it for the church, that their pastor was a man who worked hard. Rightly shepherding God's people is a lot of work. This isn't a job for the feint of heart. This isn't a field you go into simply because you want to have more time to improve on your golf game or read more books. The work of a pastor is hard. It requires much time, blood, sweat, and tears. Epaphras was a pastor who worked hard for his people and more.
As a pastor, I'm deeply convicted by the work ethic that Epaphras possessed. He shows me that I have much work to do and he shows me the reason for doing it. Jesus. Epaphras's motivation was not this little church. Paul is clear. He was a servant of Christ Jesus . It was not the applause of the people at Colassae that he was seeking that motivated his prayers, friendly smile, and hard work ethic. It was the applause that his savior was already giving him.
If you're a pastor, rest in the applause of Jesus, and let him be the one who motivates your heart as a pastor.