Who Is Your Pastor?

How interesting it is that we who claim to be so biblical about out our beliefs should be so unbiblical about some of our behaviour. 1Timothy 3:15 "so that if I can't come for a while, you will know how people must conduct themselves in the household of God. This is the church of the living God, which is the pillar and support of the truth." (NLT) Paul was not talking about proper manners in church, but about the qualifications for leadership. He was discussing the qualifications for Elders and Deacons. How amazed he would be to see how things are done today.

The "Pastor"

Not only do we have churches led by one person, who we call (in tones of both reverence and respect) "pastor," but beneath this esteemed person we have various and sundry subordinate versions of the same. We have assistant-pastors, associate-pastors, pastors in charge of evangelism and outreach (now there is an oxymoron if I ever heard one), pastors of administration, pastors in charge of hospital visitation. If all that were not silly enough, any visiting minister, be they a Teacher, Prophet, Pastor, or Apostle, is usually referred to as an Evangelist! In years gone by when on occasion I would travel in ministry, teaching and prophesying, I would invariably be introduced as "our visiting evangelist." In truth, for every bucket of teaching and prophetic anointing I may have, I have but one drop of evangelism in me.

This may seem normal today, but the New Testament church of the book of Acts would no more recognize these practices than they would some of the unBiblical beliefs that are presently popular in the church of Jesus Christ. I am sure that if a first century Christian were to visit one of our "Bible Believing Churches," they would be confused enough to ask why we have so many "pastors," and so few of everything else.

If we claim to be scriptural we need to at least see what the Book says about styles of leadership. We need to come to a clear understanding of leadership and ministry offices. It might even help to confine ourselves to using only Biblical terms. (Now, there is a dangerous thought!)

Just what words were ordinarily used to refer to those who led the church?

Overseers and Elders

Acts:20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. (KJV)

1Peter 5:1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: (KJV)

James 5:14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: (KJV)

Timothy 1:5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: (KJV)

1Timothy 5:17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. (KJV)

Acts 20:17 And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. (KJV)

Acts 16:4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem. (KJV)

Acts 15:23 And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: (KJV)

Acts 15:6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. (KJV)

Acts 15:4 And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. (KJV)

Acts 14:23 And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. (KJV)

Acts 11:30 Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. (KJV)

Time and time again the leaders of the church were referred to as apostles and elders. Now, to make this really interesting, let's see how many times the word Pastor is used in scripture, especially in comparison with the other ministry offices of Teacher Evangelist, Prophet, and Apostle. We might be surprised at what we find.

Five Fold Ministry

I looked it up in my Cruden's Complete Concordance, and even I was shocked. The word Pastor is used only once in the entire New Testament! Once!!! Ephesians 4:11 "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;" (KJV)

Well, let's look at how often the other ministry offices mentioned: Teachers, 9; Apostle(s), 35; Evangelist(s), 3: Prophet(s) 12. That is a ratio of 59 to 1!

Ready for some other startling facts?

  • No where and at no time is it ever recorded in scripture someone being referred to as "the Pastor" of a church. There were Elders, and Overseers.
  • No where do we find that the word Pastor is used to designate "the person who leads the church."

In fact, there are two things wrong with that definition. First, not only is it not what "Pastor" means, but no where do we find a single individual leading any New Testament church. (Wow, are we ever far from the practice of Scripture!) Hey, don’t take my word for it. Look at the Word. Examine the evidence.

  • Of no one was it ever said, "This is my Pastor."

Of no one
was it ever said,
"This is my Pastor."

Some declared they were disciples of this or that Apostle but this was condemned, not commended. 1Corinthians 3:3-6 "For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase." (KJV)

  • You cannot find the question, "Who is your pastor?"

This question is on the registration forms for most Charismatic (and other) style conferences. "Please get your Pastor's signature." We want to make sure you are in proper relationship, proper order, properly submitted to "those that have the rule over you." You know the verses: Hebrews 13:7 "Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation." (KJV) Hebrews 13:17 "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you." (KJV) Hebrews 13:24 "Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you." (KJV) Wait now! Do you see what I see? Not only is there no mention of the word Pastor (especially as used in its present form), but each verse uses the plural. I think our present form of church government is really in trouble!

You cannot find
the question,
"Who is your Pastor?"

The word Pastor, that word found only once in the entire New Testament, means shepherd. It means someone who loves sheep. Loves to be among them, loves to care for them, loves to fix them up, loves to see them healed, loves to spend time with them. It is a Psalm 23 kind of person. It certainly is not a person who conducts church services. It is not the one who stands before people several times a week and speaks, preaching or teaching for however long. Those persons who "lead" in public settings do have their place. They usually are among "them which have the rule over you," but most of the time they are not the Pastors of the Flock!

The "Pastor" Must Go

Since the word Pastor is used only once in the New Testament, and since it is never used to denote the person called of God to lead the congregation, and since it was always persons (plural) who led congregations anyway, perhaps it is time we stopped using the word unBiblically. We need to discover what the Word of God has to say about leadership in the Church of Jesus Christ.

You may say, but Ken, why not just keep the term "pastor" and change the system. There are several reasons why this is a bad idea.

  • First, the term has long been associated with the present unBiblical and ungodly system of church government. (If something is unBiblical, is it not automatically ungodly?)
  • Second, it is inaccurate. Biblically speaking a pastor is one who cares for the sheep, not one who leads the congregation. Why would an electrician call himself a plumber, or a truck driver call himself an astronaut? If they knew better, would it not be lying?
  • Third, the term "the pastor" is singular. There were no singular "pastors" in the New Testament church. There were Elders. Plural.

Who Are the Elders?

The time is coming when it will be more the common practice to ask "Who are the Elders at such and such a church" rather than the present question "Who is the pastor?" At most the question may be asked, "Who is the presiding elder?" or the "Who is the 'set person' among them.

As long as there is confusion as to the role of the Pastor we will not see a full restoration and release of the full Five Fold Ministry/Leadership offices of the Church of Jesus Christ. I believe that if the church could clear up the confusion surrounding this one issue it would open the door to further revelation concerning church government, and we could experience a fresh move of God's Spirit, worldwide.

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