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What is a Pastor?

First and Second Timothy and Titus are commonly referred to as “pastoral epistles”. This designation seems to be fairly harmless on the surface but it has caused many problems through the years. Pastor is a Bible word, and Bible words need to be used in Bible ways. If we don’t use them in Bible ways, then they lose their power and meaning. God defined the role of a pastor in His word, and if we begin to use the term with our own definition, the role of pastor is no longer scriptural. You can’t have a Biblical church with an unbiblical organization and roles.

Paul was writing to Timothy and Titus who were serving as preachers/evangelists, not pastors. An evangelist literally means “to bring forth good news”. Paul tell’s Timothy in 2 Tim 4:2 , “preach the word” and then in verse 5, “do the work of an evangelist”. The role of an evangelist is to preach the word. Timothy was in Ephesus doing full time ministry of the gospel (1 Tim 1:3), and Titus was doing the local work in Crete (1:5). We would be biblically correct to say that these men were evangelists or preachers in these epistles, but it is wrong to say they are pastors.

In Ephesians 4:11 it says, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,”. Recognize the fact that every title represents a specific office in the church of Christ. There were special requirements to be an apostle, chief of which was you had to be an eyewitness of Christ. When the last apostle died, the office of apostle necessarily went away. The role of a prophet was someone who had the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Except in the case of pentecost and Cornelius, these gifts were given by the laying on of hands (Acts 8:18). In order to be qualified as a prophet, you must have received the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The distribution of these gifts went away as the first century closed and the New Testament was delivered (1 Cor 13:9-10).

The point is, these are all distinct offices in the Church. While there is the ability for someone to serve in multiple roles at once, the Bible makes it clear that these roles are separate from one another. This includes a distinction between a pastor and an evangelist.

A pastor can be referred to by a number of different terms in the Bible that all speak to the same office. In Acts 20:17 the “Elders” of the church were called together and then in verse 28 Paul call’s these men “overseers” or “bishops”. Interestingly, he instructs these elders/bishops to “feed” the flock. Feed is the verb form of the word pastor. Elders, bishops, and pastors all refer to the same office. These different names highlight different aspects of the office.

A bishop/overseer speaks to the management aspect. They are given the stewardship of managing the flock of God.

A pastor is a shepherd. They are supposed to make sure the flock is being fed a healthy spiritual diet. They are supposed to watch out for the wolves.

An elder shows this role is filled by on older/mature man. While the Bible doesn’t give a specific age, the qualifications point to the fact that he needs to have children that have grown to not only have obeyed the gospel but have exhibited faithfulness to it (Titus 1:6). This would tell us that you wouldn’t find too many elders under 40. Paul clearly identifies Timothy as a “youth” (1 Tim 4:12). We know Timothy wasn’t a pastor because he wasn’t an elder.

Because of a misunderstanding of Timothy’s role, many people accept terms like “lead pastor” or “senior pastor”. The office of pastor as defined in the New Testament does not allow for that in the slightest.

One of the first moves towards apostasy by the early church was the elevation of one elder to the role of bishop and making that a distinct office. Today many churches have done the same thing with a different term in the word pastor. It is shocking to think that the Protestant movement is becoming the very thing they protested against in the Catholic church. Whats the difference between a “lead pastor” and a pope besides a few letters? The only “lead pastor” we read about in the New Testament is Jesus (1 Pet 2:25).

The modern day pastor system causes people to follow a man. I recently spoke to a nice man who is a member of the Hope-Stand Church. I asked him why he went there, and he told me that he had followed Billy Smith when he started it. Friends, if you believe the church you attend is correct, you have no right to leave because the “pastor” starts a new church across the street. That is unnecessary division based on personality. That is sinful and cultish. A large portion of 1 Corinthians is a rebuke of this very issue (1:10-12).

The preacher is not the pastor of a church. God never designed His church to function in that way. The preacher’s job is to preach the word. The elders are a group of qualified men in that congregation who are placed in the equal role of managing and pastoring that local congregation. The role and qualifications are not based on a vote, but on the word of God (Acts 20:28).

We need to accept the fact that a church that is not organized by the Bible is not the biblical church. Any church that accepts the modern pastoral system by that standard is not biblical. It was created by a man, and it is organized by men.

I wouldn’t want to be a member of a church that isn’t biblical.


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