Consider these 5 things that a "true" pastor would never say:
- "I am the pastor"
- "Can you ask my assistant?"
- "We don't need more than one pastor"
- "Let me look this up in our manual"
- "You don't have to be baptized to be saved!"
Well, let's start with the basics.
The term "pastor" is only used one time in it's English transliteration in the New Testament. That verse is found in Ephesians 4:11.
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,” (Ephesians 4:11, NKJV)
This text is certainly a guide in which we can see church bodies functioning, can't we? Well, let's take the terms for what they are:
Apostles - we know there were 14 named apostles, among others in the New Testament. There were the original 12, then Judas was replaced, and the one born out of due season - our author in this text - Paul. An Apostle had to see the resurrected Christ in order to "qualify" to be called an apostle. Not something we can be today.
Prophets - Prophets were those that had a special revelation given unto them by God, an angel of the Lord, Christ Himself, or by inspiration of the Holy Spirit (as can be seen in the predictive prophecies in some of the language of the Bible). Considering that the writer of Hebrews "dates" prophets (in times past God spoke through prophets...), we also realize that those days have also completed.
Evangelists - good ole preachers. Gotta love us. The Greek word euangelion derives from the same term as angel - or messenger. Evangelists are just folks that are spreading the message of the Good News to others.
Pastors and teachers - wait....why are these two together? Let's skip this definition for a few minutes and look at the conjunctives in the sentence.
The collective list is read a little differently in some translations. The KJV specifically states "and some" before each list item in the verse. This "and" is a different word used in the original language, however, than the conjunctive "and" that is used as an inclusion between "pastors and teachers."
This may be where in layman's terms, we get easily confused. And means and...right? Not necessarily. The first "and" is the Greek word "de" which is a "logical correlative or contrast" according to Logos reference. The second "and" that is between pastors and teachers is kai, a "logical conjunctive" which would combine these instead of "list" them. In other words, pastors and teachers are not the same person necessarily. An evangelist can be a teacher. Some apostles were pastors. Every prophet was an evangelist, and some pastors can be teachers (and they should be able to teach according to 1 Tim 3). You see, this makes some of the uses of the term "pastor" false in the worldly definition. A pastor is not just a teacher.
Let's go a little further. In this single verse, the term that is used for pastor is POIMAINO. The Greek root word for Poimaino is Poimen - which is also translated "shepherd". Hmm. So, a pastor is a shepherd under that word study. Notice the same word used in another text:
“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28, NKJV) (emphasis mine)
The same word....used differently. Same context. Same meaning. Notice though, one word before that sentence. The word "overseers". So, now we have a new word to study since this would tie the definition of overseer to shepherd to pastor...follow me?
"Episkopos." Overseer. Bishop! Same word. Same meaning.
“This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.” (1 Timothy 3:1, NKJV)
Now we are starting to see a bigger picture. Pastor means the same as shepherd which means the same as an overseer, which also means bishop. And that leads us to several texts using the word "elders," which by definition is one that is ordained or appointed in a leadership meeting certain qualifications.
So, now that we have all of that out of the way...back to the five things a "true" pastor (overseer, bishop, shepherd, elder) would never say:
1. There is no single pastoral scenario described in the New Testament. Elders/pastors/shepherds are always listed in the plurality. This means that one that is a "true" pastor would never refer to himself as THE pastor.
2. This falls in line with what is already stated. No pastor/elder/shepherd can assume a role of head in the church. With that said, there could never be an assistant pastor in scriptural terms.
3. And...we've already seen why this doesn't work in tenet number 1.
4. A "true" pastor/elder/shepherd/bishop should only follow, teach, and live by the words of inspiration in the Holy Bible. There is no manual given to "establish rule or leadership" in the church outside of the Bible's own words. Any such manual would be a false heretic.
5. A "true" pastor/elder/shepherd/bishop will desire that his "sheep" be safe in all things. The Bible clearly teach that baptism saves (1 Pet 3:21, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, and more). A "true" pastor would not tell you that you can be saved any other way than what the Holy Writ of God has already explained.
Have you fallen into a denominational confusion about who a pastor really is? I hope this study has been beneficial in explaining that there are many who misuse this term, both as an incorrect labeling of a preacher in the Lord's church, but also in claiming some position of authority in the church that does not exist in the way it is told.
Friends, we only have one Truth and it cannot be misused to fit what man believes. There is only one true doctrine. Please consider studying this topic on your own and know that God is not the author of confusion.
Preacher, Rock Hill church of Christ