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The Church Ethic
Pastors, and the Calling (Part 2)
Importance of Music in Worship
The Church and Going to Church
Ministers, Pastors, and the Calling
Ministers, Pastors, and the Calling
Introduction: Financial Support for
Financial Support for Ministers (Part
Financial Support for Ministers (Part
Church Leadership and Authority
word "minister" in the New Testament was the same word often
translated "deacon." It is the Greek word "diakoneo" (Strong's
#1247) which literally means "servant." Paul even applied
this term to himself as the apostle to the Gentiles (Compare
Romans 1:5-6,15-16 and Galatians 1:15-16, 2:8).
Galatians 2:7 On the contrary, they saw that I had
been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the
Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. 8 For God,
who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle
to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an
apostle to the Gentiles. 9 James, Peter and John, those
reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right
hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to
me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles,
and they to the Jews.
The first selection of men as ministers or deacons comes in
Acts 6. In that chapter we see somewhat of an insight into
what the function of deacons may have been in that these men
were selected to carry out administrative tasks so that the
apostles would not have to neglect the teaching of the Word.
Regarding the terms pastor, overseer, bishop, and elder we
can easily see that these terms were interchangeable in the
New Testament. In reality, these words actually referred to
different aspects of the same leadership position.
Let's start with the term pastors. It can be found in Ephesians
4:11 listed side by side with apostles, prophets, teachers,
Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some,
prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors
In the Greek, this word is "poimen" (Strong's #4166) and it
literally translates to shepherd. This word occurs 18 times
in the New Testament. Of those 18 times, 15 are in the Gospels.
Of the 15 in the Gospels, 2 times it refers to the people
of Israel not having a shepherd. 4 times (all in Luke 2) it
refers to the actual shepherds who came to visit Jesus shortly
after his birth. The other 9 times it refers specifically
to Jesus. Of the 3 times it occurs outside of the Gospels,
2 times (Hebrews 13:20 and I Peter 2:25) it refers specifically
to Jesus. The only remaining occurrence of this word is in
Ephesians 4:11, which also happens to be the only time it
is used to refer to a leadership role held by members of the
In today's church we have youth pastors, music pastors (or
ministers), assistant pastors, and every church must have
a head pastor. But how is it we have so many pastors and such
a wide understanding of "pastor-ship" in the church today
if such an office is only briefly mentioned one time in the
entire New Testament?
One answer is that the New Testament usage of this word actually
overlaps other leadership roles. These other roles (which
are really only one role) are described in further detail
and from that detail we have derived some of the aspects of
being a modern pastor.
The Greek word "episkopos," (Strong's #1985) is translated
in some modern Bibles as "bishop" and at other times as "overseer."
Actually, it is the same Greek word in either case. We may
recognize episkopos because of its resemblance to the modern
word Episcopal. Episkopos literally means "overseer." Specific
qualifications for holding this office are given in Titus
1:6-9 and I Timothy 3:1-7.
Now, when we examine the relationship of this term "overseer"
to the concept of being a pastor/shepherd, we find these two
terms are virtually synonymous. The most obvious correlation
occurs in I Peter 2:25 when both terms are applied side by
side to Jesus Christ himself.
But there are other examples of this overlap as well. I Peter
5 is also very informative.
1 Peter 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: 2 Feed the flock of God which is among you,
taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but
willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 Neither
as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples
to the flock.
Speaking to elders, Peter instructs them to feed and be examples
to the flock, which they have oversight of. In doing so, Peter
associates both being a pastor and being an overseer/bishop
as the same work, the work of an elder. Likewise, in Acts
20, Paul speaks to the elders of the Church of Ephesus, telling
them that the Holy Spirit has made them overseers of the flock
and so they should feed the Church (Acts 20:17-28). And Paul
also speaks similarly in Titus 1:5-9.
In both places we see the terms "elders," "overseers", and
"pastor" incorporated into a singular office. In the New Testament,
these were not 3 different roles, but the same role described
using slightly different terms. This is why we have such a
developed concept of being a pastor when in fact that specific
term is only mentioned on one brief occasion in the New Testament.
Some of our understanding of this role is derived from the
descriptions and qualifications assigned to the terms elders,
overseers, and bishops in the New Testament.
But as we said, this is only a partial explanation of how
we have arrived at our modern concept of being a pastor. First
of all, there is no New Testament differentiation for youth
pastors, assistant pastors, head pastors, or music pastors
(ministers). In today's local churches, there is always a
headship or hierarchy of pastors with one person being given
the designation of head pastor or senior pastor. Of particular
significance is the complete absence of this concept of pastoral
hierarchy in the New Testament.
From Acts 14:23, to Acts 20:17-28, to Titus 1:5-9, to Philippians
1:1, to I Timothy 5:17, to I Peter 5:1-3, to James 5:14 whenever
we see these positions, they are plural. They are always held
by a group of men. They are never mentioned in a singular
manner. It is always to a group of them that the writer is
speaking. Even when we see them appointed such as in Acts
14 and Titus 1, a group of them are always appointed, never
just one man, and always without mention of headship. So,
what Biblical basis is there for such a hierarchy? None apparently.
It is entirely a product of post-Biblical history and tradition.
We believe this practice of hierarchy based on title or age
or board approval or formal education or experience has been
detrimental to the growth of the Church. Any hierarchy, if
one exists at all, should not be fixed, especially not by
titles (which confer authority independent of consistent ability).
No man is infallible. A pastor/overseer/elder is only as reliable
as his doctrine and judgments are day to day and instance
to instance. To confer a title on a man is to remove his accountability.
The best scenario is to have a group of equals sharpening
each other as iron sharpens iron by being able to question
and correct each other without the interference and obstacle
of titles and artificial superiority. (For more on this please
visit our article entitled "Reason and
Learning through Questions" in our In Depth Study
In summary, the term pastor is Biblically equivalent to the
terms elder, bishop, and overseer. These were not separate
offices or positions but one and the same. The different terms
were used to convey different attitude or aspects of the role,
not to convey different roles. This truth alone is enough
to throw a lot of modern church structures right out of bounds
with regard to the Biblical standard and precedent.
Given that the role of pastor/elder/bishop/and overseer is,
in fact, the same role, let's take a look at how individuals
came to fill such roles. What we will quickly see, particularly
in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 is that these were offices men
themselves consciously aspired to have. And the Bible commends
them for it, but it does not say they were "called of God"
to these roles, nor does it equate these acts of service with
some kind of calling other than the general calling to all
Acts 14:23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for
them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed
them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.
2 Timothy 2:1 Thou therefore, my son, be strong in
the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that
thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same
commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach
1 Timothy 3:1 Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone
sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.
2 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of
but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable,
able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent
but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must
manage his own family well and see that his children obey
him with proper respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to
manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?)
6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become
conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7
He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that
he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap.
8 Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere,
not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain.
9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith
with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested;
and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve
as deacons. 11 In the same way, their wives  are to be
women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate
and trustworthy in everything. 12 A deacon must be the husband
of but one wife and must manage his children and his household
Titus 1:6 An elder must be blameless, the husband of
but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open
to the charge of being wild and disobedient. 7 Since an overseer
is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless--not
overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness,
not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather he must
be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled,
upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to
the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he
can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who
The very first thing we want to point out is that in I Timothy
3 we see that overseers had to be able to teach. And Titus
1:9 is very similar.
There was no self-realized "calling" from God to such positions.
We have no depiction of such men being set apart to a special
calling in the same way apostles were. The Church did not
unquestioningly accept a man's own testimony that God had
chosen him to be a leader. Nor do we have any evidence that
men pursued these things because of a call from God. Instead,
having the general call to believe and serve that all believers
have. These men recognized the importance to do their part
to build up the church and so volunteered themselves for these
There was no illusion about whether it was God's choice for
them or their own choice. Here Paul is very clear when he
writes, "Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his
heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task" (I Timothy
According to the Bible, here's how it worked. A man chose
to pursue such a position. Then there was a selection process
in which that man had to meet specific, qualifying guidelines
including that had to be an able teacher.
And being an able speaker was not enough, nor was it considered
the same thing as being able to teach according to I Corinthians
2:1-4. Obtaining such positions was a matter of a man's personal
choice to pursue them, meeting certain requirements and capabilities
(including teaching), and then being selected as needed by
men who themselves had already undergone this process.
Notice that the entire process seems to be set up to occur
after a man thinks he is already qualified. A man did not
go forward to volunteer himself and then have to go through
years of training with the already approved understanding
that he would become a leader. No, a man chose the path and
volunteered himself at which point in time he had to meet
the qualifications. Therefore, there would not be any room
for a man to choose this service before he was ready and able.
If a man wanted to pursue this service he would have to ready
himself before getting the Churches approval in the matter.
In this way, no Church could accept the choice of a man to
serve until he had first proven himself ready.
This in itself would prevent the process by which young Christians
are accepted as "called to the ministry" before they reach
maturity. The aspirations of such a young Christian could
only be considered potential at best. Such notions could never
be accepted as an accurate reflection of God's will because
they were so far from being able to prove their qualifications.
In addition, if the modern church followed the Biblical standard,
the entire notion of Bible colleges, seminaries, and theology
schools would not fit either. Because men could not set themselves
apart for leadership roles before they were qualified, it
would make little sense to have special schools for those
who were "supposed" to go into the ministry. Instead, the
burden would fall back on educating the entire Church so that
able leaders could rise in every generation.
Of course, the Biblical record does not tell us much about
how men became evangelists. But given the job requirements
of conversion and discipleship, it seems most probable to
us that the process and requirements would have been the same
as for teachers and overseers. Evangelists would have to be
able teachers, able apologists, and able to refute those who
opposed them just as overseers would (Titus 1:9).
Based upon the Biblical record, we have no reason to assume
that men who become pastors (oversee, elders, bishops, even
deacons), or evangelists (missionaries), or teachers (theologians,
authors) have any other calling on their life beyond the general
call to believe in and follow Jesus. We have no reason to
assume a man is "called" to such tasks like men are called
to be apostles. According to the New Testament instruction
men chose to pursue these things for themselves and that was
said to be a worthy pursuit. But then they were scrutinized
and had to pass certain qualifications such as their ability
to teach and defend strong doctrine before they would be selected
by the existing leaders to fill a role.
Understanding that our church leaders are no more called than
you and I as ordinary believers would go a long way in tearing
down the unaccountability and Biblical ignorance that has
occurred on both sides of the pulpit in the two-class Church
community of today.
It would also remove a great deal of the illusionary authoritative
weight and self-validation that goes with being "called to
the ministry." It would also return these positions to their
intended stature of service and lowliness as opposed to positions
of authority, which command the respect and attention of the
lay community no matter how subtly they convey it. We would
do well as a Church to remember our roots and how much the
religious leaders at the time of Jesus loved the honor of
Returning leadership roles to a process of personal pursuit
and qualification would help greatly in dismantling the illusion
that so many have been "called by God to lead the rest of
us." It would also be of great use to humbling the pride in
a man's heart who thinks God has called him to lead many.
Instead each man would be caused to realize he has chosen
that path for himself. The Bible calls the pursuit of such
a path noble. But the illusion that we are called to something
when, in fact, we choose it ourselves is not noble at all.