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Question:
Why do people call the Preacher ‘Pastor’ when that’s wrong and not in the Bible?

Answer:

Pastor means shepherd or over-seer”. There are two positions we commonly see today that are not Biblically supported (wrong? I don’t know, but not explicitly Scriptural).
  • First is “Pastor” where Pastor is defined and manifested as “one man who preaches and rules a congregation”.
  • Second is “preacher or minister” as in paid pulpit teacher who is on “staff” of church to do the “sermons”, visit the sick, engage in most of the evangelizing
I’ve known people who say the “preacher” (or “minister) can NOT be an elder; when I’ve pressed for Scripture, was met with “they just can’t”. What they really mean is “in our church they aren’t”. That’s not the same as being a Scriptural command.
Also, the “preacher” at a church is not an “evangelist” per se. An evangelist is called to primarily teach and preach the Gospel to the unsaved and in Scripture is not represented in the mode of what we call “ministers, preachers, Pastors” today.

Ephesians 4:11 ….And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, (NKJV)

Apostles and prophets are not in operation after the founding of the Church. Pastors are elders or bishops (Acts20:20-28; 1Peter 5:1-5). Teachers are those specially gifted by God to proclaim and explain His Word to others and will be held responsible for it (James 3:1). Evangelists are “publishers of glad tidings”, missionary proclaimers of the Gospel such as Philip:

Acts 8:40 But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea. (NKJV)

More accurately, and I think more Biblical, effective and spiritually sound is that the “preacher” (as we refer to the “sermon-deliverer”) at Church should ideally (but not necessarily) be a “teaching elder”. Who is more qualified to teach the sheep than a shepherd? We get too caught up in our church traditions and begin to confuse tradition with Scripture.

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. (NKJV)

Some might say “that verse doesn’t say preach” but the implication is clear. He doesn’t have to pass his “labor in the word and doctrine” to some mouthpiece called “preacher”… that’s REALLY forcing tradition on Scripture. A “preacher” is a “proclaimer” used in Scripture to denote someone who teaches publicly, what we would refer to as a sermon. This could be an Evangelist proclaiming the Gospel, or an Elder publicly teaching, or a Teacher publicly teaching (2Timothy 4:2). However, “preacher” is not a particular gift or office like evangelist, teacher or Elder. “Preacher” as a paid church position referring to the person who gives a sermon every week, is a concoction of religion, not Scripture. “Preacher” refers to an action, not a gift, calling or title. The “gifts” or “offices in Scripture are teacher, Elder, apostle, prophet or evangelist.

It is our traditions that cause confusion. An evangelist is not a “church preacher”… and evangelist is someone who focuses on preaching the Good News to the lost (which is NOT a primary purpose or responsibility of the corporate church gathering whose purpose is for worshiping God and edifying the Saints). The person who stands up and teaches the “flock” during corporate worship (“the assembling of ourselves together” Heb 10:25) should either be a spiritually mature man who is gifted by God to teach and/or (even better in my OPINION) a Shepherd who also filters his teaching through his responsibility to oversee and tend to the sheep he cares for.

The Bible only mentions the Elder (Pastor, Bishop in the true Biblical sense) and the evangelist (the Biblical version as discussed here) as worthy of being supported by the church as far as full time ministry work goes. Of course, our “missionaries” are about the purest form of “evangelist” you can get taking the Good News to the world. (1Tim 5:17-19; and Paul, an evangelist among other things defended his right to be supported, 1Thess 2:9). The idea of paid pulpit preacher and the “Pastor, one man church ruler” is not found in the Bible.

I have asked these questions many times to church leaders about this common, but not Biblically supported, idea of both “Pastor” (one man who preaches and rules) and “minister” (paid preacher/teacher who is ‘managed’ by Elders and does most of the evangelizing, visiting and “church work”) and have yet to receive any answer that isn’t simply “tradition” dressed up in a few proof texts, or been accused of being divisive. I’ve even been answered with “who cares; it doesn’t matter”. To their credit, I have a few church leaders simply say, “yes, you are correct. It’s tradition, not Bible.”

Is it wrong? Is the “Pastor” or “pulpit minister”, as we see and understand them today, something God doesn’t approve of? I will say “it isn’t Biblically supported”. Not that I’m wishy-washy, but I don’t consider any of these questions to be “salvation-centric” – they don’t constitute “preaching another gospel”. So I won’t call it false teaching, apostate or sin; but I will declare firmly that it is NOT specifically Biblical…. it’s tradition, often times elevated to and mistaken for Scripture.

I will say this. It is my opinion that there is the most potential for problems and failure comes with the “Pastor” (one-man church-ruler-preacher) arrangement. The Bible calls for a plurality of Elder/Shepherds because of the simple fact that one man ruling a church alone is a mine field of potential difficulties, ego, abuses, politics and power struggle. Again, is it wrong? I can only state my own opinion, that I don’t think it’s BEST.

My opinion is that we should be CAREFUL when we adopt tradition, good ideas or proven methods that are not specifically Biblical. They should be continually evaluated, and as Christians we should be constantly alert that tradition is not elevated to “Scripture” or “doctrine”.

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