jump to navigation

The role of a Pastor in the church February 22, 2001

Posted by roopster in Bible, Bible Study, Christianity, Church, Church leadership, Religion.

I’d like to start a discussion on the role of the Pastor in the church.Many define the Pastor as one of the “ministry gifts” listed in Ephesians 4:12 “He is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers”

In context, Ephesians 4:12 are talking about gifts that are given to people. Verse 8 states “He gave gifts to men.” This is an important point and I’ll get to why later.

In 1 Corinthians 12, there are two lists of gifts. Let’s focus on the second list in verse 28. “Here is a list of some of the members that God has placed in the body of Christ: first are apostles, second are prophets, third are teachers, then those who do miracles, those who have the gift of healing, those who can help others, those who do administration, those who speak in a variety of tongues.”

In Romans 12, there are yet more gifts listed. Verse 7,8a states“or ministry, let us use in in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation…”

First of all let me say that ALL gifts are “ministry gifts” not just the 5 listed in Ephesians. 1 Corinthians 12:7 states “A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church.”

If you notice the many lists of gifts, there does not seem to be any way to class these gifts into different categories. What we classified as “FIVE FOLD MINISTRY GIFTS” in Ephesians 4 are listed mixed into the other lists of gifts.

So, my first point is this – THESE ARE ALL GIFTS given to people.

Now lets do look at the different groups of people in the church.

Philippians 1:1b To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.

First of all, let me say that the word bishop is also translated overseer and it is equivalent to the word elder that is used when addressing the Jews. Overseer is a word that the Gentiles could relate to more than elder. So the words bishops, overseers, elders are all the same group of people (I can do a better explanation of that one if anyone challenges me).

So here Paul lists 3 groups of people in the church:

1. The Elders (bishops, overseers)
2. The Deacons
3. The Saints

In many Christian churches today, the leadership role is primarily the “Pastor”. At this point, I’d like to mention that no where in the New Testament is anyone referred to as “Pastor” (other than Jesus – translated Shepherd). In fact in the KJV, the word “pastor” is mentioned only once (in Eph. 4:12). Keep this in mind as we continue.

Now let’s talk about the Apostles since it brings a challenge to my discussion.

Many of you would agree that the 12 Apostles and Paul were in a special class of Apostles that is different than subsequent “apostles.”

There was a distinction made in the early church of these Apostles for obvious reasons: they were the founding fathers of the church. In fact, Paul went to great lengths to show that he should be counted among that group.

When Acts mentions the leaders of the church, it broke them down to “Apostles and Elders” (Acts 15:6, & 15:22)

There are other apostles mentioned in the N.T. but it was more based on the gift they operated in vs. the title “Apostle.” So while there was an emphasis on the title “Apostle” (refering to the founding church fathers) there was also mention of the gift “apostle” in the scriptures mentioned above.

I can do a better job at explaining the distinction between the original Apostles and the gift “apostle” if needed.

One other thing to mention was that most of the Apostles also referred to themselves as “Elders” (this is important for future thoughts). I think it’s also important to note that the Apostles are the ones who set down the pattern for the Elder led churches.

Ok, now to my point. I submit to you that all the gifts mentioned in my first posts are GIFTS not PEOPLE. You can classify someone by the gift they primarily operate in (for clarity) but it is not really a TITLE or a PERSON. For example: pastor is not a TITLE or a PERSON but a gift that a person operates in. Modern day apostle is not a TITLE or a PERSON but a gift that someone operates in.

So, you ask, who are the leaders of the church? I belive the N.T. is clear on this subject, it is the elders (overseers, bishops) who are the leaders. Now some of these elders do operate in the gift of “pastor” or “apostle” or “evangelist” or “teacher” or “prophet” or “administrations”, etc.

In Timothy or Titus, it does not list the qualification of a PASTOR but one of an overseer/elder/bishop.

In Acts 20, Paul sends for the elders of the church of Ephesus (v. 17) and this is what he told them “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.: Here we see the verb form of “pastor” (the primary way it is used in the N.T.)

Remember our three groups of individuals:

1. Elders (overseers/bishops)
2. Deacons
3. Saints

The elders are the leaders of the church. These individuals do operate in the gifts of the spirit. The 5 gifts that are listed in Eph. 4:12 (for the equipping of the saints) should all be present in these elders in order to have a well balanced church (hence the team ministry concept).

So, what is my conclusion?

We have confused the GIFT with the PERSON. The person is an ELDER, the gift is a pastor, an apostle, an evangelist, a teacher, or a prophet…. and they are all needed in a church in order for the body to be properly equipped.

The N.T. always shows a pluraliy of ELDERS in the leadership of a church for this very reason. It’s not a hierarchy but a TEAM of ELDERS that function together to lead a church (I will expand on this more in my next blog). Members of this team will flow in different gifts of the spirit.

Where then did we get this single pastor dominated church model? NOT IN THE BIBLE.

The “pastor” gift has been elevated in our culture. We’ve determined that among the gifts listed, the “pastor” gift is most important and we have made it a TITLE and assigned it to a single individual and elevated him above the rest of the ELDERS.

We have also made elders a group of individuals below this PASTOR. So now we have in the church.

1. Pastor
2. Associate Pastors (optional)
3. Elders (optional)
4. Deacons or Deconesses (optional)
5. Saints

Not only did we add the top 2 levels but in many cases we have eliminated 3 & 4. You will not find the above list in the patterns of church leadership listed in the N.T.

Why do I believe all of this is important? Well, we have many individuals who are pastors of a church who function in the gifting of a teacher or an evangelist but not in the gifting of a pastor. As stated above, I believe that we need a group of leaders functioning in all the gifts to have a healthy, functioning church body.

In addition, the elevation of this single gift as the leader of the church has led to many churches ran by an abusive dictator instead of a group of individuals where there’s accountablility and balance.

Your thoughts?


1. AC - February 22, 2001

So, do you believe there are apostles and prophets still in the church today? AC.

2. Roopster - February 22, 2001

I believe people do continue to function in the gift of an apostle though they are not in the same class as the “Apostles”. I also do believe that people function in the gift of a prophet. I see no compelling evidence in the Bible that these gifts have ceased.I believe that a church should have ELDERS operating in all the 5 gifts in Eph. 4:12 which of course includes apostles and prophets.One note, if I operate in the gifts of healings, I don’t go around saying I’m “Gifts of Healings Paul”…. but I can say Paul, who operates in the gifts of healings. The same way, if I operate in the gift of pastor, I should not say I’m Pastor Paul but could say Paul, the pastor. That may seem petty but I believe in our culture it’s an important shift. It will help the pastor gift to join the ranks of the other gifts that ELDERS walk in and not elevate it above the others.Paul

3. todie4 - February 23, 2001

Paul,I agree with you. James, I believe, was the leader of the Church in Jerusalem. This is not a contradiction. This most likely meant that he was the leader of a council of sorts, like one might lead a meeting. That does not mean he had unilateral control, and appointed everyone, etc etc. I think this is consistent with your view. For example, we might have a meeting of elders, with one presiding over the meeting to help keep direction, etc. This does not mean that he has the control we give pastors today. The Majority Leader of the Senate or The Speaker of the House provide leadership, but are helpless to pass laws on their own. They help provide direction, but can only accomplish anything when they work in concert with their peers. In the same way different elders at different times may help provide direction for a group of elders, but would do so in unity, not in ruler-ship over the others.–Mike

4. Mark Wilson - February 22, 2007

Yes it is a huge problem that people are called pastor when they don’t have the gift.Lots and lots of people need pastoring and so they walk up to the “pastor” and they get rebuffed and lose faith.Had they looked around for the real pastor, they would have received a love for people and a warmness that the gift places inside the person who has the gift.So… you’re right. We’ve created a problem in the church.God bless you Roopster.Mark.

5. N.T. leadership vs. O.T. leadership « SAFEchurch - April 6, 2007

[…] My thoughts on the role of a Pastor in the church […]

6. Sam - July 31, 2007

I believe all that is being said is correct. However, we need one person to give direction to everything in a church, call it Pastor, Elders, Deacon, we need a leader to always give direction, along with other co-leaders.

7. EMC - September 30, 2007

So what do you do if you are in a church whose Pastor does not have the gift of being a pastor?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: