Not in the Scriptures
The modern church is almost always led by a
pastor. Sometimes there may be a couple of assistant pastors,
supported by several elders. Sometimes there are several pastors
with a senior pastor. The pattern varies from place to place, but
almost always a church is led by a single pastor/leader. The problem
with this model of leadership is that it cannot be supported from
the scriptures. The modern pastor/leader simply just does not exist
in the New Testament.
The New Testament churches are not led by
pastors, but by elders. The apostles always appointed elders
(plural) in the churches they had established.
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. (Acts 14:23)
The elders who direct the affairs
of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those
whose work is preaching and teaching. (1 Tim 5:17)
Do not neglect your gift, which was
given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders
laid their hands on you. (1 Tim 4:14)
The reason I left you in Crete was that
you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders
in every town, as I directed you. (Titus 1:5)
Is any one of you sick? He should call
the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him
with oil in the name of the Lord. (James 5:14)
Nowhere in the New Testament is one person
appointed as the leader of a church. A "pastor" is never
appointed to lead a church. Churches were always led by a group of
elders, never by a pastor.
The word translated as pastor in the New
Testament is the Greek word for shepherd. It is mostly used as a
verb, describing the work (pastoring) of elders.
From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for
the elders of the church….. Keep watch over yourselves
and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you
overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he
bought with his own blood. Acts 20:17,28
To the elders among you, I appeal
as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who
also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds
of God's flock that is under your care, serving as
overseers--not because you must, but because you are willing, as
God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve. 1
Pastoring is something that elders do. It is
not the title of a church leader.
Most people will be surprised to learn that
the word "pastor" is only used as a noun once in the New
Testament (except for real shepherds and reference to Jesus as the
Great Shepherd). The one incidence of the title pastor is in
Ephesians 4:1l, but this passage cannot be used to justify the
modern pastor leader. It actually describes a model that is totally
opposite. The pastor-teacher is one ministry among four others and
their role is not leading and managing, but serving. Ephesians 4:11
does not describe a modern pastor/leader.
Apart from being unsupported by scriptures,
there are several other problems with the pastor/leader model.
- Jesus left behind twelve apostles, when
he left this earth. He did not appoint one of them to be a
pastor/leader of the church. If he had intended to have one
single pastor as leader of each church, he would have
appointed one person as pastor of the Jerusalem church.
- A serious problem with pastor/leader
model is fitting in the ascension ministries of Eph 4:11.
He who gave some to be apostles, some
to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors
Today, everyone believes that God is
restoring apostles, evangelists and prophets to the church, but
it is not clear how they fit with pastor/leader model that
dominates the modern church. It is hard to see how apostles,
evangelist and prophets can be restored to their full place in
the churches that are controlled by pastors.
- One man leadership is the norm in the
world. A hierarchical system headed by one person is also used
by Satan. God uses shared leadership: the Trinity. The Father,
the Son and the Holy Spirit are submitted to each other and
rule the world in unity. This is the model that the church
should follow. Shared leadership is difficult to achieve, but
it is far more effective. For the church to manifest the glory
of the Trinity, it must have shared leadership.
- The prophet Samuel warned the children
of Israel not to appoint a king to rule over them (1Samuel 8).
Wanting one man to rule was an expression of distrust in God.
The same spirit manifests in the desire to have one man
leading a church.
- The pastor/leader model leads to
professionalising of the ministry. The pastoral work is
assigned to a few part-time and full-time employees. There is
a serious problem with this. One of the fundamental ideas of
the New Testament is the "priesthood of all
believers". This means that every believer has access to
God and can exercise a ministry for him. The modern system of
professional ministers is more consistent with the Old
Testament where ministry was limited to a priestly class. This
has severely weakened the effectiveness of the church, because
it can only achieve as much as the professionals are able to
do. Most church members have not been mobilised for action,
because there is no place in the structure for them to get
involved in ministry.
A large church, with lots of staff and a
number of programs will need a leader/manger. That model of Church
needs one person to lead, inspire and co-ordinate. However, we
should be honest and call them what they are: leader/managers. In
many ways their role is similar to the leaders of large
corporations. That is why they find teaching from management books
useful. However, one person cannot be a shepherd to hundreds or
thousands of people. They should not take the title pastor.
Some will say that the name does not mater.
The problem with this is that if the leader/manager is called
pastor, it begs the question of who will do the pastoring. A set of
good programmes may help, but it does not do away with the need for
pastoring and a pastor/leader cannot do it all.
Ezekiel 34:1-4 is a strong word. The prophet
does not criticise the leaders for shortage of anointing, or lack of
vision or inadequate leadership and organisation skills. His concern
is that the following things are not being done:
- Caring for the flock
- Strengthening the weak
- Healing the sick
- Bringing back the weak
- Searching for the lost
These are the tasks that Peter and Paul
challenged elders to do. Ezekiel’s warning may be relevant to
pastors/leaders in the modern church.
greatest irony of the church is that, although there are pastors
everywhere, the greatest problem is inadequate pastoring. The modern
church is full of immature Christians. The reason is that only a
faction of new Christians are fully discipled. Many remain immature,
entrapped in problems, and only a few move into a ministry. Most
churches are full of half-done Christians. This problem is the
consequence of inadequate pastoring. Many voices are saying that God
is restoring the apostolic and prophetic ministries. That may be
true, but I believe that the greatest need is for the restoration of
a true pastoral ministry to the church. Considering the large
numbers of Christian who remain immature, and the equally large
number who fall from the faith, we urgently need God to restore the
ministry of the pastor.