Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Let's talk about the office of Pastor

Mostly as it's understood by Independent Baptist and sometimes Pentecostal forms of Christianity.  Who are in different ways the closest to being Biblically accurate on the nature of The Church as well as the local church.

I did a post in the past defending Female Pastors.  I stand by my main points there, but my views on the nature of the office have progressed somewhat as I've further studied The Word, and are still progressing really.

The Pastor who I don't like to name said some things in a few of his sermons I viewed recently that interest me.

1. He says in The KJV only three words ever refer to the office of Pastor.  Pastor (obviously), Bishop, and Elder.  Others however certainly see other NT terms as potential synonyms for the office of Pastor.

2. None of three titles is ever applied to Paul, so Paul never was a Pastor, he started Churches and then appointed other Bishops over them.  My post on Women Pastors had assumed Paul to be a Pastor, so that is interesting.

3. Deacon in The Bible doesn't mean what most Churches today use the word for (which he says shouldn't exist), Deacons were the Assistant Pastors.

Some, not all, but some in the House Church movement have been saying the Office of Pastor should be abolished and isn't really Biblical at all.  I'm not sure I entirely agree with that, in-spite of my disdain for organized religion in any form.

But I have grown annoyed at seeing certain Independent Baptist Pastors (even some within the House Church Movement), who greatly over emphasize the "authority" of the Pastor.  Making it sound a lot like to them the local church is supposed to be a dictatorship ruled by The Pastor.  It becomes just another variation on the doctrine of the Nicolatians (victory over the lay people).

The first New Testament office I want to address is Apostle.  I'm a continuationist on the issue of the Spiritual Gifts.  But The Apostle is one NT office that did end with the first Generation.  It refers to the Eye Witnesses of the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 9:1) of whom Paul defined himself as the last (1 Corinthians 15:9).

It is starting to seem to me like this view of Pastoral authority has been built up by merging various New Testament offices (or callings as I'd rather call them) together. But it is possible for more then one such calling to apply to one person.  At the very least the different words refer to different aspects of the Pastor's responsibility.

The word Pastor itself as the usual default among Baptists is perhaps an unfortunate misnomer.  The word is used in the KJV only once, in Ephesians 4:11, a verse that lists numerous offices or callings.  At least one other word there has been used as a synonym for the office of Pastor, Prophet.

Prophecy and Prophet in The Bible is not just about predictions of the future, it's proclaiming the word of God.  So any Preacher is a Prophet. But I also feel strongly from Corinthians that the head(s) of a congregations should not be the only people to Prophecy.

The only 3 times you see "Preacher" in the KJV of the New Testament it's a Greek word that means herald.  One time it's referring to an Old Testament figure, Noah in Peter's Epistles.  In the Epistles to Timothy Paul twice calls himself a Preacher of The Gospel.  Preach, preached, and preaching are sometimes the verb form of that noun, but the verb form of the noun translated Gospel is also translated that way.  As well as the noun translated Evangelist, another title used in Ephesians 4:11.

Every Christian should be an Evangelist to an extent, the Great Commission is for us all.  But we don't all have the ability or the calling to dedicate our lives to traveling to bring the Gospel to new regions like Paul did.

The word translated Pastor is very similar to words translated Shepherd elsewhere (Strongs treats it as the same word, but it has a unique distinct spelling in the Greek text).  But also similar to words for flock. No other Bible verse justifies making any member of The Body a Shepherd, Jesus makes clear in John 10:16 he is the only Shepherd of his flock, Jesus doesn't need "under shepherds".  Hebrew 13:20 included.

The grammar in Ephesians 4:11 pairs Pastors and Teachers together in a way that isn't done with the others.  Sometimes in a flock the more well trained sheep help keep the others inline by setting an example.  Perhaps that is all the word translated Pastor means.  Teaching by example.

Teacher here does not mean the modern notion of a Teacher, nothing in The Bible ever approved of the modern notion of school.  Tutor might be more accurate.

Elder is not always used as a title of a special office at all.  Sometimes it just means an older or more experienced person. Anyone entrusted with a leadership position should be an elder certainly, so it does seem to be a synonym sometimes.

Bishop is the least popular KJV word among KJV only believers.  Since we feel what it means has been completely corrupted by the Catholics and Orhtodox and Anglicans.

The Greek word means overseer, and the KJV does also translate it Overseer in Acts 20:28.

Even some Evangelicals (who support the idea of denominations above the local church) will insist Overseer refers not to the local "Pastor" but to a higher rank that over sees "pastors".

I believe the word, when used of Christians (It is used of Jesus in 1 Peter 2:25), refers to the person who over sees the church service, when the believers gather together, to make sure things go orderly and isn't complete anarchy.  It may be that it was not meant to come with the assumption that they also Preach or Prophecy during a service.

1 Timothy 3 gives the Deacon largely the same instructions as the Bishop.  That might explain why some have interpreted it to mean an "assistant pastor".  As well as Philippians 1:1.

Another word used as a synonym for what we perceive the "Pastor" to be is Minister.  Minister (as a noun) in the KJV comes from the same word translated deacon.  It's also translated sometimes servant.  The verbs minister, and ministry and ministered are from the same Greek roots.

Phebe in Romans 16:1 is a deaconess in the Greek.

The word translated "rule over" in 1 Timothy 5:17 (and used of Phebe in Romans 16:2) means to stand before, to attend to like a caretaker.  1 Peter 5:3 tells the Elders not to be lords over God's heritage.

Matthew 20:25-27
But Jesus called them unto him, and said, "Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.  But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:"
Matthew 23:8-11
But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.  And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.  Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.
Many even Independent Baptists still feel you can't start a church on your own, a "Pastor" has to be appointed by another "Pastor".  And I also see lots of people attacking controversial famous pastors by asking what seminary they attended and what their credentials are.

Matthew 21:23
And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, "By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?"
 And Jesus answered and said unto them, "I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things.  The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?"
 And they reasoned with themselves, saying, "If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?  But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet."
 And they answered Jesus, and said, "We cannot tell". And he said unto them, "Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things".
The Authority of any Christian to do what The Holy Spirit wants them to do comes solely from The Holy Spirit.

There are Overseers and Deacons appointed by others in the New Testament era, these were all by Apostles, a rank we don't have anymore.  I think even Timothy and Titus were possibly witnesses of The Resurrection.

The different congregations are told to appoint elders or overseers over themselves.  Which implies an election of sorts.

1 Corinthians 12:28
And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
There are no Apostles anymore, they were the Author's of The New Testament so we don't need them anymore having The Bible.

The word translated "governments" there most literally means directorship, which is a good synonym for Overseer.

That verse isn't listing how they are ranked, in any kind of hierarchy, just the order God gave them.  Because we don't see anyone besides the 12 being appointed offices till Acts 6, which I date 6-7 years after Pentecost.  By then The Apostles had already served as Prophets and performed Miracles.
Paul goes on to explain no Believer is all of those things, but I feel some can be more then one.

The Overseer should organize the service.  But it shouldn't be only one person who Preaches or Prophecies or Testifies.  The Prophets should proclaim God's Word.  The Elders should offer advice and lead by example.  But no one has the authority to bud into other people's lives, or question how they run their families.

Some have argued that having only one "Pastor" or Overseer is wrong.  The beginning of Church Government is again in Acts 6, and that was one single congregation, they appointed seven leaders, all are presented as the same rank but  Stephen seems to have some seniority.

Titus 1:5-7 is seen as supporting seeing Elder and "Bishop" as synonyms, but I don't quite see that as proof.  I could also point out that "Elders" is how The Gospels and Acts most commonly refers to the Sanhedrin, and that the word Senate in origin most commonly means a council of Elders.  Throughout the Old Testament the term Elders is frequently used to refer local leadership of various cities.

Here is an interesting article I don't entirely agree with.  Also this.

I don't think there needs to be a universal rule for how each local church should be organized.  It seems from some early sources about the churches in Asia Minor, the ones founded by John tended to have multiple Elders and one Bishop, while the ones founded by Paul tended to have multiple Elders who were all Bishops.  But church structure shouldn't be oligarchical or monarchical.  All the leadership should be servants, and if there is a single leader among the leadership he should be merely a first among equals, or a spokesperson for the group.

Now the Pastor who I do not name, was doing this sermon for the point of condemning those who say the "Pastor" or Bishop or Elder shouldn't be paid.  He points out that Paul was never called a Bishop to diminish Paul's lack of being paid as an example.  But what Paul explains is that one reason he doesn't wanna get paid in this life is it'll take away from his rewards in the next life.

Here is the thing, the main Paul passage cited in support of paid Bishops, First Corinthians 9, never mentioned Bishop or Elder or "Pastor" at all.  The people Paul is talking about are clearly those serving the same role as himself, spreading the Gospel, which would be Evangelists.  He says it's not wrong for them to be paid, especially the ones who unlike him have a wife and kids to support, they have a right to be.  But he also says it hinders the Gospel when one is getting paid.

I Timothy 5:17-18 also refers to elders who are preaching (which Biblically refers to Evangelizing as I pointed out above) and teaching receiving wages, not to anyone overseeing or prophesying in church.  The stuff Jesus says in The Gospels quoted in support of being paid is also about Evangelizing.

A traveling Evangelist is not a member of a fixed local congregation who supports each other, that's why he and he alone of the New Testament Church offices may be in need of a salary.  But it's also better if he can manage to do it without.

I don't think there is any absolute rule one way or the other if the Elders, or Overseers or Deacons should be paid.  Each church should decide between themselves guided by The Holy Spirit how to use the money that comes into the collection plate.

What I do know is it's unBiblical for New Testament churches to demand Tithing.  Tithing was a Tax, it was part of the Old Testament system needed to support The Temple and the Levite cities.  Under the New Testament we're are told to give as the Spirit Leads us, Tithing only comes up in a few of Jesus parables where it serves an allegorical purpose.

One shouldn't forget however that the Early Churches were essentially communes, everyone shared their wealth.

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