“And he gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.” Eph. 4:11
A quick look at this sentence tells us that there are four gifts for the church being mentioned here. We have examined the first three, and now we will look at the fourth one.
Today we hear the word pastor used a lot without regard to its New Testament meaning. The title or position is assigned to just about anyone who fulfills the role of the preacher in a local body of believers. This is sad in a way because it negates the real job that was a result of the gifts of grace. I have nothing against preachers, but they more often than not are not qualified to be called pastor and teacher.
Where the first three appointments were for the church universal, the fourth one was for the local church. Since I have indicated a change in the use of the gift, I will take the space to explain what the Bible means when it uses the term “pastor.”
The word pastor is a transliteration of the Greek word poimenas which comes from the root flock. Its use is that of a shepherd. The body of Christ is often referred to as a flock. The ones responsible for caring and comforting that flock are the shepherds. Basically, three different terms are used to describe the person and the office. These terms are used interchangeably in the New Testament. They are; elder, shepherd, overseer. Each of them denotes a New Testament concept, not necessarily parallel in today’s world.
In Biblical times, the elder stood at the gate of the city and offered advice and settled disputes. He was viewed as a wise man who had a great understanding and could be trusted as a judge or witness. The shepherd was the one who provided for the sheep and not only fed them and tended their wounds but safeguarded them as well. This requires a specially gifted person. The overseer was one who stood watch over a place or people. He ensured that things went well and that all were performing their respective duties.
This particular office, that of elder, shepherd, overseer, and teacher was especially important in New Testament churches. Paul made it a habit of appointing these men wherever the church was established. Both Timothy and Titus were given this responsibility, and in each case, they are told what qualifications to look for. A careful reading of these qualifications will immediately show that the modern use of the term pastor is not Biblical.
One might say, “What difference does it make?” I think the answer to that should be obvious. If we can make up our own definitions of Biblical terms and change God’s words and appointments to suit ourselves, then we don’t need the Bible.
That just doesn’t make sense to me. Do we think we know more than God? I hope that is not the case. In my opinion, it works better when we say, “Speak God, your servant heareth.”