How many people ignore the qualifications for pastors presented in Scripture? Do your pastors meet the qualifications?
The noun form of the word “pastor” is found only in one verse for a church position besides that of Christ in Ephesians 4:11. From Ephesians 4:11, pastors are set apart from apostles, prophets, and evangelists. The verb form of “pastor” meaning “to shepherd,” and besides Christ as the Great Shepherd and literal shepherds, pastors are elders who do the shepherd the church. “Pastor” comes from the Greek word poimein means “shepherd,” which the Greek word for pastor is used repeatedly in Scripture for church elders especially the Chief Pastor, Christ (Matt 9:36; 25:32; 26:31; Mark 6:34; 14:27; Luke 2:8, 15, 18, 20; John 10:2, 11, 12, 14, 16; Heb 13:20; 1 Pet 2:25).
What the Bible has to say about pastors may surprise you. Those who are to shepherd are clearly presented in Acts 20 and 1 Peter 5. In Acts 20, Paul called the “elders” of Ephesus to him in Miletus (v17). Paul referred to these elders as “bishops” or literally “overseers.” In Paul’s discourse, he instructed these elders to “shepherd the church of the Lord” (Acts 20:28). The only other occurrence of church leaders shepherding are again by “elders” in 1 Peter 5:2, “shepherd the flock of God that is among you.” These elders are the overseeing bishops and pastoring shepherds of New Testament churches. Evidently, the official position of pastor in shepherding congregations are “elders” who are also called “overseers” as presented in the above Scriptures. There are no other positions in the church for which one is to be a pastor of the flock. Ministers and evangelists are never referred to “shepherds.”
The Scriptural titles for elders includes “overseers” and “pastors.” The position of elder comes the word “presbyter” and in biblical Greek, presbuteros, which means “elder.” A bishop is the position of “overseer,” which the KJV renders as “bishop” from the same Greek word, episkopos. The position of pastor comes from the apparent meaning “shepherd,” which are translated from the same Greek word, poimen. Elders, presbyters, bishops, overseers, pastors, and shepherds are all the same position in the churches of Christ throughout the Christian Scriptures. A bishop is also called “God’s steward” (Titus 1:7). Notice that there are no higher leaders than elders in the church besides Christ in the Scriptures (1 Pet 5:4). There are no archbishops, high councils, popes, or hierarchical presidents. There are a plurality of elders who shepherd one congregation as an “eldership” (1 Tim 4:14). Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in each church (Acts 14:23). Each congregation is led by elders who lead no other congregations (Acts 20:17; 21:18; Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 4:14). Note that there is a convention of Apostles and elders in Acts 15. Being a preacher, minister and, or evangelist does not make someone a pastor. However, when one is older, he may become an elders.
Such men must meet the qualifications listed in the Scriptures. Give attention to the necessary qualifications of the pastors of Christ’s church. First of all, those desiring this position by title are working to pastor and oversee. These men are also to be elders meaning elder in age. Two lists of qualifications for pastors are presented in 1 Timothy 3:1–7 and Titus 1:5–9.
First Timothy 3:1–7:
*One must seek the office
*Must be without reproach
*A husband of one wife
*Able to teach
*Not a drunkard
*Not violent but gentle
*Not a lover of money
*Must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive
*Must not be a recent convert
*Moreover, must be well thought of by outsiders
*A husband of one wife
*His children are believers not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.
*Not a drunkard
*Not greedy for gain
*A lover of good
*Must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught
These shepherds being pastors have specific responsibilities. Most importantly church elders are to lead like Christ, and thus behave as examples to the congregation rather ruling over the church. In 1 Peter 5, Peter as a fellow elder exhorted, “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not lording over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (1 Pet 5:2–3). By overseeing, church elders are to shepherd by opposing false doctrine and teaching the Truth. Elders are not authoritarian rulers (Mark 10:41–45; Luke 22:25–30). However, Christians are to yield to these leaders (Heb 13:17). As seen in the qualifications for these pastors, elders serve in responsibilities loving good and holding to the Word as taught. In Acts 20:28–31, the Spirit of Christ teaches elders to “pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock,” to be “overseers, to care for the church of God,” and to “be alert,” because Christ “obtained with his own blood” the church. Paul warns elders that “fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” Therefore, the Spirit teaches that an elder is to “be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). While elders do not have to labor to financially support oneself in preaching and teaching as 1 Timothy 5:17 reveals, those that labor are worthy of pay and even double pay and honor for such work. Pastors also are to be there for the sick of the congregation when they are called as James 5:14 affirms, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” Elders also oversee the collection being the treasury (Acts 11:30).
Is this a picture of the pastors among most churches today? Maybe like most churches, they do not really have these kinds of Scriptural pastors. Instead they have a number of “pastors” who are hired ministers and who do not meet these qualifications. While supporting evangelists who minister to the congregation is Scriptural (1 Cor 9, 1 Tim 4), these individuals are not necessary qualified “pastors” unless they are older married men with faithful children.
What should someone do if one’s home congregation does not have Scriptural elders? Should Christians ignore God’s Word and think “Well, grace will cover this”? Jesus revealed, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt 7:21). Evidently, grace does not cover those who do not do the Will of God (1 John 1:5–10). If a Christian attends such a congregation having an unqualified “pastor,” please examine the congregation by the Scriptures since such error is usually not alone. Encourage a minister to lead the congregation in selecting elders from among the congregation (Titus 1:5; cf. Acts 6:1–6; 14:23). Many congregations with unqualified pastors or leaders act like pastors are not Scriptural. Jesus built the church (Matt 16:18), saved the church (Eph 5:23–27), and bought the church with His blood (Acts 20:28). Churches of Christ bear His name. If the church as the bride of Christ bears another man’s name, ideology, organization, is this the church of Jesus Christ? Let elders lead the churches of Christ as Christ established.