It is surprising how so many people ignore the qualifications for pastors presented in Scripture. Does your pastor 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 the Great Shepherd and literal shepherds those doing the shepherding in the Church are the shepherds, the pastors of Ephesians 4:11. “Pastor” from the Greek word poimein means “shepherd”, which the Greek word for pastor is used repeatedly in reference to church pastors 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 who these pastors are 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), and in his discourse, he instructed these elders, who he also called “bishops”, to “shepherd the church of the Lord” (v28). 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 “bishops” 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.
The Scriptural titles for elders are bishops and pastors, and there are other synonymous titles translated too. The position of elder comes the word “presbyter” and in Greek, presbuteros, which means “elder”. A bishop is the position of “overseer”, which bishop and overseer are 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 Peter 5:4). There are no archbishops, high councils, popes, or presidents. There are elders, who shepherd as an “eldership” (1 Tim. 4:14). Note that there is a convention of Apostles and elders in Acts 15. Yet, what is clear in scripture is a plural number of elders at each congregation, and each man met specific qualifications (Acts 14:23, 20:17, 21:18, Phil. 1:1, 1 Tim. 4:14). Being a preacher, minister and, or evangelist does not make someone a pastor.
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 be examples to the congregation rather ruling over the church. In 1 Peter 5, Peter as a fellow elder stated, “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” (v2-3). 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). Although, Christians are to yield to the 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 states, “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 your “pastor” and the “pastors” that you know? Maybe like most churches, you do not really have these kinds of Scriptural pastors. Instead you have a number of “pastors” who are hired ministers and who do not meet all the 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 will you do about it? Will you ignore God’s Word and think “Well, grace will cover this”? Jesus said, “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 you go to 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, Acts 6:1-6, 14:23). Many congregations with unqualified pastors or leaders acting like pastors are not Scriptural even by the name of the church. The congregation should bear the name of her Owner, her Bridegroom, and her Savior. If you are a part of the Church of Jesus Christ that He built (Matt. 16:18), saved (Eph. 5:23-27), and bought with His blood (Acts 20:28), why not say that you all belong to Him rather than another man, ideology, organization, or sect? Is that congregation really the Church of Christ or is it the Church named after another man or a tradition?