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  • Writer's pictureLa Vernia Church of Christ

Does “A Pastor” Honor God?

Written by Wayne Robbins your servant of Christ


Romans 13:7 teaches us to give “honor to whom honor” is due. Many religious groups have one man that they call their “Pastor”. This is usually the man who leads from the pulpit by bringing the message and often fulfilling many of the day-to-day duties of that particular religious group. As we will see from this study, they did not give this man such a title based on scriptural authority. This is man's way of trying to honor another man by giving him a special title. For some reason, religious people have long been trying to give each other special titles that do not please God. To see an example of this, look at Matthew 23:6-11 “They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, (7) greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, 'Rabbi, Rabbi.' (8) But you, do not be called 'Rabbi'; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. (9) Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. (10) And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. (11) But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.” When we study our Bible, we do see that there is a proper way to use the term “father” just as there is a proper way to use the term “teacher”. When we use the term “father” and “teacher” in a religious way to elevate a man within the church, we are not honoring God. When we use the term “pastor” in a way that God did not intend, we may show honor to a man, but we ARE NOT honoring God. The only religious titles we should use are ones that God has given in His Holy Word. Even then, those titles must be used properly towards one who meets God's qualifications.

Where did the title “Pastor” originate and why is it so popular among the denominations today? In the King James, New King James, and American Standard Version of the Bible, you find the word “pastor” only one time in the New Testament. In the English Standard Version and some other modern versions of the Bible, you do not find the word “pastor”. Let's look at the one time that you find it in some Bible versions. The New King James Version reads like this in Ephesians 4:11 “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,” The word “Pastor” as translated from the Greek into English in this verse, comes from the Greek word “ποιμήν” (poymane” G4166). This Greek word is used 18 times in the New Testament and is always translated as “shepherd”, except for this one verse in Ephesians 4:11. The reason why the translators chose to translate this Greek word as “pastor” this one time is unknown to me. You can find writings from Greek Scholars who agree that in Ephesians 4:11 it should have been translated “shepherd” and not “pastor”. God designed a role within the local congregation where a plurality of men would be Shepherds of the flock. The definition of this Greek word clearly shows this. From Word Study Dictionary; “ποιμήν”, (poymane G4166) Shepherd, one who generally cares for flocks. Thayer Definition: a herdsman, especially a shepherd.

In the New Testament the position of a Shepherd is synonymous with that of an Elder. We see this clearly when we examine 1 Peter 5:1-4 “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: (2) Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; (3) nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; (4) and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.” One who meets the God-given qualifications to, “Shepherd the flock of God” can be properly called an Elder or a Shepherd. In our modern time, one may be properly called a “Police Officer” by one person and then called a “Deputy” by another person. The one who is called by these titles maintains the same amount of government given authority regardless of which title is used. In the Bible, a Shepherd is an Elder and an Elder is a Shepherd. They are not two separate religious offices but instead they are one and the same.

The one place that we find the word “pastor”, in Ephesians 4:11, is definitely a reference to the office given by God that is commonly referred to as the Elders or Shepherds. Once we get into Acts 14 we see that Elders were appointed in every church. We then read about this God-given office of the Elders in passages such as, Act 14:23, Act 15:2, Act 15:6, Act 15:22, Act 15:23, Act 16:4, Act 20:17, Act 21:18, 1Ti 4:14, 1Ti 5:17, 1Ti 5:19, Tit 1:5, Jas 5:14, 1Pe 5:11, and Pe 5:5. We see that it was common for God’s leaders of local congregations to be called Elders or Shepherds. This same position was also, on a few occasions, referred to as the Bishop: 1Ti 3:1,2, and Tit 1:7. A study of this title Bishop reveals that it was not a separate office but that it was synonymous with the office of Elder or Shepherd. This is clearly seen when you read, Titus 1:5-7 “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you-- (6) if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. (7) For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God…”

In order to hold the office of an Elder/Shepherd/Bishop, one must meet certain qualifications given by God. These qualifications are found in 1st Timothy 3 and Titus chapter 1. You do not read in your Bible about a local congregation that had only one Elder/Shepherd. The Bible always speaks of a plurality of Elders, therefore we know there must be at least two Elders in each local congregation. If a man is going to be called a “Pastor”, which is a synonym for Elder, then there must be at least one other “Pastor” serving equally along with him. If a man is going to call himself a “Pastor”, which is the same as an Elder, he must meet the God-given qualifications. Many men in denominations, who call themselves “Pastors”, do not meet the God-given qualifications to be in this position. Some who call themselves Pastors or Elders, are not even married, and yet one of the qualifications is that they must be the husband of one wife. We also read a qualification that their children must be faithful. Some men who call themselves Elders or Pastors do not have children who are faithful. It would actually be easy to examine some of the men in various denominations, who call themselves Pastors and Elders, and clearly see that they do not meet the God-given qualifications to be a Pastor/Elder.

As we have already mentioned, the word “pastor” is only used one time in some of the English versions and it is not used at all in other English versions. It is interesting and telling that this is the religious title that the denominations use most. They use it to show honor towards the one in their religious body who speaks most from the pulpit. He is not being called “Pastor” because he meets God-given qualifications. He is being called “Pastor” because this is man's way of trying to elevate and glorify him. Men need to stop honoring other men in a way that dishonors God. God does not receive the glory and honor when you assign a religious title to a man that God Himself would not assign that title.

In Christ’s Church we go to the Bible to determine what office one can hold and what title one can wear. The man who commonly preaches a Biblical message is simply called a preacher or evangelist (Eph 4:11). “Preacher” is what the Bible calls one who carries out this duty of preaching, Rom 10:14, 1Ti 2:7, 2 Tim 1:11, 4:2, 2 Pet 2:5. This man is a member of the local congregation just like everyone else and he is simply a servant or minister of God. He does not get to wear a special title like “Reverend” because the only time we see that term used in the Bible is in reference to God (Psl 111:9 KJV). Just because a man preaches to the congregation and does much of the day to day leadership work, this does not give him the right to be called a Pastor, a Shepherd, or an Elder. Religious titles can only be given by God to those who meet the proper qualifications. A preacher is simply a servant who gets the honor and privilege to proclaim God's Word to others. A man who preaches with a true servant's heart, will not desire a special title such as “Pastor, Reverend, or Father. Luke 17:10 So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.' " I preach for Christ’s Church and I am simply your servant in Christ. Please do not call me Pastor or Reverend.

I did my best to search back into history to determine when the denominations started calling their local evangelist a Pastor. The best that I could find was when the Catholic sect started assigning men specific areas within the United States, they would assign that man the title of Pastor. As with many other man-made Catholic traditions, the denominations embraced this tradition for themselves. Matthew 15:7-9 Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: (8) 'THESE PEOPLE DRAW NEAR TO ME WITH THEIR MOUTH, AND HONOR ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR FROM ME. (9) AND IN VAIN THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE COMMANDMENTS OF MEN.' " Men who meet the scriptural qualifications and “Shepherd the flock” in a local congregation are commonly referred to in the scripture as Elders or Shepherds. In Christ’s church today we have not adopted the traditions of men. We do not call religious leaders by the title of “Father, Reverend, Pastor”, or a number of other man-made titles that are designed to honor the man and not God. Because the word “pastor”is always translated as “Shepherd”, in the other 17 instances, we do not commonly use that title. In Christ’s Church we only follow the Bible. As found in the Bible, we commonly call the plurality of men who are qualified and oversee the local congregation; “Elders, Shepherds, or Overseers.”

As a preacher in Christ’s Church, I have commonly and mistakenly been called, “Pastor”. A preacher can be both an Elder and preacher as we see in Acts 2 and 1 Pet 5:1. In most cases, the local preacher is not an Elder. He may not meet the qualifications or he does not desire the position. In this case, the local preacher should not then be called an Elder or Pastor. Because “pastor” is the religious title that is most commonly used, it gets applied even to people in Christ’s Church who are not in that official position. When I am mistakenly called, “Pastor”, if time and opportunity allows, I use this as a way to develop interest in what the Bible actually says concerning the title “pastor” and I share the Gospel of Christ. I do not make this an area of contention and I do not bring it up if I think that it might hinder me from getting an opportunity to share the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. I have found that people who are seeking the truth will be interested in what the Bible actually says and that they will want to change and call things by their proper God-given name. By definition, a “Pastor” is, “one who is in charge of a church”. Jesus Christ said, in Matthew 16, that He would build His church. He shed His blood for the church (Acts 20:28), therefore He is the only One who is worthy to be “in charge of the church”. Knowing this information, it can actually help us open doors and teach the truth of God's word. I believe that we are in a time when people are “hungering and thirsting” for actual truth. John 8:32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

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