The Pastoral Office of the Modern Church is not Biblical
The head Pastor is a fundamental figure within the church system who is met with praise, accolades, and reliance upon to dispel God's word to the masses. He is most often on the top of the hierarchical ladder, or status as the main focal figure to render out theological interpretations within the church institution. He/she is often trained and graduated as a professional from a seminary who has met the criteria, or qualifications to maintain their position.
What would happen if the office of the head Pastor was removed from the church altogether?
Could the church still function, or would it completely dissolve without a prominent figure to man the helm?
What may come as a surprise is that the pastoral function among the early ekklesia looks quite different to the the office of the head pastor in the modern churches today. The facts of history and Scriptural context will serve as evidence that this is the truth. Before you read any further, it is important to leave your personal feelings at the door because many will have friends and family who fill the head pastoral office somewhere. This is not meant as an attack on them as individuals, but a critical examination the office of the head Pastor.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, PASTORS and teachers – Ephesians 4:11
The Distortion of 'Pastor'
From the only singular verse that appears in the New Testament, there are some important things to consider.
The word pastor is used in plural form. This means that there is no Scriptural evidence that there was a singular senior head pastoral practice among the early ekklesia. Pastor is the Latin word for shepherd, and the Greek word for pastors is rendered as 'poimenas,' which also means shepherds. This would mean that a pastor is not a professional title, but a metaphor for one of the many functions of the ekklesia. A shepherd is a person who cares for and nurtures the people of God, but not within the context of a professional hierarchical title. Upon closer inspection of Ephesians 4:11, it appears that man has added to and distorted the true definition, description, and function of a pastor, which has created the office of the head Pastor in the institutionalized church system today.
The man-made idea of a prominent head Pastor comes from a desire of people to have someone revered to bring them to God who is specially trained and is to stand out from others within the church building.
But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp. And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them.
And Moses said unto him, ENVIEST THOU FOR MY SAKE? WOULD GOD THAT ALL THE LORD'S PEOPLE WERE PROPHETS, AND THAT THE LORD WOULD PUT HIS SPIRIT UPON THEM! - Numbers 11:26-29
These verses here give an example of Moses opposing hierarchical or special positions that would suppress all of God’s people from using their gifting to the specially qualified.
I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the PREEMINENCE among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. – 3 John 9-10
But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the NICOLAITANS, which I also hate. – Revelation 2:6
God's word is opposed to Nicolaitans, which in Greek means 'conquering the people.' He was opposed to making distinct hierarchical classes of people among the ekklesia who are considered prominent by lording themselves over others.
The definition of the pastoral office in our western society is not a biblical concept, but a man-made one that is a distortion of a gifting. The early ekklesia were led solely by the headship of Christ where his body was recognized by men who were of all equal standing. People were recognized by their spiritual maturity, not by their hierarchical elitism. The apostles did not reside as permanent fixtures, but were temporal as missionaries who moved where God called them to oversee for a time.
The Evolution of 'Pastor'
The deviation from the biblical pastoral office can be traced to Ignatius of Antioch (AD 35-107) and the role of the bishop. The bishop was given complete authority and required absolute obedience in the church system. In the third century, Cyprian of Carthage made more distinct classifications of Christians with the terms clergy and laity. He was a pagan orator who became a Christian who did not abandon the pagan traditions, but incorporated them. The position of bishop eventually evolved to the head of the church and the delegated responsibilities went to the presbyter. The presbyter evolved into the Catholic priest as the hierarchical structure of the church broadened. By the fourth century, deacons took a role under the presbyters, and under them were the laymen. By the time of the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century, the Catholic Church practices were questioned; the bishop’s office and the priesthood was reduced to the presbyter.
What the Protestants did not do was question the status classifications between clergy and laity, but kept them with their own classification system. There are those who are special, called and who must be ordained into a ministry. In fact, there is really no distinction between the duties of the Catholic Priest and a Protestant Pastor except for slightly reformed office.
The Desire to be in Control
The early ekklesia were a participatory body, but the church sysyem requires a ruling single Pastor (sola pastora). Likewise, the Bishop was raised to a status where all power and authority from him was absolute. Ignatius said, “He that honors the bishop is honored of God.”
Fallen man always has the urge for someone to mediate between them and God. We can see this in Exodus when the Israelites wanted Moses to be their mediator for everything. Today, we can see that the Pastor takes on a similar role, and conducts everything from baptism, marriages, sermons, and controlling influence over other activities within the institutional church.
The hierarchical system infiltrated the church as a result of the influential Greco-Roman culture. The church had become an institution with official people doing ministry. The true Scriptural ekklesia who were led by the Holy Spirit was functional and shared by all believers would soon became a thing of the past. Pagan organizational patterns have infiltrated and became the backbone of what is the modern institutional church.
A true follower of Christ should understand that what a person does in everyday life is sanctified by God, there is no need for a higher calling into the ministry versus a worldly vocation. The dichotomy between what is sacred and what is worldly is a pagan conception. There are no grounds for ordained spiritual elitism because every believer has the discernment from God to recognize those who have particular gifting that God has given them.
Among the early ekklesia, the term 'ordain' did not mean to be put into an official title, but rather an affirmation of the gifting and character of an individual that is recognized. It was a blessing pertaining to the function, not a rite. Ordination into office stems from pagan rites by empowering an individual through divine streams to become venerable, honourable and separated. It is the syncretism of Old Testament priesthood with Greek hierarchy.
In contrast, each person who was part of the early ekklesia did not set themselves higher than one another, but in humility served each another.
Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; NEITHER AS BEING LORD OVER GOD'S HERITAGE, BUT BEING ENSAMPLES OF THE FLOCK. – 1 Peter 5:2-3
The Church Model
You will find nowhere in the New Testament where preaching, baptizing, marriage, etc. was limited to those with special powers and authority. We all have immediate access to God; the true ekklesia are a collective of believers that share God's word with one another, not via a singular paid mediator to a passive audience. According to John Calvin, “The pastoral office is necessary to preserve the church on earth in a greater way than the sun, food, and drink are necessary to nourish and sustain the present life.” It is clear today that most church institutions have taken John Calvin’s model of church, but is in no way, shape or form model the early ekklesia.
Both the Catholic and Protestant practices of church are built on the same human ideologies and traditions. The modern pastoral office has become an obstacle to the true functioning of the ekklesia.
The Greek word for minister is 'diakonos,' which means servant. It has become incorrectly synonymous with a Pastor that is a professionalized salaried position.
What has the office of the head Pastor of the modern church done to followers of Christ that can be see in the modern churches today?
What really stands out is the division of believers into separate classes where the special or more privileged can only serve Christ in certain ways. The man-made system suffocates the rest of the people into becoming complacent to a one-man-ministry that reaches to mute audience.
In contrast, the early ekklesia encouraged every member of the body of Christ to function with a right and privilege in the assembly.
Are you sick and tired of being a spectator who feels coerced and obligated to sing, raise your hands, take notes and throw money into the offering plates (1 Peter 2)?
Unfortunately, the office of the head Pastor in the modern church has circumvented the very headship of Christ because it has taken the centrality and the functional headship away from other believers. When Christ is truly the Head, it manifests as freedom and openness with everyone contributing with all parts of the Body functioning as it should.
The professional modern Pastor has become slave to the office, which oppressively manifests in many ways such as emotional breakdown, marital issues, stress, 'plastic fantastic,' burnout and depression just to name a few. This is not the result of the pastor, but the effect of the modern office in the church system.
Scripture does not support one sole individual to wear so many hats at one time. There is a high expectation and obligation to entertain, tickle ears and make everyone feel good. This is artificial at best that is dishonest and deceptive.
The modern head Pastor can be likened to a Hollywood star who wins an Oscar for the primary role as portraying someone who is always spiritual, cheerful, perfectly dressed and disciplined in all areas of life. The unapproachable and unquestioning attitude exposes the corrupt and political nature of the modern office that often leads to isolation from being among the people (laity) to those who are deemed to be over the people (clergy). Often, they have no real substance outside of that group.
The evidence reveals that the office of the head Pastor by how it functions in the modern church system is unsupported and non-existent in Scripture.
Do you believe that the function and title of the modern church Pastor is found in the New Testament?
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