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The Pastoral Office within the Modern Church System 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 or 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 system 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 of their vocation.
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 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 vocational 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 that has manifested 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 to be in charge of the affairs within a named denominational building called 'church.'
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.
Moses said to him, "Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all Yahweh's people were prophets, that Yahweh would put his Spirit on them!" - Numbers 11:29
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 only those deemed to be specially qualified.
I wrote to the assembly, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, doesn't accept what we say. Therefore, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words. Not content with this, neither does he himself receive the brothers, and those who would, he forbids and throws out of the assembly. – 3 John 1:9-10
But this you have, that you hate the works 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 deem themselves to be 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 followers were of all equal standing. People were recognized by their spiritual maturity, not by hierarchical elitism. The apostles did not reside as permanent fixtures, but were temporal missionaries who moved where God called them to serve for a time.
The Evolution of 'Pastor'
The deviation from the pastoral gift 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 within the institutional 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 supposed believer who did not abandon his 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 institutional 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 and 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. These were those who were deemed special and called to be ordained into the ministry. The fact is, 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 institutional church system 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 honours the bishop is honoured 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 and sermons and has a strong controlling influence over the 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 were functional and duties 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 manifestation of the modern church system today.
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 and recognition of the gifting and character of an individual. Today, the function of a gift has been turned into a rite. Ordination into an 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 as equal among brethren.
Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion, but voluntarily, not for dishonest gain, but willingly; neither as lording it over those entrusted to you, but making yourselves examples to 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 through the headship of Christ. The true ekklesia are a collective of believers that share God's word with one another, not via a singular paid mediator.
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 on John Calvin’s model, but is in no way, shape or form model the example of Christ and the apostles.
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 body of Christ.
The Greek word for minister is 'diakonos,' which means servant. It has become incorrectly synonymous with the office of Pastor that is a professional salaried position.
What has the office of the Pastor within modern church done to the supposed followers of Christ 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 brethren into becoming complacent to a one-man-ministry that preaches to mute and passive 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 institutional church system has circumvented the 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 where everyone can contribute as all parts of the Body are to function with the gifts God has given them.
The professional modern Pastor has become slave to the office that 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 their vocation within 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 about themselves. This is artificial at best being 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 religious office that often leads to isolation from those who are deemed the laity. Often, those who are deemed to be the clergy have no real substance outside the group they are hired to oversee.
The evidence reveals that the office of the head Pastor by how it functions within 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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© 2013 PlanksandNails