"Pastor Malone" is a phrase I hear too often today from those of the world. I answer the phone with a cordial "Hello" and the querist asks, "Pastor Malone.....?". Others, upon hearing that I am a preacher ask, "What church do you Pastor?". One gentleman trying to be kind said, "How are you today Pastor Keith". While these situations arise frequently, I politely try to answer them. The answers go as such, respectively, "No, this is Keith Malone", "I dont Pastor a church" or "Im doing fine but the name is just Keith". I usually go on to explain the biblical difference between a pastor and a preacher. Within this short article will be discussed the Biblical use of the word Pastor and also some of the modern perversions of the word.
Titles, Titles, Titles!
Historically the denominational world has stood firm against the use of titles such as "Father" for clergy. Now, after decades of scriptural desensitization and irreverence for Bible authority, names and titles are creeping back among the mainstream denominations. The phrase "Pastor" is used much more than a description of a persons vocation. It is used as a title. It is attached to the names of the preacher and he is called "Pastor Bob". Often the persons name is dropped and they become "Pastor". A man recently said, "I was just talking to Pastor". This is no different than calling a man "Father". It is a title that elevates one man above another. Jesus said, "And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ" (Matt.23:9,10). We should not elevate ourselves above men no matter what the "position". The term, "preacher", is a descriptive term explicating what they do. "Minister", used correctly, is a servant of the Lord and the church. But calling a man "Pastor", as his name, becomes a title not a description. Not only is it an abuse of a Biblical word, but it is man elevating himself above others, which is forbidden in the scripture.
"And he gave some, ..... pastors and teachers" It is quite ironic that the word "pastor" is used only one time in the New Testament, yet is prolific throughout the denominational world. The Greek word, "poimen" is defined as, "overseers of the Christian assemblies" (Thayer). The word "pastor" is found more frequently in the Old Testament. The translated word "pastor" is exclusive to the book of Jeremiah while its Hebrew counterpart is scattered throughout the Old Testament. The Hebrew word ra`ah is translated pastor in the King James and means, "feed securely" (Brown-Driver-Briggs). It is used elsewhere in the Old Testament and is usually translated "feed, or shepherds" (cf. Ps.37:3; Jer.25:35,36).
The abuse of the word "pastor" as a title minimizes the Bible concept of a true "pastor". The Bible concept of a "pastor" is a man qualified to be so. He is a shepherd, overseer, elder or bishop and must be duly qualified (cf.I Tim.3:1-7). This type of pastor feeds, tends, directs and rules the flock. A preacher does not have this type of authority. While many of the responsibilities of a preacher and an Elder/Pastor may overlap, the authority of the former is limited and therefore subject to the latter. The preacher must respect the office of the elders for they are not one! The apostle Peter had this to say about the office of an elder, "The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 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" I Peter 5:1,2. It is interesting to note that the verb "Feed" is "poimaino" which comes from the noun "poimen" translated pastor in Eph.4:11.
As the church tries to carry out the restoration phrase; "Do things in Bible ways and call things by Bible names", may we gently remind our friends and acquaintances that our preacher is not our "pastor". It may provide an open door to talk about the Lords church!
By Keith Malone September 4, 1998
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