Wednesday, June 06, 2012


In today’s church world there are pastors and then there’s everybody else. Really, nothing trumps the pastor in the church environment. If you want someone to know what church you go to, you’ll most likely need to mention your pastor by name. If you want someone to attend church with you you’ll probably need to say something about the pastor to get them in the door. If someone leaves a church you can almost guarantee it’s because of something the pastor did, or didn’t, do.

But where did this Pastor-centric idea of Christianity come from? Certainly not from the New Testament. The word is only used once and in that case it is in the plural form, meaning that within the church there were many who cared for the spiritual needs of the Body, not just one guy. In this same passage (see Ephesians 4:11) there are several other gifts mentioned including prophets, evangelists, teachers, and apostles. The majority of the New Testament reveals that it was functionally the elders who helped facilitate the gathering of the saints, and in those cases it was both male and female who served the Church in this fashion. But these elders were nothing like modern pastors. There was still an emphasis on the Body life of the Church, as evidenced in the writings of Paul, namely 1 Corinthians, and the 52 “One Anothers” that we find peppered throughout the New Testament. These “One Anothers” reveal that everyone in the early Christian Church was tasked with teaching, encouraging, sharing, giving, serving, leading, admonishing, rebuking, and loving everyone else in the Body of Christ.

None of the epistles are written to pastors. They are written to the entire Church in that region to encourage them to “be the Church” and to function under the Headship of Christ and in submission to one another – not to one paid professional.

The rise of the pastor within the Christian church started when pagan’s like Cyprian and others started to emphasize their gifting above other gifts within the Body. Soon we had an office of priest rather than a shared priesthood of all believers in the Church. Even when Luther and others reformed the Catholic system of church they kept the hierarchy intact and simply replaced the priest with a pastor.

Now, within our Church family no one is called “Pastor”. In fact, no one is called “Elder” either, although I’m certain that we have no shortage of both within our fellowship. What’s funny is that the only people who call me “Pastor” are those outside our actual church family. A few people at the motel church we’ve been helping to plant do call me “Pastor.”  I don’t correct them because it’s not that important to me either way. I am not their spiritual guru, nor do I have any more authority than anyone else in the church at the motel. But, maybe I should start correcting them? It couldn’t hurt to have them call me “Brother Keith” rather than “Pastor” whenever we meet together. Since I am not their CEO, and I don’t have any spiritual authority over them – or anyone else – it could be a step in the right direction for this new church to follow.

“Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave” – (Matthew 20:25-27)

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.” – (Matthew 23:7-9)



Jeff Partain said...

Thanks for this Keith. Great stuff...

john jensen said...

great stuff Keith, hope you can come Friday, would love to meet you

rev :)


Miguel Labrador said...

Good post! One question:

Where in the New Testament or early recorded church history do we see women "functioning" as elders?

Keith Giles said...

Miguel - There is plenty of evidence in the NT that women were deacons and Paul gives instruction for female elders in 1 Timothy (see "and the women" - some translations erroneously translate the word as "wives" but the word in the Greek is the word for "women").

Plus, there is no functional difference between and Elder and a Deacon (Diakonos). Women were functioning elders in the early church.