I am Not Your Pastor

I love ministry! Being a preacher and minister has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. I am so thankful for the many opportunities God has provided me to serve in His kingdom. The privilege of attending a Bible school, serving as a missionary in Latin America, being the pulpit preacher at Margaret Street, and all the Bible studies in homes, workplaces, parking lots, or prisons is something I consider immeasurably precious. I would not trade this vocation for anything in the world. With that being said, there is one thing I do not like about ministry … I do not like to be called “Pastor.” Many people mistakenly call me “pastor,” which hurts my heart, for several reasons.

For one, it hurts my heart because it reminds me of the vast amount of religious confusion there is in this world. Due to many centuries of false teaching by several religious institutions, the term “pastor” has been abused so much that people no longer know its Biblical meaning. Those who serve in ministerial leadership positions in those organizations have elevated themselves above everyone else in the church, creating a separation, often referred to as “clergy” and “laity.” Yet, no member of the church is more important than another! The Bible makes no such distinction. “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another’ (Romans 12:5).

Preachers were not elevated above the rest of the congregation in the first-century church and neither should they be today! Paul admonished the church on this very point in his letters, explaining that Christ is the only head of the church (cf 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 3:5-9, & 12:12-31; Ephesians 1:21-22).

Secondly, it makes me sad to be called “pastor” because it is an indication of one’s misunderstanding of spiritual things or Biblical principles. I don’t want to embarrass anyone who unknowingly uses that term, but I do want to help as many as I can to get to heaven, and that requires continual spiritual growth according to Matthew 28:20 and Hebrews 5:12. Part of that growth involves learning how to do Bible things in Bible ways and calling Bible things by Bible names. The word “pastor” has a very specific meaning in the Scriptures. It always refers to a shepherd. The only time the word shepherd is applied to someone in church leadership in the Bible is in conjunction with a plurality of elders (cf Acts 14:23, 20:28). According to 1 Peter 5:1-5, these men are also called bishops, overseers, and presbyters.

Not once in the Word of God do we see a singular “pastor” overseeing a congregation.

For one man to present himself as the pastor in charge of a congregation is utterly foreign to how Jesus set up His church. There is no such position. In fact, Jesus said, “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven” (Matthew 23:9). He is saying that no one is to be elevated in the church, His church. That position is already occupied. Therefore, if the Bible never uses such terms for elevating one man above the rest, then we shouldn’t include it in our daily vernacular either. It also means there are no titles for church leadership positions such as, “Reverend, Father, Friar, Curate, Rector, Cardinal, Pope, Metropolitan, or Monsignor.”

Thirdly, it makes me sad to be called “pastor” because it takes the focus away from the true pastors, the rightful shepherds of the flock, the elders. The Bible says they have a special job in the church, in that they “watch out for your souls, as those who must give account’ to God for their oversight (Hebrews 13: 17). So, while it is often expected that the preacher must visit the sick, elderly, shut-ins and make hospital visits (which is perfectly fine for him to do), it is the elder’s responsibility to fulfill that role in the church according to the Bible (see James 5: 14, for example).

Lastly, while I am qualified to be a preacher, I am not qualified to be a pastor (elder) because he must have ”faithful children” (1 Tim 3:4; Titus 1:6). Since Andrea and I have no children, I cannot be an elder. So, while I greatly appreciate the respect someone intends towards me when they use that word, I am still not “the pastor.”